Business license issue comes full circle


Plans to cease the city’s participation in a Los Angeles County-administered business license program were scrapped last week when the City Council discovered that its gesture of political goodwill toward local business owners was more of a hassle than it was worth.

Since incorporation, Malibu has participated in the county program, which regulates certain kinds of businesses, like pawn shops, masseuses, health clubs and car rental agencies, in an effort to protect the public.

The county collects the business license fees on behalf of local municipalities and turns over most of the revenue generated to them.

To show support for the local business community, the council several months ago rejected a staff proposal for a locally based business program, and it promised that by the end of July it would instruct the county to stop collecting its license fees on the city’s behalf.

At last week’s meeting, the council had planned to cease participating in the county program, but City Manager Harry Peacock pointed out that such an action would conflict with a provision in the General Plan. The plan, which has been amended two times this year, would then have to be amended again. The city is permitted by state law to amend its General Plan four times a year.

Councilman Tom Hasse, who spearheaded the effort to end all business license fees, proposed as a compromise that the city stay with the program, but instruct the county not to impose fees on the local regulated businesses.

“Then future City Councils could raise it,” Hasse said.

But Peacock said the county would still require the businesses to be licensed, and it could send the bill for administering the license to the city.

“The county could well turn around and charge us for processing,” said Peacock.

Interim City Attorney Richard Terzian also said that because of Proposition 218, passed by voters in 1996, the city would probably have to put an increase in the county license fee on the local ballot for approval.

Faced with such a messy scenario, the council, on a 4-1 vote, with Hasse casting the lone no vote, took a pass on the proposed changes, and agreed to continue participating in the county program.