Wednesday, March 29, 2006

California's Insane Law

California has long been known as the land of fruits and nuts. But nothing is fruitier or nuttier than the idiocy known as Proposition 65. It’s a product of California’s well-intended but out-of-control initiative proposal system, which takes the job of lawmaking out of the hands of lawmakers. It’s not quite like putting the inmates in charge of the asylum, but this is as close as it gets.

Proposition 65 demands that companies that subject the population to cancer-causing agents inform the public that, uhm, they’re being subjected to cancer-causing agent. Good enough. I recently completed a trip to California and saw it in action. It left no doubt in my mind why California continues to have some of the highest cost of living in the country.

I yanked myself from my Midwestern roots and traveled to San Francisco on business for a few days. I stayed at a prominent luxury hotel downtown. When I first entered the lobby, I was greeted with a sign that said that — pursuant to city ordinance — the lobby was a non-smoking area. Okay, cool. A lot of cities have restricted smoking in public areas. No problem.

When I checked in, the woman at the registration desk told me they had a non-smoking room available. Would that be okay? Okay? Heck, that’s what I asked for. That way I wouldn’t have to smell anybody else’s smoke. (By the way, to all you smokers. You stink. Do you get that? You stink. Don’t worry about heart disease or cancer or anything. Just remember: you stink.)

I went to the elevator and saw my first Proposition 65 notice:

Warning: This area contains chemicals including tobacco smoke known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

That’s right, folks. You heard it hear first. Walking in the lobby or sleeping in the rooms of this hotel won’t hurt you. But if you breathe the air in the elevator lobby, you could die! And it must be true, because the State of California says so.

The absurdity of this law cannot be any more obvious. This was not a cheap sign; it’s a classy hotel. A piece of my hotel bill helped pay for that sign. But even more ridiculous is all the logistics that go behind those signs.

The state is required to maintain an official web site to support the law. From the site, you can download an eight-page pdf document that helps you figure out how to conform to the law. The document first says that there is no “official” wording that the signs have to include. Then it goes on to tell you what the sign should include, how big the letters should be, where the sign should be, and on and on and on.

In spite of this, several national hotel chains have recently been fined as much as $50,000 each for not having appropriate signs. Who could have thought that hotels are so dangerous?

Pacific Gas & Electric recently included a notice in their customers’ bills that they occasionally use sandblasting to clean their equipment and naturally-occurring silicon is on the list. Yup, you heard it here first. Glass causes cancer.

Left Coast Liberals have always confused good intentions with results. They have never realized the incredible impact of such insane legislation. The state has to maintain regulations. Companies have to keep up with those regulations. They have to post signs. They have to notify customers.

Who wins? Lawyers, bureaucrats, printers, and sign makes. Who loses? Taxpayers and consumers. (Hey, that’s you and me.)

And guess what? Not one baby’s life has ever been saved by legislation like this.

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