We mentioned in passing a California proposal that would grant the state Department of Public Health the authority to restrict or prohibit the sales of consumer products in the state. Well, the bill has been amended — and made worse for consumer choice. (Read the bill here.) Apparently some lawmakers in the Golden State — which according to CDC data is the 5th slimmest state — think the state should charge companies to make consumers healthier, or enact petty Prohibitions if that doesn’t work.
The bill initially required any the manufacturer of any consumer product that “significantly contributes to a public health epidemic” recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and costing the state at least $50 million per year to pay for developing a “public health impact report” (PHIR). Even worse, the state would have the authority to restrict or ban the sale of products if state health officials didn’t like the PHIR. If that remit wasn’t bloated enough, the latest round of amendments increased the costs that companies would face and extended the bureaucrats’ reach by enabling them to collect even more fees from companies to implement the PHIRs. If sucking consumers and companies dry for every drop of possible revenue were a “public health epidemic,” Sacramento would be quarantined.
If you stretch the meaning of the word, then just about anything can “contribute” to killing. The law could apply to almost any product that is labor-saving, recreational, or a foodstuff—footballs “contribute” to football injuries, foods “contribute” to overeating, and chairs “contribute” to sitting. The possible absurd regulations are endless and bounded only by the unaccountable will of capricious California bureaucrats. (And you thought New York was an “administrative Leviathan.”)
For California consumers, this proposal would lead to one of two effects: Either higher costs comparable in effect to highly regressive “fat taxes” that hurt low-income consumers’ wallets or private-sector prohibitions like those of some companies that do not ship products to California to avoid liability under the similarly over-broad Proposition 65 cancer-scare law. Another possibility is that this proposal exists to provide “cover” for the proposed soda tax (it’s the PETA to the tax’s HSUS). Either way, it can only serve to engorge state coffers and crib consumer choice.