By: M.L. Stein
A BILL THAT would have allowed the Department of Motor Vehicles to sell advertising for its driver handbooks was killed through lobbying action by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the group announced.
Senate Bill 899 by Sen. John Lewis (R-Orange) was intended to raise revenue to defray the $1.7 million cost of printing the books.
The measure died in the Assembly Transportation Committee, where committee chairman Richard Katz argued that selling space in the DMV publication no more competed with private business than the state printing the handbook itself rather than contracting it out.
But CNPA general counsel Tom Newton pointed out that offering the book to motorists is a traditional government function but selling advertising is not.
Two Republicans, including former newspaper editor Bruce McPherson of Santa Cruz, joined a block of Demo-crats in defeating the proposal.
One opponent, Brett Granlund (R-Yucaipa), said, “Being in the advertising business myself, I’m offended that the state continues to look for ways to take money away from the private
CNPA also challenged the constitutionality of the bill, noting that it would permit the DMV to reject “offensive or controversial advertising.”
According to Newton, a DMV representative, when asked what criteria would be used to ban ads, said the same department employees who rule on personalized license plates for offensive language or connotation would determine the acceptability of the ads.
“Nobody else opposed that bill,” Newton told E&P. “If we had not stepped in, it would have become law.”
CNPA also successfully lobbied down a bill that would have allowed the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to charge citizens to inspect public records and increase copying charges of documents. But the victory was a narrow one, falling one vote short of passage in a 3-3 tie.
The bill by Paula Boland (R-Granada Hills) would have permitted the DOC authority to “sell information from its public records at a charge sufficient to pay the entire actual cost of supplying the information by providing the inspection of the records.”
Boland said there has been a huge increase lately in requests for records by prison inmates that are “designed to harass the department.”
It is improper, CNPA countered, for government agencies to impose such charges on the public since the salaries of state workers providing the records are paid by taxapyers.
Moreover, CNPA said, allowing the DOC to collect money for records would open the door for other state agencies to ask for the same privilege.