“The comment ‘Only in California’ is hardly ever a compliment,” we write in an essay published yesterday by The Daily Caller. We’re referring, of course, to Proposition 65, the warning-label law that only a trial lawyer could love. It’s been eight years since we first told you about “Prop 65,” the Golden State’s justification for slapping cancer warning labels on everything from fishing rods to holiday lights. Sadly, one of California’s nuttiest laws just keeps getting nuttier.
Who would have thought in 1986 that a voter-approved initiative designed to improve the safety of drinking water — a law actually called the “Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986” — would expand in just a quarter-century to affect French fries and golf clubs?
Prop 65 requires warning labels on products containing chemicals “known to the State of California to cause cancer.” Violations are enforceable by private citizens who can reap a hefty bounty for successfully suing (or even for negotiating settlements).
A former California Department of Consumer Affairs director recently noted how “bounty hunter shakedowns of businesses have become the norm.” This spring a snack vending company received a $60,000 legal shakedown warning over the potato chips it sells.
Prop 65 isn’t the only California ballot-box initiative to run off the rails, of course. There’s the Humane Society of the United States-sponsored “Prop 2,” which could soon force egg farmers to abandon the state’s central valley in favor of Mexico. It could also be terrible for animal welfare.
And the organic-food-is-a-sacrament crowd is angling for a 2012 ballot initiative that would force California grocers to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients. While it won’t require an actual skull-and-crossbones sticker on perfectly healthy and wholesome food, it may as well.
At the end of this piece, we float what just might be an original idea. What if ballot initiatives weren’t forever?
How about a series of state laws requiring ballot initiatives to essentially stand for re-election every ten years? When public mores change, laws should follow suit. Even activist-written laws.
Imagine there’s no food fear.
It’s easy if you try.
No scary warnings stuck on
Each potato chip or fry.
Imagine all the people
Eating meals in peace …
Food lovers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your warning labels.