With more than 1,000 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 proposed laws also can provide cover to bills that are badly drafted, likely to be ineffective or which 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 of the bill 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 new laws whose implications they don’t fully understand.