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State panel delays vote on tax info bill

The California Senate Appropriations Committee Monday delayed a vote on a bill that would release personal tax information to municipalities, setting the stage for a compromise that could benefit industry actors, writers and other artists.

Senate bill AB701 initially was defeated by the Appropriations Committee on July 14, but was to be reconsidered by the panel Monday. Authored by Louis Caldera (D-Los Angeles), the measure would give charter cities such as Los Angeles — and accounting firms contracted by the municipalities — access to a taxpayer’s name, address, Social Security number and business activity code.

Citing potential serious consequences to privacy issues of its members, the Screen Actors Guild has voiced strong opposition to the bill.

“A lot of our high-profile members, who are the subject of stalking, have gone to great lengths to protect their privacy,” said Katherine Moore, a SAG spokeswoman.

Last week, SAG prexy Richard Masur fired off a letter to the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Patrick Johnston explaining the guild’s opposition to AB701. Masur cited the death of actress Rebecca Schaeffer, who was murdered after a stalker obtained her address through California Dept. of Motor Vehicles records.

Earlier, the Writers Guild of America West went public in opposition to the bill, citing privacy concerns as well as First Amendment rights. WGAW has proposed that authors and artists be exempt from Los Angeles’ stepped-up enforcement of its home-based business tax.

Under the ordinance, Los Angeles writers, editors, publicists and others who work from home are considered businesses, and thus, subject to a city business tax.

The office of Senator Bill Lockyer (D-Alameda), the president pro tem of the Senate, has been mediating the compromise talks. Sources say one scenario would give cities access to tax information, but sans addresses or occupation listings.

“There are legitimate concerns from both sides,” said a source close to the negotiations. “As a charter city, Los Angeles has a right to levy business taxes. But on the other side, we also understand that sensitive information might fall into the wrong hands.”

If eventually passed and signed by Gov. Wilson, AB701 would provide a key enforcement tool for cities such as Los Angeles, which have proposed stiff penalties of all home-based business that do not register with the city by Sept. 5 (Daily Variety, April 17).

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