The high cost of an au­to­graph

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - Ith more than

W1,000 bills sent to the gov­er­nor dur­ing the last leg­isla­tive ses­sion (and thou­sands more that were in­tro­duced but not ap­proved), it’s nat­u­ral that many go vir­tu­ally un­no­ticed. Typ­i­cally, that’s be­cause they are pro­ce­dural, rou­tine, point­less or es­o­teric.

Un­for­tu­nately, this crush of pro­pos­als also can pro­vide cover to bills that are badly drafted, likely to be in­ef­fec­tive or that have se­ri­ous po­ten­tial for un­in­tended con­se­quences. Case in point is AB 1570 by Assem­bly­woman Ling Ling Chang (R-Di­a­mond Bar).

This bill pro­posed that all au­to­graphed mem­o­ra­bilia sold for more than $5 come with a cer­tifi­cate of au­then­tic­ity, a copy of which sell­ers must keep for seven years. The in­ten­tion was to stop the pro­lif­er­a­tion of forged celebrity au­to­graphs, which ap­par­ently are be­ing sold to un­sus­pect­ing fans and col­lec­tors. Ac­tor Mark Hamill from “Star Wars” was a strong sup­porter, and ap­par­ently that was enough to get ap­proval all the way up the line. No one looked too closely at how this law might af­fect other busi­nesses — in­clud­ing the au­thor, who had a feel-good head­line to fuel her cam­paign for an open state Se­nate seat.

It wasn’t un­til Gov. Jerry Brown’s sig­na­ture was dry­ing on the bill last month that in­de­pen­dent book­sell­ers sud­denly re­al­ized the new law was so broad that it could crim­i­nal­ize them if they didn’t have a cer­tifi­cate for ev­ery book au­to­graphed by an au­thor. Book­sell­ers and au­thors protest that such a re­quire­ment would be so ex­pen­sive, it would ren­der au­thor sign­ings im­prac­ti­cal. When they ex­pressed their con­cern, Chang said the new law wasn’t in­tended to ap­ply to au­thor-signed books, and book­stores should sim­ply ig­nore it when it goes into ef­fect Jan. 1. But if the lan­guage of the law ap­pears to ap­ply to them, it is ir­re­spon­si­ble and in­ad­e­quate merely to tell them to ig­nore it.

This bill never should have passed. The Leg­is­la­ture must fix or re­peal it im­me­di­ately when it re­sumes busi­ness. But what re­ally needs fix­ing is the sys­tem that al­lows leg­is­la­tors to pro­pose and ap­prove new laws whose im­pli­ca­tions they don’t fully un­der­stand.

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