Tag Archives: california

Regulation of the Day 196: Babysitting

California legislators are set to pass a bill that would reduce the number of babysitters. Not on purpose, of course. But when you make babysitters more expensive, parents won’t hire as many of them. California Sen. Doug LaMalfa lists some of the bill’s requirements:

Under AB 889, household “employers” (aka “parents”) who hire a babysitter on a Friday night will be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless it is a family member), provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers’ compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.

The intentions behind this bill are noble, one assumes. But when it comes to regulations, good intentions don’t matter. Results do. And it’s pretty easy to see that if it passes, this bill will result in a lot of unhappy nights at home for frustrated parents – and a lot less income for sitters who have been priced out of a job.

You can read the full text of the bill here (PDF). It would also raise unemployment for maids, nannies, and anyone else who makes a living helping others around the house.


Regulation of the Day 195: Fitted Sheets

California’s state legislature is poised to pass SB 432. It would, of all things, make it a crime for hotels to use non-fitted sheets. Here’s the relevant section of the bill:

The standard shall require all of the following:

(1) The use of a fitted sheet, instead of a flat sheet, as the bottom sheet on all beds within the lodging establishment. For the purpose of this section, a “fitted sheet” means a bed sheet containing elastic or similar material sewn into each of the four corners that allows the sheet to stay in place over the mattress.

This writer is a fan of fitted sheets. I even use them at home. But it is unclear why a law is necessary to require California hotels to use them. Hotels that don’t already have them would be forced to take a financial hit at a time when business is down. SB 432 is hardly an engine of job creation.

California is one of the few states with a full-time legislature. Perhaps they should consider becoming part-time. Giving them less time to satisfy their urge to regulate unimportant business decisions in astonishing detail could only help California’s ailing economy.

It would also make for fewer stories like that of entrepreneur Erica Douglass, is leaving California because of its hostile business climate.

There Is Nothing Left to Cut

Today’s Los Angeles Times:

The highest-paid state employee in California last year, a prison surgeon who took home $777,423, has a history of mental illness, was fired once for alleged incompetence and has not been allowed to treat an inmate for six years because medical supervisors don’t trust his clinical skills.

Regulation of the Day 182: The Definition of a Hot Dog

Having solved the state’s fiscal crisis, California’s state legislature has moved on to more important issues, such as the legal definition of “hot dog.” According to S.B. 946 [PDF, p. 32], that definition is:

“Hot dog” means a whole, cured, cooked sausage that is skinless or stuffed in a casing, may be served in a bun or roll, and is also known as a bologna, frank, frankfurter, furter, garlic bologna, knockwurst, red hot, Vienna, or wiener.

 The intention is to differentiate cooked hot dogs from uncooked sausage products.

Most states have part-time legislatures. California’s is one of the few full-time bodies. Every so often, there are calls to change that; maybe this hot dog bill will spark someone to move on that much-needed reform.

Regulation Roundup

With the unemployment rate still over 9 percent, regulators have been very busy tending to their own job security. Here are some of their more recent make-work programs:

-In King County, Washington, swimming without a life vest is punishable by an $86 fine.

-New food regulations in New York would make it illegal to cut cheese in farmer’s markets.

-A new California regulation would require retailers to provide seating for cashiers.

-The Consumer Product Safety Commission adopted voluntary new standards for cribs in 2008. Now it has decided to make them both mandatory and retroactive. That means that roughly 100,000 unsold cribs currently sitting in stores will have to be thrown away. Hopefully smaller retailers can survive the hit.

San Francisco is poised to ban goldfish.

-New EU regulations would require farmers to look after their pigs’ emotional well-being.

A weakened version of Texas’ TSA pat-down ban passed both houses of the state legislature. TSA agents found guilty would face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The loopholes in this version appear large enough that it would do little to stop the pat-downs. Other states are considering similar measures.

CEI Podcast for June 23, 2011: Bunker Fuel


Have a listen here.

Bunker fuel is  a heavy fuel used by large ships around the world. Oil tankers, container ships, and more rely on bunker fuel because it’s cheaper than other kinds of fuel. Land Use and Transportation Policy Analyst Marc Scribner takes a look at new environmental regulations in California intended to reduce bunker fuel usage. The rules are actually causing many ships to use more bunker fuel, not less. If proposed fixes succeed, the result would essentially be a tariff on most global trade — a $16 trillion industry.

The Environmental-Industrial Complex

Sometimes the green part of green regulations isn’t the environment. It’s money.

Economics says that people act according to their incentives. Public choice theorists say that politicians and regulators also act according to their incentives — just like the rest of us. Those incentives include maximizing agency budgets and winning elections.

This short video from Reason.tv shows public choice theory in action:

Do You Want the IRS Doing Your Taxes?

The average American spends over 26 hours per year doing taxes. That’s too much. The obvious solution is to simplify the 70,000-page tax code. But that’s politically difficult. So Austan Goolsbee, among others, has an alternative idea: have the IRS do your taxes for you.

This return-free system is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. One of them is the obvious conflict of interest when your tax collector is also your tax preparer.

Another reason is that the IRS is not up to the task. As I explain in an op-ed being distributed by McClatchy News Services, the IRS rarely has all the information it needs to fill out an accurate return for any one individual, household, or business. People change jobs. They have kids. They get married, and sometimes divorced. They buy homes and cars. Who knows what kinds of deductions they qualify for? The IRS probably doesn’t.

And if the IRS makes a mistake on your return, you would be liable for it. If you want to stay on the right side of the law, you would have to calculate your own taxes anyway, to make sure the IRS got it right. So much for saving time.
Return-free systems have already been tried in California and the UK. Neither attempt can be called a success.
It is heartening that officials are looking for ways to reduce the burden of doing taxes. But a return-free system would treat only the symptom, and poorly at that. The root problem is an arcane, 70,000 page tax code. The solution is to simplify it.

CEI Podcast — November 15, 2010: Free Speech and Video Games

Have a listen here.

Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia gives his take on a Supreme Court case concerning California’s ban of violent video game sales to minors. Keeping such things away from children is traditionally a job for parents.

The case has implications that reach far beyond video games. Because censorship is such a subjective thing, allowing it could have a chilling effect on forms of expression from art to music to film. The First Amendment specifically prohibits the government from sanitizing culture. That is up to the people themselves.

Halloween Roundup

Regulators kept themselves plenty busy for yesterday’s holiday. Highlights:

Silly string is forbidden in Hollywood on Halloween. Revellers are warned by street signs featuring not one, but two sets of unnecessary quotation marks (pictured above). The punishment is a $1,000 maximum fine and up to six months in jail. The punishment is the same as the maximum for a DUI, less a six-month driver’s license suspension.

Across the country in Zebulon, North Carolina, a 20-year old man was arrested for “wearing a mask or hood in public” on Halloween. The 1953 ordinance was anti-Ku Klux Klan measure. Ironically, yesterday’s arrestee is black. His bond is set at $7,500.

And in the Midwest, Belleville, Illinois has made it illegal for anyone over age 12 to go trick-or-treating.