The famous quote goes that there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes.
When talking about your California Legislature, I’d add a third item to the list – there’s nothing certain in life but death, taxes, and silly bills.
In my past life working at the Capitol, we’d always point out the bizarre proposals introduced each year that show just how out of touch some in Sacramento really are with the real problems facing the Golden State.
Examples of these “silly bills” from past years – some of which have become law – include requiring California hotels to use fitted bottom sheets on all their beds, banning the sale of Gatorade in our schools, giving homeless people the right to “urinate, sleep and panhandle wherever they want”, and giving 14 and 15-year-olds the right to vote.
Recently, my nominee for 2018’s “Silly Bill of the Year” was introduced – new restrictions on plastic straws at restaurants.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Assembly Bill 1884 by Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, “would require servers at sit-down restaurants to ask customers if they want a straw before providing one.”
There are all sorts of unanswered questions with this proposal. Gwyneth Borden, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association in San Francisco, asks: “Will there be secret straw investigators?” If I were her, I wouldn’t give the Legislature any ideas.
She concludes that, “They don’t need to create a law around it . . . The segment of the restaurant industry that is struggling the most is full-service restaurants, and this law singles them out.”
Calderon says his bill is need to “create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans.”
Naturally, Calderon ignores the fact that straws are a medical necessity for some people, especially those who have Parkinson’s Disease and face routine tremors.
AB 1884 is another example of a Legislature that is out-of-touch with the real problems facing our state. All Californians support common-sense efforts to clean up our beaches, and protect our communities, parks, and coastlines from unnecessary waste.
Ask anyone on the street (or anyone who has read my recent column on Sacramento’s growing homeless crisis), and I bet they would say that targeting plastic straws pales in comparison to the real need to prevent the spread of human feces and disease in our streets and parks. This would be a much better place for their Legislature to focus their efforts – “creating awareness” and preventing the “detrimental effects” of a real public health and environmental crisis that is hurting communities across the state.
Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.