After spending months squabbling about a budget that turned out to be a train wreck because of the usual wildly over-optimistic revenue estimates, the California legislature is focusing its attention on vastly more important matters, like regulating and monitoring the behavior of the citizenry in all manner of silly, foolish, and intrusive ways.
The first of these is babysitters. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano wants to regulate this deeply suspicious and potentially treacherous world. If his bill passes, household workers including babysitters over 18 must get a work break every two hours, a 30 minute meal break, be paid overtime when applicable, and get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. That means if a child screams in the middle of the night, the nanny best not get up and see what's wrong because that would interrupt her sleep, thus subjecting the parents to penalties (Of course the nanny would already be awakened by the screaming. No word yet on whether legislators would consider this to still be a violation). Parents would also have to fill out time cards for babysitters. And did I mention that the work break rule means that parents would apparently have to hire two babysitters, as one would have to fill in during the other's breaks?
The madness continues. Fitted sheets must be used in hotels, according to a proposed law. Using non-fitted sheets would then presumably become a crime. Apparently, the reasoning is that since 10% of hotel housekeepers file back injury claims, this must automatically be due to non-fitted sheets being used, even if there is absolutely no proof of this whatsoever.
Legislators wanted to ban the sale of Gatorade on campuses. And here you probably didn't even think it was a menace. One psychologist says this law helps kids and adults make the right decisions. In reality, the precise opposite is true. It takes the decision-making process away from them.
But wait, there's more. Those Who Knows What's Best For You want to ban the use of tanning beds for those under eighteen. So, in California, a seventeen year old could get married and join the military but not use a tanning bed. They'd be old enough to fire an assault rifle but not old enough to get an indoor tan.
Sometimes these laws aren't so inadvertently humorous. AB 499, which has passed both houses, mandates that girls as young as twelve be given vaccinations against sexually transmitted diseases whether their parents approve or not. CalWatchdog says the vaccine is not without risk.
There are a few small signs of fightback against the encroaching nanny state. Gov. Brown just vetoed a bill that would have fined parents whose children went skiing or snowboarding without a helmet, saying:
"I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law. I believe parents have the ability and responsibility to make good decisions for their children."
But still, the trend seems inexorable.
The micro-managing of the behavior of Californians by Sacramento is intrusive, ill-considered, and mostly useless. This is made all the more absurd by Sacramento's continued and resolute determination to do as little as possible about the budget and unemployment (while arguing incessantly about it). Sure, some regulations are needed. I will cheerfully admit to doing some astonishingly reckless and stupid things as a teenager and young adult (and learned from them). But having the state increasingly attempt to monitor and control behavior is no solution at all.
"I'm for regulation, the way that it should be.
This song's about laws they passed protecting you from me.
Someone called us outlaws and tried to intervene
Sacramento sent a posse down like I ain't never seen.
Don't you think this nanny state bit has done got out of hand?
What started out to be helpful, are laws we don't understand.
Was it not using fitted sheets that got me busted by the man?
Maybe this here nanny state bit has done got out of hand."
(Apologies to Waylon Jennings)