End game

Sep 7, 2011

As Amazon.com, which has 38,000 employees and a multibillion-dollar online business, maneuvers to overturn California's Internet sales tax law by going to the ballot, the state's top Democrats turned thumbs down on the huge retailer's bid for a compromise. At stake is some $200 million for the strapped state budget.


From Marc Lifsher in the L.A. Times: "Legislators and their bricks-and-mortar retail allies cast doubt that Amazon would follow through with a promise to build two distribution centers in the state and hire as many as 7,000 people."


"The company, which has a total workforce of 38,000, has made similar promises in other states that also are trying to force Amazon to collect sales taxes, they said at a state Capitol news conference Tuesday..."


"The company and its allies are close to gathering the required number of signatures on petitions to get the referendum on the June 2012 ballot. The referendum would ask voters to repeal a new state law requiring the collection of sales taxes by out-of-state Internet companies that have offices, workers or other connections in the state. The company has refused to comply with the law, which took effect July 1."


It's that end-of-session free-for-all when bills big and small, sane and bizarre, get their 15 minutes of fame. At the top of the list is the shark fin fight. Those poor sharks.


From Michael Gardner in the San Diego Union-Tribune: "The state Senate on overwhelming bipartisan votes Tuesday moved to ban the sale of shark fins — a staple in centuries-old Chinese tradition but also a symbol of the threat to the long-term survival of one of the ocean’s most feared and crucial predators."


"The legislation has sharply divided Chinese-American lawmakers, a reflection of the debate playing out across the state and nation as conservationists press their campaign to outlaw the sale, trade and possession of shark fins."


“It’s barbaric. It’s inhumane,” Poway resident Judy Ki, co-chair of the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance, a sponsor of the ban, said in a telephone interview."


At the bottom of the list is circumcision. Somehow, with all the profoundly critical issues facing the state, the rights of parents to have their male children circumcised popped up, so to speak. Take that, San Francsico.


From Jim Sanders in the Sacramento Bee: "The measure was sparked by a circumcision ban that initially qualified for San Francisco's November ballot but was removed by a Superior Court judge, who ruled that an existing state law pre-empted it."


"Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Los Angeles Democrat, opted to continue pushing his bill after the court ruling. He has characterized circumcision as a personal, medical and religious freedom."


"AB 768 would take effect immediately if signed by Brown, which would prevent the possibility of a San Francisco vote on banning child circumcision if the Superior Court ruling is overturned on appeal."


No end of session in the Capitol would be complete without somebody, somewhere making a move to alter California's environmental laws. The latest effort focuses on a speedup of environmental reviews for such projects as the billion-dollar NFL stadium envisioned for downtown Los Angeles.

From the Bee's Kevin Yamamura: "A last-minute bill to expedite environmental review on a downtown Los Angeles football stadium may pave the way for similar exceptions on other construction projects, including a downtown arena in Sacramento."


"Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is talking with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Gov. Jerry Brown about a companion measure to accelerate judicial review for alternative energy manufacturing plants, clean energy projects and urban infill, including sports stadiums, according to sources who would not be named because negotiations are ongoing."


"As with the Los Angeles stadium proposal, Senate Bill 292, the broader legislation would allow developers to ask state appellate courts to review environmental challenges on a shortened timetable. Under SB 292, the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal would issue a decision on a stadium challenge within 175 days, cutting 100 days or more off the typical process, according to an Assembly analysis."


 From our bulging "Don't Mess with Texas" file comes the tale of the snakes. As if the drought and wildfires weren't enough, people now have to worry about rattlesnakes, who are fleeing the danger zones like everyone else.


"Not only will the snakes be in search of food, they will also be attracted to areas where they will find water."


"The drought has dried all of the grass that the rodents normally feed on," said Central Texas snake expert, Jerry Cates. "It's a chain effect, when there are less rodents for the snakes to eat, they will be ranging further and further out from their normal foraging areas."

"It's possible we could see snakes into the winter months as we did after the 2010 drought," said Cates. "We saw snakes out of their normal areas in Round Rock, Texas in early January."


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