On Jan. 18, Assemblyman and Democratic Majority leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, announced legislation making it a criminal offense for restaurants to provide straws to customers before being asked for them.

Under Calderon’s legislation, unprompted straw dispensing would be punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1000.

In this scheme, the dividing line between someone being thrown into a cage or not is whether they followed Calderon’s demand that the customer first request a straw.

If it sounds absurd, that’s because it is. But, remarkably, it gets worse.

Calderon’s push for unprompted straw dispensing is driven by the belief that Americans use 500 million straws a day. The problem, though, is that that figure literally came from the guesstimates of a nine-year old, according to reporting by Christian Britschgi at Reason.

In other words, Ian Calderon wants to make it possible for waiters to go to jail for handing out straws before being asked to do so because of the guesstimates of a nine-year old.

After people started calling him on what his bill would do, Calderon took to Twitter to do some damage control, insisting that he’s just trying to raise awareness and that if his bill ever passes it won’t threaten people with jail time.

Calderon isn’t alone in his crusade against unprompted straw dispensing. Cities like Davis and San Luis Obispo have already enacted ordinances requiring straws-upon-request policies, though without criminal sanctions, just fines. Los Angeles council members Mitch O’Farrell and Nury Martinez have introduced a motion to do the same, also motivated by the the nine-year old’s guesstimates.

While there’s nothing wrong with raising awareness about the potential harms of plastic waste, the mere threat of force against individuals for not partaking in government sanctioned procedure for straw dispensing is a sign that government is too big and politicians are too empowered.

Legislators like Calderon evidently have lost touch with the connection between what they do and what happens or can happen in the real world. In times like this, I wonder if we’d be better off letting the suits in Sacramento and Los Angeles City Hall grandstand and approve all the bills they like, so long as we just ignored them and didn’t implement anything they passed.

The state of California and the city of Los Angeles have bigger and better things to deal with. Rising pension debt, failing public schools, crumbling infrastructure, high rates of poverty, a housing crisis and a massive homelessness problem are among the many problems to contend with.

Unfortunately, California legislators like Calderon, and Los Angeles council members like O’Farrell and Martinez, would rather insert themselves into how restaurant customers get their straws than tackle problems of actual substance.

Sal Rodriguez is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group.


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