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Wednesday, Feb 20 2013 11:00 PM

DEAN FLOREZ: Let's take sludge fight to state Supreme Court

Another decision is ahead for Kern County on the issue of Los Angeles importing its waste into our backyard. The war is over sludge, but the battle is over whether our Board of Supervisors will direct Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner to ask the California Supreme Court to review the 5th District's recent decision and challenge its ruling that "Measure E is pre-empted by the California Integrated Waste Management Act" and conflicted with the state's "regional welfare doctrines" and therefore "exceeded Kern County's authority."

Ironically, that same day, our California Supreme Court left little doubt that it would uphold the authority of local governments to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders. The pot suppliers' lawyer argued that "local ordinances conflict with state laws that allow the use of medical marijuana," saying that local government's authority to regulate land use has never extended to "totally banning activity which is lawful under state law."

Sound familiar? The pot sellers' attorney sounds a lot like the lawyers from L.A.: Local government has no say in protecting its borders if it conflicts with what has been lawful for the state.

Now here is what is different. Unlike the Fresno court, the Supreme Court justices felt differently about "restricting local authority." State marijuana laws do not limit local governments' powers, under zoning laws, "to control what happens in their own community."

The Supreme Court justices seem to care very much about what local governments have to say about protecting themselves, even if the state has a compelling interest.

The sludge battle should continue at this same Supreme Court, where Kern County should finally get a receptive audience for something we all fought very hard for in 2006: the ability of citizens to protect themselves from forced sludge dumping (Measure E) and, more importantly, from the state laws that Los Angeles seems willing and able to hide behind in order to continue dumping its unwanted waste on Kern County land. Perhaps the odor of this practice will finally reach a court where local control means something. This is a no-brainer for the Board of Supervisors: fight on.

Dean Florez

Former state Senate majority leader

Shafter

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