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Every legislative session has its outrages, and many of them
don’t surface until bills already are passed and signed into law. This year, we’ve
got a late-breaking outrage involving a veto.

Here’s the story, courtesy of Timm Herdt of the Ventura
County Star
:

Fillmore, a small city in Ventura County,
cut a deal to create a local sales office for Owens & Minor, a major
supplier of medical supplies. Because the sales were officially completed in
Fillmore, the city gets the local share of the sales tax. In the past, the
orders went straight to distribution centers in Vista, Industry and Livermore, and those
cities collected the sales tax. One city raiding another is nothing unusual. This
one is worth about $5 million a year. What’s different here is the side deal
cut by Fillmore: it’s giving 85 percent of the sales tax revenue to the broker
who arranged the deal. That’s a cool $4.25 million a year that won’t be paying
for cops, firefighters and other public services in Vista, Industry, Livermore or Fillmore.

As my colleague Paul Gullixson put it, this deal would embarrass
a Chicago
ward-heeler.

Now to the just concluded legislative session and the veto.

Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, a Democrat whose district
includes Livermore,
introduced legislation to undue the kickback. Owens & Minor lawyers pointed
out that a contract’s a contract, so the bill was amended to prohibit any
similar deals in the future.

The bill was supported by the League of California Cities,
the California State Association of Counties and nearly unanimous majorities in
both houses of the Legislature. And it was vetoed Friday by the governor, who
cited his pique with the overdue state budget and invited Hancock to try again
next year.

If anything the overdue budget should have underscored the
value of this legislation. Cities and counties are in trouble too. It’s bad
enough that they pick each other’s pockets, but skimming money off the top for private
interests sounds a lot like Nathan Detroit’s floating crap game in “Guys and
Dolls.”

Well, for one broker, luck was a lady tonight.

— Jim Sweeney