Posts tagged ‘liquor license’

Ventura County Blues, Update

One of my favorites writers Megan McArdle comments on my post about the regulatory excess in California.  The same post was linked by Reason as well.  The Reason post got the attention of Ron Paul, who will be interviewing me for his radio show next week.

I posted a few updates on the article today:

Wow, reading this again, I left out so much!  An employee once sued us at this location for harassment and intimidation by her manager -- when the manager was her sister!  It cost me over $20,000 in legal expenses to get the case dismissed.  I had an older couple file a state complaint for age discrimination when they were terminated -- despite the fact that our entire business model is to hire retired people and the vast majority of our employees are 70 and older.  And how could I have forgotten the process of getting a liquor license?  I suppose I left it out because while tedious (my wife and I had to fly to California to get fingerprinted, for example), it is not really worse than in other places -- liquor license processes are universally bad, a feature and not a bug for the established businesses one is trying to compete with.   We gave the license up pretty quickly, when we saw how crazy and irresponsible much of the customer base was.  Trying to make the place safer and more family friendly, we banned alcohol from the lake area, and faced a series of lawsuit threats over that.

Banality of Evil

I am afraid we are on a path to thoroughly eviscerating the Fourth Amendment simply because police forces find it too big of a hassle to comply.  Just look at almost every case of abuses of search and seizure rules or of missing search warrants and you almost never see a time-based urgency that is often used as an excuse to end-around the rules.   What you almost always see is just, well, laziness.

Here is yet another example (bold added):

Now comes the news that the FBI intends to grant to its 14,000 agents expansive additional powers that include relaxing restrictions on a low-level category of investigations termed “assessments.” This allows FBI agents to investigate individuals using highly intrusive monitoring techniques, including infiltrating suspect organizations with confidential informants and photographing and tailing suspect individuals, without having any factual basis for suspecting them of wrongdoing. (Incredibly, during the four-month period running from December 2008 to March 2009, the FBI initiated close to 12,000 assessments of individuals and organizations, and that was before the rules were further relaxed.)

This latest relaxing of the rules, justified as a way to cut down on cumbersome record-keeping, will allow the FBI significant new powers to search law enforcement and private databases, go through household trash, and deploy surveillance teams, with even fewerchecks against abuse. The point, of course, is that if agents aren’t required to maintain a paper trail documenting their activities, there can be no way to hold the government accountable for subsequent abuses.

Freedom dies because we couldn't be bothered with all the work to protect it.

PS-  why is it no one wants to address any of the paperwork hassles in starting construction or opening a restaurant or getting a liquor license or starting a taxi service or any number of other private enterprises, but the government jumps right on the task of streamlining the work it takes to spy on me.

Things I Am Tired of Hearing

Because I take cash deposits at a number of campgrounds around the country, we have accounts with 30+ different banks.  Every few weeks one of them asks for some outrageously intrusive piece of information or paperwork.  And I ask them, what is this for, and get told that it is "a new requirement of the federal government."  I appreciate the feds have put in all kinds of new bank account controls in a misguided attempt to do something about terrorism (side bet:  most of these have more to do with the drug war than terrorism).  But in most of these cases, either my 29 other banks are breaking the law, or my bank is misguided.  Or worse, BS'ing me by falsely blaming their own information acquisitiveness on the feds.

Today I had a tiny, tiny telephone company in southern New Mexico call me to say they needed my drivers license and a utility bill from a New Mexico resident to add a phone line.  This new phone line is 1) for my corporation and 2) about the 8th account with this same phone company.  Given the area they operate, I may be their largest customer in town.  I told her I thought the requirement that a corporate officer give up his drivers license to get an extra corporate phone line was absurd, and further if they wanted a personal utility bill in New Mexico they would be waiting forever.  After being kicked up to their supervisor, I was told that they would settle for proof of my corporations federal tax ID # and a copy of my lease for the campground in question proving I was the legal occupant.  When asked why -- I mean, do they really have a problem with people paying the phone bill for locations that are not theirs -- they said it was now required by the federal government.

Really?  this sounds like BS.  Again, my 30 other phone companies would probably like to know they are breaking the law.  But who knows, maybe the feds really care.  If I had to bet, this would again be chalked up to the war on terror, but if I really could get to the bottom of it, I would find its about the drug war -- one time somewhere a drug dealer set up a phone line in an assumed name in an abandoned building and now I have to get fingerprinted and have an FBI check to get a phone line (don't laugh at the latter, one still has to get fingerprinted for every liquor license as a holdover from 80 years ago when gangs ran speakeasy's).

Regulation Is Almost Always Anti-Competitive

Continuing with a long-running theme here at Coyote Blog, here is another example of government regulation being anti-competitive and having the net result of protecting the margins of powerful, established incumbents against new entrants:

During a recent meeting, the Antiplanner was extolling the virtues of Houston's land-use policies, and a home builder at the meeting said, "Of course, no one here wants our city to be like Houston," meaning no one wanted Houston's land-use regime.

Why not? I asked. "There is too much competition down there. My company can't make a profit," he said. "You have to have some barriers to entry to be able to make money."

Those who accuse free marketeers of being supporters of big business don't realize that big businesses (and often smaller businesses) don't want a free market. In this home builder's case, he wanted enough restrictions on the market to keep out some of his competitors (most likely smaller companies that can't afford to hire lawyers and planners for every project) but not enough regulation to keep his company out

Several years ago my company had to obtain a liquor license in Shasta Country, CA. At one point, the issuance of the license had to be voted on by some group (County commissioners, the planning board, something like that). I was told the reason was that if they issued too many licenses, I would not be able to make money -- really, they were looking after me.

Well, not really.  First, the government seldom has any idea even how a business works.  Perhaps the liquor was a loss leader for my business, and I didn't care to make money on it at all.  Perhaps I had a better marketing concept.

And herein we get to the real flaw -- the implication is that somehow the dangers is to the new entrant in a crowded marketplace, but in fact the reality is often the opposite.   The actual competitive danger is often to incumbents, fat and happy with the status quo and unable to react quickly (due to all kinds of reasons from sunk investment to long held biases) to shifts in customer preferences.  No matter what their stated reason, the true effect of such regulation is to protect current competitors from new entrants, new products, and new business concepts.

I can see the effects of this right here where I am sitting, out near the end of Cape Cod.  Zoning and business regulation here is enormously aggressive - its is virtually impossible to start a new retail establishment here, particularly on virgin land.  As a result, every store and restaurant here feels like it is right out of the 1950s.  You'd hardly know there has been a revolution in retail or service delivery over the past few decades, because businesses here are sheltered from new entrants.  They don't need to adopt better practices or provide better products or services, because they know they are not vulnerable (courtesy of the government) to competitive attacks from new entrants using more modern strategies.

Liquor License Hell

A while back I challenged anyone who doubted the burden of regulation to go try to get  a California liquor license.  Today, John Stossel echos the same theme in this post.

"The authority's 26-page "on-premises" application requires owners' detailed financial information, prior employment experience, proof of citizenship and floor-plan details, and it also entails fingerprinting and background investigations. It asks whether music will be played (and if so, what kind) and whether dancing is planned"¦ Such was the complexity of the application process that "I visited the office so many times, it got to the point where the guards stopped asking me for identification," Steve Chahalis said.

I can concur with this experience. In every state I have gotten licenses, I have encountered a bureaucracy that has pretty much forgotten even why it exists or what it is trying to achieve. The Department of Labor can be a pain in the butt, but it at least it has a mission (protect workers from depredations by "the man"), even if that mission is sometimes misguided. But it is impossible to even figure out what problem state liquor boards are trying to protect us from with some of the detailed questionnaires and picayune attention to detailed responses**.

Yet the Times and the bureaucrats have the nerve to blame the businesses: "Restaurant and bar owners are to blame for some of the delays" says the reporter, quoting a state bureaucrat who says: "Ninety percent of the applications are incomplete when submitted."

LOL. Let me give you one example. I had to cancel my entire application, on which I had spent over a year, resubmit a new application, and pay an additional $200 in fees all because on one form (out of scores) there was a typo that showed the address on "Lake Pire Rd" rather than "Lake Piru Rd."   So was this my fault, having a typo in thousands of words of application responses, or the fault of the state liquor board's for not just hand annotating the typo and moving on? If you told me that the main guiding principle of ABC operations was to find a way to reject and send back every single application for even the most trivial of reasons, I could not muster any evidence to disagree with you.

I always complete the applications myself, but I may finally give in on the next California application. In California, the state is full of consultants who will fly your application through the process. Anyone want to guess who these consultants are? If you guessed "retired government alcoholic beverage commission employees," you win. This is the retirement plan they have created for themselves -- make the process so onerous for individuals trying to navigate it that they are forced to use a retired ABC employee as a consultant, after which the process magically goes smoothly.
By the way, this is also another good example of how large corporations are benefited by regulation vs. smaller competitors.  TGIFridays, for example, has a whole department of people who just do liquor licenses.

**Postscript:  Part of the problem is that states are trying to protect us from Al Capone -- thus all the fingerprinting and background checks.  But that problem was solved with legalization.

Government Intrusiveness Fact of the Day

To get a liquor license for my corporation in California, I must tell the state where I was married and on what date(!)  This is about the weirdest thing I have been asked on a form for my corporation.  Of course this is on top of the usual over-the-top list of requirements to get a liquor license which include providing the state with:

  • Fingerprints of owners and officers
  • Name of bank and checking account numbers
  • Name and address of accountant
  • Name and address of attorney
  • For every owner and officer:
    • Spouse's name
    • Home address
    • Home phone number
    • Drivers license number
    • Social Security number
    • Height, weight, eye and hair color
    • Value of home
    • Value of investments
    • Debts and mortgages
    • Net worth and Personal income history (again for each as individuals, not for the corporation).

The entire application, including forms and drawings, requires hours and hours to complete.  As is usually for government forms packages, the same information is requested on multiple forms.  To apply for two licenses requires two entire sets of forms filled out, signed, and notarize separately, despite the fact that 99.9% of the information is the same.  My wife and I have to fill out extensive, totally identical personal affidavits multiple times, despite the fact that the exact same forms with all this information are already on file with the State of California for other liquor licenses the company holds in the state.

The purpose, of course, is twofold:

  • To make sure we are not fronting for Al Capone, a problem that went out of date about 5 minutes after the repeal of prohibition, but still drives licensing requirements 75 years later.
  • To make the process arcane and onerous enough to discourage us from entering the business in California, or, as a minimum, to force us to hire a consultant to help us with the process, the profession of which is 99.9% dominated by ex-California ABC employees.  The harder the process is, the better the prospects for their post-retirement consulting gig.

Civil Liberties in Britain

I am always ready to criticize the US and our steady slide into police state tactics against our own citizens.  But I think that those who have some rosy picture of European countries being some sort of civil liberties ideal towards which we should aspire are mis-informed.  Granted that a number of these countries have more sensible attitudes both towards drugs as well as sexual relationships that don't fit a biblical script, but their state police forces have powers over their citizenry we (at least not yet) don't tolerate.

Today's object lesson is Britain:

For the past couple of years the British government has been extremely aggressive in installing surveillance cameras "” CCTV on high streets, speeding cameras on highways, and so on. If you are a typical British citizen, your actions are captured on camera hundreds of times a day, and you can be watched with suspicion even without the government having any probable cause reason to suspect you of anything. Relatedly, they have also been challenging people taking pictures in public, and have recently essentially made it illegal to take pictures of police officers (with the justification being the possibility of terrorist abduction of officers). The erosion of civil liberties in Britain has been short and sharp.

Now some local authorities are witholding liquor licences from pub owners unless they agree to install CCTV inside the pub. One striking recent example is The Draper's Arms in Islington, a borough of London. As the Londonist notes:

Nick Gibson is attempting to re-open The Draper's Arms on Barnsbury Street, a former Evening Standard pub of the year winner that shut its doors last August. But to regain a licence, he's been told he must fit CCTV cameras that capture the head and shoulders of everyone entering the pub, and be willing to hand over footage whenever the police ask for it.

Gibson is furious at what he sees as erosion of civil liberties. However, his local MP and the Metropolitan Police keep blithely citing "˜public safety'. We find that a bit rich, considering studies have shown CCTV is less effective than increased street lighting at cutting crime, and CCTV footage is used to help solve just 3% of London robberies.

Government Licensing = Incumbent Protection

I have written on this topic quite a bit, but via Cato comes another great example of how licensing and regulation, while promoted as consumer protections, much more frequently are incumbent protection against new competitors.  Cato has a video of some folks in Oregon who started a moving business, only to find that sate law effectively requires them to get permission of current moving companies before they can operate  (apparently, someone in Oregon is enamored of medieval guild systems).

How the law works is that when a new mover submits his application for a business license, existing movers can file an objection (which apparently is pro forma).  The new company must then justify to the state why another moving company is justified by the marketplace.  Of course, absolutely no guidance is given how such a thing might be proven.

I would have found this unbelievable, had not my company faced the exact same requirement in another context.  In Shasta County, California, we wanted a liquor license to sell beer at the store we run at McArthur-Burney Falls State Park.  We were told that we could not have a license until we had proven to the County that there was enough demand for another liquor outlet.  It was for our protection, they told me -- we wouldn't want you to get in a situation where you might fail.

I have written about liquor licensing before - if ever there was a regulatory regime whose time was long past, this is it.  The extensive fingerprinting and background checks one must go through to get a license are outdated remnants of a concern for the return of organized crime, a problem that was obviated by legalization  (so that, as usual, the government regulatory regime to fix a problem was instituted at the same moment the problem went away).  Now, the liquor licensing process is used as a club by existing competitors to keep new entrants out.  My bet is that organized crime is now on the other side of the fence, using the liquor licensing process to hammer honest competitors.  And if you really want to see abuse, read the whole Rack 'N Roll saga by Radley Balko.

I bet you are just overcome with suspense wondering if we got our license.  In Shasta County, we eventually succeeded, mainly because the store was in a gated park with an entrance fee, and we could make the argument that competition did not really cross the gates of the park.  Years later, we lost a similar battle in Lake Havasu City, AZ, where a group of local business people have really organized the town to their benefit and use every tool they can, from zoning to licensing, to keep competitors out.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

I hesitated to even post this link, because if you haven't been following the Rack & Roll / Manassas Park story for a while, it is so rich and convoluted that it's almost impossible to catch up.  Like starting to watch the Sopranos in the sixth season.  But Radley Balko has a long update.

Here is the short answer.  A group of folks in Manassas Park, VA, both in and out of the town government, want to take the land where the Rack & Roll pool club and bar sits for a lucrative off-track betting establishment.  As part of that effort, they have worked to deny the owner his liquor license and his business license.  The town has also harassed the club with numerous over-the-top raids, including a full-on 60-man SWAT raid.  The town has in the past tried to portray the club as a haven for drug dealing, in part by having police pay the club's bouncer to allow and/or encourage drug deals on the property and then tip police to them.

The owner has been standing up for himself, and has taken to video-taping the premises at all times and recording interviews with employees and customers.  A lot of the back story is here, start at the bottom.

In this most recent update, the owner addresses the other major charge being used to pull his licenses -- that he allowed lewd behavior on site, specifically girls flashing their boobs on the dance floor.  He has impressive evidence that he threw out anyone he caught doing so, and instructed his other employees to do the same.  In fact, the flashing seems to have occurred when the owner was not present, and was led and encouraged and photographed by the club's DJ.  Ironically, the DJ is the Manassas Park vice-mayor.  So the town is trying to shut the club down for activities opposed by the club's owner but encouraged by the town's own official.  Bizarre.  Now the town finds itself the proud owner of a file of soft-core child pornography, in the form of pictures from the club taken by their vice-Mayor of topless girls, several of whom may have been under-age  (apparently VA law allows under-age patrons as long as they are not served alcohol).

Bureaucratic Nightmare

I have written before about the silliness of the liquor licensing process.  A regulatory procedure perhaps necessary when the government was trying to drive organized crime out of liquor in the 1930's, its insanely useless today.

For example, last winter we replaced a store building at the same address with a brand new building.  It did not even occur to me that I might have to make any changes to my liquor license.  Surprise!  Here is the paperwork required to activate my existing, already paid-for license at the exact same address, only in a newer building:

Application

Its hard to tell from the picture, but we are talking lots and lots of detail, much of it repeated several times through the application.  And most every page has to be notarized.  How much of this is new and not already on file with my current license?  Just one-half of one page, down in the lower right where I draw the floor plan of the new building.  Everything else is a total repeat of the information on file.

My favorite question I had to answer to move my liquor license to a new building?  They require I give them the date and location of my wedding.

Update: Oh, and it has to be approved by the County planning department, who for several days now have not returned my calls.  And it may have to go in front of the county commisioners.  And I am pretty sure it will have to be publicly posted on the new building for a 30-day comment period, and I will have to pay for an announcement for three weeks running in the local paper.  And then it will probably be approved, just about when it will be time to close for the season.  For those who have not been there, though, McArthur-Burney Falls State Park is gorgeous, and, if I can brag, I think our new building is a big improvement as well.

Bureaucracies Never Die

A while back, I lamented all the work it takes in some states to get a liquor license.  Most liquor license laws stem back to the emergence from prohibition, when states wanted to purge organized crime from the liquor business.  What the heck, then, are they trying to do today, other than limit competition for incumbents, which is the typical role of licensing?  Before I go on, I can't help quoting Milton Friedman again about liscencing of all sorts:

The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason
is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for
the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are
invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of
the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone
else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is
hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary
motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who
may be a plumber.

Anyway, here in Arizona, it takes a load of paperwork even to change the manager of a licensed facility (even regulation-happy California does not require this).  For each manager, a multi-page application, personal history, proof of training, and fingerprint cards (yes, really) have to be submitted, and an FBI background check has to be completed (to make sure they never worked for Al Capone, I guess).

Today, I got my new managers application back from the license bureaucracy a second time for corrections.  This time, here are the two errors they found:

  • For the year when the manager was full time RVing (that means living the nomadic life with no permanent home, roaming the country in his RV) he didn't show a permanent address.  Yes, we explained his lifestyle then, but the form requires a permanent address for the last five years and can't be processed without it
  • For a period of time when the manager was unemployed, he did not fill in his own home address where it asked for his employer's address

That's it - after sitting in their hands for weeks. After already returning the application to me before with another flaw, and never mentioning these flaws.  No phone call to get the information, just rejected out of hand, requiring the whole process start over again. 

After dealing with these folks for years, it is absolutely clear to me that they have totally lost sight of what the original mission of their organization might have been, and have substituted the mission "uncompromisingly ensure the rigorous compliance with all forms and processes adopted by this organization in the past".

Government Is the Leader in "Unfair" Business Practices

I am always amazed at our government, which piously goes after business after business for "unfair" business practices, but never seems to apply the same rules to itself.  My latest example:

Today, I was (finally) granted a liquor license for our store and PWC rental business at Lake Havasu, AZ.  Since the approval process takes so long, I am ready at this point to be happy almost no matter what terms I get the license on.  Unfortunately, the state has rigid dates for licenses - they all expire June 30 of each year.  Since it is June 6 (hey, happy D-Day!) I get a license that runs from Jan 1 to June 30, and so have to renew almost immediately.  But here is the really good part:  They will not pro rate the license cost to June 6.  In other words, I have to pay the full $1000+ for the whole 6 month period, even though I am using only a few weeks.  Sleazy.  I wrote more about the whole liquor license process here

PS-  many will suggest that I just wait and go pay on July 1 for my license.  Well, they thought of that too.  There are rules on the application process such that it has to be completed in a fixed number of days.  If I don't buy the license by June 18, the whole 120-day application process starts over again.

Whats on My Desk

The original purpose of this blog was to pass on my experiences and lessons-learned running a small business.  Over time, though, since I have the attention span of an 8-year-old boy mainlining Hershey bars, I have gone many different places with this blog, well beyond day-to-day experience of a small business.

However, today I will return to this original goal, at least for one post, by asking the question "what's on my desk this morning?"  I tackle this question for two reasons.  First, it is interesting to compare how different the issues I struggle with day-to-day are as compared to my previous life as an executive at several Fortune 50 companies.  I am sure I did more, but all I can remember from my daily activities at large companies seems to involve either working on PowerPoint presentations or traveling to give them to somebody.  The second reason for visiting the contents of my desk is to reinforce my usual libertarian political points, which I think will be made sufficiently obvious just in the description of my to-do list that I won't need to editorialize further.

So here is what's got to get done today [ed note -- while published on Sunday, this is based on my worklist on Friday morning, May 13.]

  • Sales tax returns have to be completed, which I usually do myself.  We file monthly returns in six states, but one of those is Florida, where we have to file multiple returns county by county.  This month I also must complete a lodging tax return for two counties.  If it was the end of the quarter, an additional three state returns and two county returns would be due.
  • We are nearly completed with a sales tax audit from Washington state.  I have written before how complicated the WA sales tax return is, but the funny part was seeing a trained tax accountant from the state of Washington sit in my office for nearly 6 hours and still not be able to figure out how much tax I owed.  She kept encountering crazy exceptions like "such-and-such county requires 2% lodging tax unless the facility has more than 63 rooms or campsites and then it owes 50 cents per room-night except if it is in the Seattle convention district where it owes an additional .25% or if it is on a metro bus line where ... etc."  When tax law is too complicated for the paid employees of the tax department to figure out, it is too complicated.  Wonder of wonders, though, we may get a refund!
  • Also sitting on my desk from Washington is a notice that I did not pay my leasehold excise tax last year.  For those who don't know what that is, it is a way that states like WA and CA effectively charge property tax on the US government, evading the federal rules against such (basically, I have to pay the tax for the Feds, and then I take it out of the rent I bid to the Feds).  Actually, though, I did pay it.  Well in advance of the due date.  The state has spent the last 2 weeks trying to decipher their own records, and so I need to call them back today to see if they have figured everything out yet.
  • The department of Health in one California county is holding up my building approval because the condensate line from a refrigerator condenser coil runs out and drips fresh water on the ground (about a gallon a day).  If you have an air-conditioning system at your home, it is very very likely your air conditioning condenser does the same thing.  Unfortunately, the county wants this to run into the sewage system.  Why the county wants extra load on the sewer system, I don't know, but fortunately my builder caught this early so the change won't cost us much money.
  • Speaking of inspections, the ADA inspector at another California facility ruled yesterday that our sales counter was an inch too high and our ramp a half-degree too steep to the front door, so I spent part of this morning already getting the original contractor out there to tear these improvements out and redo them.  Interestingly, we previously had the bathroom that was originally in this modular building ripped out, because it could not be made ADA compliant.  This was not a big headache for our employees, because there is a public bathroom building next door.  However, the local health inspector is now reluctant to approve the building because... it has no bathroom and hand-wash sink.  The only food we sell is packaged (think Twinkies) but some health inspectors still want you to follow the same requirements as if you were a restaurant.  I am not sure how we are going to resolve this.
  • I just got a call from a customer who was mad that the county Sheriff would not respond to several complaints about drunk and disorderly conduct in the early morning hours at one of our campgrounds.  A few of our campgrounds, like this one, are too small to justify a live-on-site staff, and the rowdies seem to get the word out which campgrounds do not have on-site security.  I promised the customer a refund, and made a note to myself to talk to our manager about having one of our employees come by a few times in the night on a security sweep.
  • I have a meeting at 3:00 to meet with my accountant to finish up our income taxes.  Since we have to file a federal, 9 state, and a number of county tax returns, our total company return fills two 3-inch binders.   Today we are trying to sort out the depreciation schedule, which in and of itself is hundreds of pages long given that we have so many small assets.
  • We are still trying to get a liquor license approved for our store on Lake Havasu.  The whole liquor license process is one of those funny holdovers.  Coming out of prohibition, most states wrote tough procedures to make sure that the organized crime figures who control liquor during prohibition did not receive licenses.  As a result, to get a license, my wife and I and my managers have to be finger-printed and have FBI background checks.  The applications tend to be long and tedious and small errors cause the application to be returned for corrections. Worse, though, I have found that many towns use the licensing process as an anti-competitive protection for incumbents.  In California, if a County is "over its limit" (set fairly arbitrarily) in terms of licenses, it requires the county board of supervisors to meet and approve the new license.  In one California county I was told that this was really for my protection - they are protecting me from getting my business in a situation where I might fail due to too much competition.  Anyway, I suspect that the strong powers-that-be in Lake Havasu City may be holding up our license, and I need to try to figure out what is going on,though I am not sure how to go about it.
  • While I have been writing this, I got a call from a county DA in Arizona.  Most states have bad check programs where, if you have a bounced check and can't collect, you turn it over to the courts and they seek collection.  In extreme cases, they will arrest and try the offender.  I have never been entirely comfortable with this situation.  Sure, bounced checks irritate the heck out of me, but arresting people for a $20 bounced check feels like sending someone to a Victorian debtors prison.  This morning, I spent about 30 minutes trying to talk the DA out of prosecuting the heck out of some guy who claims that he paid us and we lost his check.  I give his story about a 30% possibility, but whatever is the case I have no desire to prosecute the guy.  The DA's blood is up, so it takes me a while to talk him out of it.  I am adding to my worklist something I have put off for a while, which is to investigate 3rd party NSF check collection. 
  • My bank just called and still needs yet more paperwork before they can complete an equipment financial loan.  AAARRRRGGGG. 
  • I just finished my annual rant with Arizona Game and Fish about fishing licenses.  We sell fishing licenses at a number of locations.  We only sell fishing licenses, we don't sell hunting licenses or duck stamps or all kinds of other special licenses that the state seems to sell.  Unfortunately, if you are a Game and Fish registered license seller, you can't get just fishing license inventory from them.  You have to take their full range of licenses, which they send you piles of in January.  We take all this stuff we don't want to sell and put it in the safe, and hope that we can keep track of it for the next 12 months.  If we somehow misplace anything and don't return it the following year, we pay for it (and some of those stamps and licenses cost hundreds of dollars).  Many of you  will recognize that this practice of the state government would in many situations be illegal for a private company.  There are many laws out there that limit a manufacturers ability to force a retailer to carry their full line of inventory, or worse, their ability to send the stores a bunch of inventory they did not order.
  • I have been putting off registering our 15+ trucks in Washington, but I am going to have to get to it today or this weekend.  Last year Washington passed a law that vehicles had to be registered with an in-state physical address (no PO Box).  I am not sure if this is a tax or terrorism thing, but it is obviously awkward for an out of state corporation, so they have finally relented a bit and said that you can still have to have an in-state physical address but they will mail paperwork to an out of state address.  I or my assistant will need to spend a couple of hours soon typing in two addresses each on all these vehicles before we can register them.

There are a million other things going on, but that is what is burning me up today.  In fact, since I have been spending the last hour writing this post, these tasks will probably also be occupying me this weekend.  An alien from another planet in reading this post might question whether I am really working for myself or this "government" entity.

Great Moments in Labeling

This is pretty funny, as highlighted in Reason's Hit and Run:

Under the plan, any person seeking a new job would be required to obtain an updated "counterfeit-proof" Social Security card, equipped with a digitized photo and an electronic identification strip containing the person's legal status. To offset fears of government intrusion, the card would be clearly marked, "This is not a national ID card," [California Republican congressman David] Dreier said.

Gosh, what a great solution.  Think of the applications.  All Phillip Morris has to do is write "this is not a cigarette" on each Marlboro and poof: all that nasty regulation and litigation goes away.  I guess I would not need a liquor license to sell Budweiser's labeled "this is not beer".  Or maybe Pamela Anderson can get a T-shirt that says "these are real".  LOL.

By the way, for business owners, don't miss this gem later in the article:

Employers would have to check a prospective employee's legal status against a new employment eligibility database either by swiping the card or calling a hot line. Those who fail to do so, or knowingly hire an undocumented worker, would face fines of up to $50,000 and five years in prison for each occurrence.

Nothing like spending 5 years in the slam for having one of your managers forget to check the ID of someone they hired.