Now that Los Angeles County has banned plastic grocery bags, I have a clear choice—pay ten-cents per paper bag for groceries purchased in the unincorporated areas of the county or risk the possibility of lead used in reusable bags contaminating my food.

No less a consumer advocate that New York Senator Charles Schumer is demanding an examination into reusable bags after a newspaper investigation found lead in many reusable bags sold by grocery stores.

I wonder what the voters think about this Morton’s Fork presented them by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors?

Actually, the Los Angeles supervisors should have consulted with county voters before they issued the ban and levied the ten-cent per paper bag charge.

Proposition 26 passed in the November election said that all local fees must be approved by a majority vote of the voters. The county is relying on a legal opinion that the 10-cent bag charge is really not a fee because the grocery stores receive the money, not the county.

However, government mandates the charge on the bags. When a government levies a fee on a product, income, or activity to raise revenue or enforce certain regulations then it is a government-imposed levy.

I expect a lawsuit will be filed against the Los Angeles County bag tax, which will be the first test of the new law.

Oh, to that expression, Morton’s Fork… it means a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives. And, over what subject did the expression arise … taxes, of course.

John Morton was the Lord Chancellor of England in the late 15th Century. His theory on taxes was relatively simple. If a subject lived in luxury and spent money on himself, he could clearly pay taxes to the king. And, if a subject lived frugally and showed no signs of wealth, then he must have savings and could afford to give to the king. Thus, the two prongs of Morton’s Fork, both unpleasant alternatives.

John Morton, meet the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. They have been after us poor taxpayers for centuries.