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Bill Leonard - Contributor

Bill Leonard is a Member of the State Board of Equalization

A Week Under the Dome

Comfy Lawyers, Manure, Blow up boxes, Timber...
[Bill Leonard] 3/25/04

Keeping the Lawyers Comfy

The Auditor General rightly criticized the Department of Corrections last week for a lousy report on the future of death row at San Quentin prison. The work was so sloppy that a proper analysis could not be rendered. The untold story is that the Department of Corrections is under tremendous pressure to keep death row where it is. Given the crowded conditions at San Quentin and the expensive housing nearby, the pressure for the status quo is not coming from the state employees at the prison, nor from the prisoners families. No, the pressure is from lawyers, and not just any lawyers. The members of the speciality bar that defend death row prisoners all live in the Bay area and all would be disrupted if the death chamber was moved to a less crowded and more secure location in California. For more than a decade now this threatened disruption of lifestyle of a few dozen lawyers has kept the state from making needed changes.

Governator Overheard

Governor Schwarzenegger, in welcoming farmers to Sacramento to discuss important agriculture issues, informed them that they have a lot in common. He said, "We both shovel a lot of manure."

New Boxes for Popcorn

Seeking to undermine Governor Schwarzenegger's program to "blow up boxes" and make state government more efficient and more accessible to the public is a group that would add a new box over the Board of Equalization. They call it a Tax Court although it appears that the decision-makers will not be judges nor will it exactly be a court. The promoters of this scheme include major corporations who lost their tax cases before the

Board of Equalization. One is the lawyer for the infamous "popcorn is not hot" case that I profiled a few weeks ago. I guess they want to shop their case from forum to forum until they find someone who will agree with them that movie theater popcorn is not hot food.

Salvageable Timber Should Be Considered State Asset

In an almost unbelievable Los Angeles Times story on Friday, it was revealed that the state is taking extraordinary measures to keep people from salvaging trees from state parks that fall into rivers and float out of the parks. One park ranger admitted to donning a wet suit to sneak up on salvage boats. This is utterly ridiculous. One local resident said seasonal high water takes nearly all the floating logs straight out to the ocean for the benefit of no one. Thus, state policy encourages the wasting of a valuable resource. Many of these logs are worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I say when it is clear that a tree is going to fall down in the park itself, it should be selectively salvaged for the benefit of local economy with the proceeds providing a new revenue stream for the state parks. Logs in the rivers and streams in the parks should be evaluated for their usefulness for habitat. If no good use can be found, they should be salvaged. And finally, the logs that get away from parks via rivers should be considered God’s bounty for enterprising Californians to make good use of as they see fit. CRO




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