By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Even with so many miniscule laws piled on Schwarzenegger’s desk — most of them written at the behest of narrowly focused special-interest groups rather than due to any big interest from average voters — some observers in the capital say the crown goes to Senate Bill 880 by Ron Calderon, representing southeast Los Angeles County, who authored 31 proposed laws this year. (The vast majority of California laws since 1958 have been written by Democrats such as Calderon, because the Democrats control committee decisions on which new laws to send to the legislature for a vote.)
SB 880 would allow importation of leather from non-endangered kangaroos. A 1971 California law forbids commercial importation of species including kangaroos, polar bears, zebras and elephants. But now some soccer players say kangaroo leather is ideal for their cleats because it is supposedly lighter and molds easier to the foot.
No surprise that Adidas, one of the largest users of kangaroo-derived products, is a huge backer of Calderon’s obscure bill. For years, superstar player David Beckham wore the popular Adidas Predator cleats made from kangaroo hide, but according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Beckham switched to synthetic leather Predator cleats last year.
“David Beckham proves that you can wear cruelty-free products,” says Matt Rice of PETA, one of SB 880’s main opponents, which also claims that Australia’s kangaroo population is dwindling.
But like so many less-than-earth-shattering disputes among special interest groups on both sides of such proposed laws in Sacramento, the other side says just the opposite. According to the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia, the continent is home to about 25 million kangaroos — and that’s just counting the four large “super abundant” species. Also, that nation’s government strongly supports a bustling industry that exports kangaroo products to more than 70 countries.
“People have been harvesting kangaroos in Australia for 80,000 years,” says John Kelly, executive officer of Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia, in an e-mail. “The industry is extremely tightly regulated. . . . It’s widely supported by ecologists and environmental professionals nationally.” Adds Kelley, “What we do isn’t really that new or strange.”
California already has on its books so many laws that officials are uncertain of the number, with no signs of slowing down. The legislature’s approval of more than 1,000 new ones each year outstrips that of the next most populous state, Texas. Maybe that’s because in Texas, lawmakers meet only every other year, while California has a full-time legislature. Each year, Sacramento politicians are pressured to pursue hundreds of these mini-laws by dozens of lobbying groups with permanent offices in the capital — groups who are among the most active campaign contributors in California, and who give money freely to the very legislators who later author new bills proposed by these groups.
All the states do it. Some are just worst than others. According to Krista Moodie, spokeswoman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, since Perry’s election in 2000, he has signed 5,624 bills. In the same time period, Schwarzenegger and former Governor Gray Davis signed 6,712 bills – 1,088 more than in the minutiae-mired Lone Star State.
If that number leaves you with a headache, remember to keep your eyes peeled for the free beer samples. At least one recent law in California comes with a Happy Hour.