As state legislatures convene for their annual sessions, we will shortly see a tsunami of horrible ideas to regulate, tax, and ban our favorite foodstuffs. California looks to be a hotbed of activity: Activists hope to bring back the soda tax that was shelved last year, and today we discovered that last year’s dumbest idea may have new life.
California Senate Bill 747 — a super-sized over-regulatory monstrosity — has been scheduled for a hearing in the Health Committee. The bill — which was once even worse — would allow the state to levy $20,000 pretty-please-don’t-call-them-fines-or-taxes “assessments” on producers or retailers of products that contribute to so-called “public health epidemics” for the creation of “risk assessment and mitigation documents” that the state would (presumably) use as roadmaps to regulate their use.
To spin a quick example, if the Puritanical Center for Science in the Public Interest got its way and cheese was decreed to contribute to obesity, cheese would undoubtedly become one of these alleged “public health epidemics” in legislators’ minds. (We’ve always thought “epidemic” is a profoundly misleading descriptor — you can’t “catch” fat like influenza or SARS.) Should every dairy farmer, milk processor, grocer and restaurateur from the lowliest L.A. taco truck to the classiest Michelin-starred Napa dining room have to pay the state $20,000 to say how they will cut their sales?
As we noted last year, this bill could entrap almost any consumer product from sandwiches to sofas. Our Senior Research Analyst wrote in the Press-Enterprise:
That mandate is so broad that presumably anything, from California cheese to Napa Valley wines to labor-saving products like dishwashers, could face regulation under this latest Sacramento scheme in the name of fighting obesity. But there’s no evidence that this concoction will actually do this.
We hope that California legislators will realize that this proposal is still ridiculous, overbroad, and an assault on the state’s economy and consumers. It’s a sign of that state’s decline that we can’t be certain they do.