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Davis Signs Expansion of Child Car Seat Law

Legislation: The governor also vetoes a bill to require charging of state taxes on Internet sales.

September 26, 2000|CARL INGRAM and DAN MORAIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation Monday that will require all children younger than 6 or weighing less than 60 pounds to be strapped in child safety seats when riding in vehicles.

One of the first such measures in the nation, the new law will take effect Jan. 1, 2002, along with stiffer fines for violators. Current law requires children 4 or younger and weighing less than 40 pounds to be secured in safety seats.

As the bill made its way through the Legislature, the author, Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), cited studies showing that children in cars are often not safely restrained and that small children can slip out of seat belts in accidents.

"The cases of spinal cord injuries and brain injury are real and numerous," Speier said Monday. "It was high time that we advanced the law to recognize the technology."

In Washington state, lawmakers approved a similar measure, to take effect in 2002. In several other states ,legislation raising the weight and age limits has failed.

The Speier bill, SB 567, highlighted a day of action as the Democratic governor dealt with about 130 bills sent to him by the Legislature before it adjourned last month. About 500 await the governor's action before the deadline at midnight Saturday.

Child safety seats lift a child so a car's standard the lap belt fits over the pelvis and the shoulder strap fits across the chest. Numerous charities provide safety seats to parents who cannot afford them.

Violators of the safety seat requirement will pay heftier fines under the new law. First-time offenders will be assessed $100, instead of $50. Repeat offenders will pay $250, instead of $100. Last year, the California Highway Patrol issued more than 10,000 citations for car seat violations.

In another action, Davis sided with such Internet heavyweights as Barnes & Noble against independent booksellers and vetoed a bill requiring big-name dot-com retailers to pay California sales taxes.

Davis charged that the bill, which barely squeaked out of the Democratic-dominated Legislature, unfairly singled out online retailers for a tax hit.

"Imposing sales taxes on Internet transactions at this point in its young life would send the wrong signal about California's international role as the incubator of the dot-com economy," Davis said Monday.

The veto came as no surprise. Davis had spoken out against taxation of Internet sales in February after a meeting with President Clinton and other governors.

Supporters of the Internet tax plan, AB 2412 by Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco), had argued that it would close a loophole by which major online retailers, such as booksellers Barnes & Noble and Borders, can legally avoid paying California sales taxes on transactions.

Their competitors in California, meanwhile, do have to pay sales taxes.

Some retailers in the state, such as Macy's.com and EddieBauer.com, operate their own online sites and collect taxes on their Internet sales.

Migden noted that some online retailers that also operate retail stores in California bypass collecting the tax on electronic sales by separating their online businesses and moving them out of state.

This gives certain online retailers a competitive advantage, supporters of the bill said, and millions of dollars in tax revenue go uncollected. This shortchanges health, education, safety and other public programs, they argued.

Davis, who counts Silicon Valley dot-com industrialists among his strongest political supporters, rejected the bill, asserting that the Internet "must be subject to a stable and nondiscriminatory legal environment, particularly in the area of taxation."

The bill, he said, went in the other direction.

"It singles out companies that are conducting transactions electronically and attempts to impose tax collection obligations on them to which, according to California courts, they are not subject," he said.

The bill was fought by the American Electronics Assn. and supported by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Assn. and various local governments and labor unions.

Teresa Casazza, a vice president of the electronics association, praised the veto, noting that taxation of Internet sales is a highly complex issue that so far has defied a solution in Congress.

"This bill was an attempt to create a Band-Aid [solution for] a very significant issue," she said. "It was a very small approach to the real issue of how we deal with sales tax collection in an e-commerce field."

The veto drew criticism from Karen Pennington, manager of a Menlo Park bookstore and president of the 350-member booksellers association, which is fighting major online retailers for sales.

"I'm dismayed. The reality is these sales are being taken out of the communities, which will be poorer for every dollar that is not being collected," Pennington said.

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