California Adopts a Mixed Bag of Food Laws

Daniellle BrownFood laws in California, America’s most populous state and a bellwether of change in other states, are changing for the better.

As Steven Greenhut noted in a column last week, a trio of new laws passed in California should make life easier for home food entrepreneurs, street vendors, and craft distillers in the state. That’s great news for food freedom and the entrepreneurs and consumers who drive its spread. But as with so many bursts of law-signing, there was some awful with the good. On September 18, the same day he signed the homemade food law, Gov. Jerry Brown also signed a new law that will crack down on people who want to share food with the homeless and others in need.

I strongly supported the home food entrepreneur law. As I wrote in a Sacramento Bee op-ed last year, when the bill that became law was first floated in the California Assembly, the state’s existing “food-safety regulations have proved so far to be an insurmountable obstacle” for many home cooks. The bill signed into law last month, I wrote, was “a fair and just proposal” to help cooks overcome these state-erected barriers.

Hopefully, that groundbreaking California law, along with the state’s embrace of street food and small distillers, will spread to other states.

But before we start crowing about California’s great food laws, a healthy serving of context is appropriate. Many of the state’s food laws are still awful. As a reminder, California is home to the nation’s only statewide foie gras ban. Let’s not forget, too, about the state’s awful shark fin ban (which conflicts with the federal government’s excellent shark finning ban), the ubiquitous and useless food warnings required under the state’s Proposition 65, and the state’s handful of ongoing soda taxes (which exist even after a state ban on new food-and-beverage taxes).

Those regulations are terrible, but the new law for feeding the homeless takes the cake.

“The bill would prohibit the operation from providing food service unless it has registered with the local enforcement agency… and would require a limited service charitable feeding operation subject to registration, or a food bank, if applicable, to submit certain information to the agency,” the law declares. It will regulate the food service activities of nonprofits that share food with those in need under the state’s retail food code, which is supposed to regulate (as its name suggests) commercial food activities. One of the obstacles to charitable food sharing under the law is that groups will have to prepare food in commercial kitchens.

Dozens of California chapters of Food Not Bombs, a pacifist group that shares vegan food with people across the country, are up in arms over the new law, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The local chapter, the paper reports, says it will likely ignore the law (and its permitting requirements) once it takes effect in 2019.

Anyone who’s followed my writings on the subject over the years—both in my columns and my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable—knows this is just the latest awful law of this sort. Las Vegas, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, New York City, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and many other large cities have enacted a host of cruel and unconstitutional barriers that restrict or ban sharing food with those in need. California’s could be the first such statewide law to take effect.

That’s dreadful.

Any state deserves a big pat on the back when it rescinds or amends bad food laws. California is no different. Lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown deserve enormous credit for adopting new laws that should make life easier for home food entrepreneurs, street vendors, and craft distillers in the state.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. California is still home to many of America’s worst food laws. Their number is still growing, meaning that — even with a trio of good new laws — real food freedom in California is still an elusive goal.

This article was originally published by Reason.com

California will require women on corporate boards under bill signed by Brown

Photo Credit: thoroughlyreviewed.com

Photo Credit: thoroughlyreviewed.com

California became the first state in the country to require that women be included on companies’ boards of directors, as Gov. Jerry Brown literally sent a message to Washington on Sunday in signing legislation that corporate associations opposed as unconstitutional.

Brown signed SB826 into law after it passed the Assembly and the Senate last month. The bill mandates that all publicly traded California companies have at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019.

The requirement ramps up in 2021: Five-member boards will be expected to have two female members, and boards with six or more members will be expected to have three. ..

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle 

California Restaurants Banned from Providing Plastic Straws or Kid’s Meal Sodas

StrawsGov. Brown signed 41 bills into law on Thursday including banning restaurants from automatically distributing plastic straws or advertising kid’s meals with a soda.

The California Constitution requires that September 30 is the last day for the Governor to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature before September 1. Governor Brown on September 20 signed 41 bills and vetoed 6.

Brown signed 40 of the 45 bills authored by a Democrat and 1 of the 2 bills authored by a Republican. The environment and education were the two biggest focus areas of the legislative 2018 legislative session with Brown signing 9 education bills and vetoed 4; while signing 10 bills and vetoing 0 associated with the environment.

Brown justified signing Assembly Bill 1884, prohibiting dine-in restaurants from automatically providing plastic straws with meals, with a statement that plastic is now a danger that “pervades every aspect of modern life” and its “single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences” for society that must eventually be eliminated.

The governor stated that with the annual global production of plastic having reached 448 million tons by 2015, plastic in the world’s oceans now kills millions of marine mammals each year. He added that microplastics in tap water and plastic straws, bottles, packaging, and bags “are choking our planet.”

The impact of the bill will be limited because it does not apply to fast food, coffee shops and other take-out stores that are the biggest distributors of plastic items. Customers can still get a straw at dine-in eateries but will have to independently request one.

Brown also signed Senate Bill 1192 that amends the California Retail Food Code to requires all dine-in and fast food chains to offer milk; a non-dairy milk alternative; or sparkling, still or flavored water as a default or advertised beverage for a child’s packaged meal. The bill does not prohibit a restaurant from selling, or a customer’s ability to purchase, an alternative beverage if the purchaser requests one.

Both AB-1884 and SB-1192 will be effective on January 1.

The most significant surprise on Thursday was Brown’s pocket veto of Senate Bill 1424 that would have directed the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to establish an advisory group to study the supposed “problem of the spread of false information through Internet-based social media.

Brown called SB-1424 called the “creation of a statutory advisory committee to examine this issue not necessary,” given the numerous studies by academic and policy groups.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Jerry Brown Signs Law Legalizing Street Food in California

Street FoodCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill to make it easier for sidewalk vendors to operate legally in the state.

It’s one of dozens of bills Brown announced signing Monday, including measures to help voters ensure their mail ballots are counted and standardize balcony inspections.

The new sidewalk vending law will let cities and counties create permit programs for vendors and limits when they can be criminally prosecuted.

“We can start seeing sidewalk vendors for who they are – women and seniors, single parents, and micro-business owners taking that first step to starting their own business,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara, the Bell Gardens Democrat who authored the bill, SB946. “Gov. Brown’s signature validates that thousands of sidewalk vendors are an important part of our economy.”

Sidewalk vendors, who typically sell food or other goods, can be required to hold business licenses and pay taxes under the law. Cities and counties can also establish health and safety policies for vendors. …

Click here to read the full story from ABC7

California Cities are Banning Plastic Straws and It Sucks

Straws1On July 24, San Francisco city officials unanimously passed an ordinance forbidding the city’s restaurants and bars from giving customers plastic items, including straws, cocktail swords, and takeout containers treated with fluorinated chemicals. The ordinance will have to be voted on a second time and if it passes it’ll go to the mayor for approval.

San Francisco will be the second major city to take steps to ban plastic straws, joining Seattle in spearheading the ever-growing anti-straw crusade. Malibu, Santa Cruz, Manhattan Beach and San Luis Obispo — all in California as well — have also passed plastic straw bans. Santa Barbara not only banned plastic straws, but compostable straws too.

Local governments aren’t alone, as a handful of businesses have taken a stand against plastic straws. Starbucks is perhaps the most high profile company who has decided to ditch straws in exchange for strawless plastic lids. On July 9, Starbucks announced that by 2020 it will eliminate over 1 billion plastic straws from all its stores. Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels Corps and Hilton Hotels all have made similar commitments.

While plastic straw bans may make people feel good and think they’re saving the environment, in reality, they hardly make a dent in overall plastic pollution.

For one, the number of plastic straws used by Americans on a daily basis is in dispute. Like several other ban proposals, the San Francisco ordinance cites a statistic that Americans go through 500 million straws a day. Reason writer Christian Britschgi tracked down the source of that number: a nine-year-old boy.

In 2011, Milo Cress conducted a phone survey of straw manufacturers. Now 16, Cress told Britschgi that the National Restaurant Association has endorsed his estimates in private.

But, as Britschgi points out in his article, the number of straws used each day isn’t as important as knowing how many actually end up in our waterways.

“We don’t know that figure either,” Britschgi writes. “The closest we have is the number of straws collected by the California Coastal Commission during its annual Coastal Cleanup Day: a total of 835,425 straws and stirrers since 1988, or about 4.1 percent of debris collected.”

A 2015 study published in Science calculated out of 275 million metric tons of plastic produced from 192 coastal countries in 2010, anywhere between 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons entered the ocean. East Asian and Pacific countries were responsible for the majority of plastic pollution with China, Indonesia and the Philippines topped the list of plastic polluters. China contributed 27.7 percent of all mismanaged plastic waste compared to the United States which was responsible for 0.9 percent.

The researchers point to improving waste management as the solution to the environmental problem. Countries like the Philippines and China need to invest in infrastructure to better deal with waste and recyclables. Without these improvements, plastic pollutions will dramatically increase.

Out of the top 20 countries contributing to this problem, 16 are middle income countries “where fast economic growth is probably occurring but waste management infrastructure is lacking.” Addressing those infrastructure problems could make a major difference in plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

But reforming waste management infrastructure in countries halfway across the globe is a massive project requiring far greater effort than banning plastic straws. City officials, like those in San Francisco, are taking a largely symbolic stance when they ban plastic straws. This wouldn’t be an issue if it didn’t mean restaurant or bar owners faced fines or even jail time for providing plastic straws to customers.

First time offenders of the San Francisco ban face a written warning, but after that they can be hit with fines anywhere between $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for repeated offense. In Santa Barbara, a second violation of the code means a $100 fine and a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor is punishable up to a max $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

The Santa Barbara City Council is reconsidering the ban to include an exemption for those with disabilities who rely on straws to enjoy their drinks.

There’s a reason most businesses give their customers plastic straws: they’re relatively cheap and people want them. Companies like Starbucks are free to eliminate plastic straws from its stores if it wants to, but imposing that same choice on all businesses, big and small, is wrong.

Wanting to protect the environment is a noble goal, but good intentions don’t always translate to good policy. The market could provide the environmentally friendly goods that consumers want if the government wasn’t busy micromanaging every aspect of it.

Reusable or biodegradable straws — although far from perfect — are increasing in popularity and could prove to be the answer to our plastic straw woes. Or perhaps the plastic straw alternative has yet to be invented, but in any case, providing people with better options instead of depriving them of choice is the key to shaping consumer behavior. It could even make the oceans that much cleaner.

Lindsay Marchello is a Young Voices Advocate and an Associate Editor with the Carolina Journal. Follow her on Twitter @LynnMarch007.

Newport Beach Bans Electric Scooters After 3 Days

Bird ScootersA flock of 50 Bird dockless electric scooters that arrived at the Newport Beach Peninsula last weekend without a permit caused lots of complaints and were promptly banned by the city.

The virally popular dockless scooters that rent at $1, plus $.15 per minute, are the hottest transportation trend in 2018. Although electric scooter riders are supposed to be 18 years old, have a California driver’s license, and wear their own helmets, the bike rental is by cell phone app, and there is virtually no way to prevent underage or reckless riders.

Newport Beach would have been Bird’s 18th location, but cities are cracking down over nuisance and safety concerns, with San Francisco temporarily banning 1,800 scooters until their sponsoring companies agree to make sure riders stay in bike lanes, wear helmets, and don’t just leave the bikes sprawled across sidewalks.

But without applying for a permit or even notifying the city, Bird started advertising though Twitter on Saturday to offer residents and visitors the opportunity to “skip traffic and #enjoytheride this weekend” in Newport. The Bird mobile app showed at least 38 scooters available for rent on Monday morning, according to the Daily Pilot.

The Pilot reported that the city received numerous complaints, especially from businesses for the scooters blocking pedestrian flows after being “Bird-dropped” on the sidewalk when users reached their destinations.

Bird does deploy gig-working “Bird Hunters” that keep track of scooter locations for recharging. But the work is usually done at night by gig-working teens, and during the daytime there are few Bird staff exercising local control of the scooter use.

Assistant City Attorney Michael told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday: “We sent Bird a demand to remove all of their scooters from the city by midnight yesterday; otherwise they faced the possibility of criminal prosecution and/or administrative citation.”

Founder Travis VanderZanden entered the sharing business after his on-demand car wash company Cherry was acquired by Lyft in 2013, and he became the company’s COO. He later jumped to Uber as its vice president of growth through September 2016. He first launched Bird in May 2017.

The Financial Times reported on June 28 that the venture capitalist-dominated Bird board had raised another $300 million in its fourth round of financing at the stunning valuation after of $1.7 billion after just 13 months in business.

Given Bird demand and the financial capability of the company, the Birds will migrate back to Newport and other cities after negotiating the proper permits and user compliance rules.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Small Businesses Threatened by Potential Plastic Ban

On the corner of my block in Oakland sits a small eatery serving everything from donuts to Chinese food to barbecue. Its large picture windows with faded lettering tells you its age and the loyal following of customers it enjoys. Its status is all the more remarkable considering that a new shopping center with chains and restaurants is bustling with customers just two blocks down. The struggle to remain solvent in a changing neighborhood would only worsen if state legislation to ban polystyrene foam returns for a third year in a row. Adding to the burden of small business with the proposed ban is especially senseless when food container alternatives are on the rise organically.

Polystyrene containersThis small eatery was beating the odds against small businesses. It worked around Oakland’s $13.23 minimum wage by using its own labor and closing for a day or two per week. It survived possible rent hikes and attractive buyout offers for its storefront located on a major bus line and blocks from other transit options. Even more, its product stood out amidst a sea of assembly line food options. It was comfort food so conveniently located that even new residents like myself couldn’t resist. They piled the food high in white polystyrene containers that would keep it hot, no matter the walk or bus ride home.

Currently, 116 cities and counties in California enforce some type of polystyrene ban. The patchwork of municipalities that have banned polystyrene range in their scope. Some bans are for government organizations only; others have provisions to ease small businesses into the ban. There’s even a current ban in Oakland, with an exemption for small businesses or anyone who can prove that the requirements to provide a compostable food container item “would cause undue hardship.” However, this exemption isn’t as kind as it may sound, seeing as the steps to prove undue hardship are themselves imposing undue hardship. Owners have to produce financial records and anything else the city requires, taking additional time away from their business to prove their case to officials.

The bans, like the one in Oakland, typically require compostable or recyclable containers in place of polystyrene. Aside from the fact that polystyrene is recyclable in many municipalities, requiring compostable containers by law is enforcing behavior that is already being adopted by the restaurant industry without pressure from government. Large companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle serve their take-out food in compostable containers and have been before most bans were in place. They have taken advantage of their own economies of scale to absorb the additional cost. It is an advantage that makes them forerunners in purchasing first-run compostable products. In turn, compostable product companies develop newer and better products that lower in price over time.

With larger corporations leading the way next to municipal bans, further legislation, especially at the state level, would target the one area of a restaurant’s business that helps keep razor-thin margins from disappearing completely. The most recent failed legislation in the California state Legislature, Senate Bill 705, would have banned polystyrene food containers for restaurants, food trucks and grocery stores. By failing to exempt corner eateries and family-owned bodegas, SB 705, if passed into law, would unfairly punish these restaurants for using  polystyrene food containers and put them at a competitive disadvantage relative to large food vendors.

If anti-polystyrene legislation returns to Sacramento, it would be yet another hit to small businesses. Large corporations already set the example for non-polystyrene food container use while compostable options continue to grow. An outright ban is a solution to a problem that continues to shrink and a blow to the small businesses surviving in an era of increased regulation.

Those interested in cutting waste from landfills or the use of plastic in general would be better off campaigning for better recycling options for high volume polystyrene users and encouraging compostable options. They are much better options than supporting policy that unintentionally harms small restaurants woven into the fabric of communities across the state.

Martha Ekdahl is a Young Voices Advocate who writes about urban policy.

Dianne Feinstein Blocks Self-Driving Car Deregulation

Dianne FeinsteinSenator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) smacked down her former Silicon Valley allies this week by blocking a federal deregulation that would have expedited the testing of self-driving cars.

Feinstein, as a 25-year California Democrat incumbent and the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee used her prerogative to block the “AV START Act,” which would have set up a friendly federal transportation regulatory structure to circumvent local restrictions for testing autonomous (self-driving) cars on America’s public roads.

Proponents of the bill thought they had bipartisan Congressional and White House support to expedite passage, due to the all-out efforts from hundreds of lobbyists representing 64 Silicon Valley companies, including big venture capital back start-ups and tech giants such as Alphabet, Apple, Tesla, and Uber.

Intel and Strategy Analytics presented an economic white paper in support of the federal takeover that forecast autonomous vehicles would generate $4 trillion from ride-hailing and $3 trillion from delivery and business logistics by 2050.

An analysis of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data presented by L.E.K. Consulting revealed that American companies since 2007 have filed over 2,118 autonomous vehicle technology patents. Many filings are for Lidar laser sensors, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, image processing, computer vision, and advanced driver-assistance.

With a similar bill unanimously passing the House of Representatives in September, the Senate version was introduced on September 28 and moved through the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on November 28.

For her first 24 years in the U.S. Senate, Feinstein was viewed as a tireless advocate for Silicon Valley tech initiatives. But on November 1, Feinstein, threatened Silicon Valley executives that Congress would do something about foreign interference in elections through social media, if the tech industry failed to act.

Feinstein told general counsels from Facebook, Google, and Twitter at a Senate Hearing: “I must say, I don’t think you get it.” She argued that tech company platforms were responsible for foreign powers being able to use cyber-warfare during the 2016 presidential election to sow conflict and discontent all over the country.

Democrat Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna told the San Jose Mercury News that the 85-year-old Feinstein, as the oldest member of the U.S. Senate, does not represent progressive values on key issues including privacy, encryption, “Medicare for All,” and the new innovation economy.

Feinstein was also humiliated at the California Democrat Party Convention in late February, when she only received endorsement support for a fifth term from 37 percent of delegates; while California State Senate majority leader Kevin de León won 54 percent.

It is unclear if Senator Feinstein deliberately retaliated against Silicon Valley and its social justice warrior fellow travelers for failing to support her re-election effort. But Feinstein did rally several senior Democratic Senators, who now claim self-driving car technology is too unproven for a national roll-out through a federal takeover.

Feinstein’s opposition to allowing national driverless car tests carries extra Congressional weight, since the State of California has allowed testing on public roads since September 2014.

What had seemed like at least an easy victory for Silicon Valley now is rated at just a 32 percent chance of enactment, according to Skopos Labs.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Too Much Regulation Crushing California Business

Government regulationI was watching “A Christmas Story” with my kids recently, and it rang a little too true. You will recall that our hero, Ralphie, really, really wants a Red Ryder BB gun – and when he gets it, he nearly shoots his own eye out.

All kids have this experience to some extent. Happily, my own kids haven’t shot their own eye out (yet) but as kids grow up, they learn the lesson that not everything they want is necessarily good for them. Even as adults, we get tempted – I’d love to run with the bulls in Spain but on reflection, it’s probably not a good idea.

Our legislators really, really want to micromanage every aspect of daily life for California, and eliminate any element of risk or exposure for anyone. Like a Red Ryder BB gun, I can see the appeal. But trying to do that means shooting the eye out of California. We need risk to drive innovation; we need an element of exposure to grow.

A strong economy is how we gain stable, good-paying jobs, and it will be driven by business owners with a vision turned into reality. A little corner café, a new product or an innovative way of providing a service – the economy is grown by these women and men who put their heart into their business.

A strong economy doesn’t come from the government. It’s funny how progressives say that our current president has nothing to do with the growing economy, but then they argue that the state government has the power to create new opportunities for employees.

A strong economy can’t be legislated into existence. There’s no law that businesses have to hire, and there’s no law that businesses have to stay in California. Legislators are trying to make crappy jobs better – but they should be trying to make crappy jobs obsolete.

In a strong economy, there will be so many good jobs that employees won’t be stuck in a job at the bottom that they don’t like. Entry-level jobs are called that for a reason: people should be doing them for a couple of years and then moving on to new, better opportunities. No one should be trying to support a family on an entry-level job.

Unfortunately, in our current economy, many people are trying to survive on an entry-level job. I agree with our legislators that this is bad. But making it more expensive to hire an entry-level employee doesn’t result in lots of well-paid, stable jobs flipping burgers. It means machines flipping the burgers and college kids without any way to get their first job.

Legislators look backwards at the past to legislate the future. They’re trying to preserve what used to be middle-class jobs, and that might help employees for a couple of years. But the biggest disruptions in our lives have been the ones no one anticipated, and the government should take a step back to allow new types of jobs to flourish.

The legislature is taking steps to incentivize behaviors but we know from experience that’s not how it works. Try to make it harder to employ people part-time? Those jobs won’t turn into full-time jobs; they’ll be the last push businesses need to invest in new technology so they need fewer part-time workers.

Rather than spending energy on threading the regulatory needle, business leaders should spend their energy on growing and hiring and rejuvenating their communities.

And to do that, they need legislators to take a step back. Don’t shoot the eye out of California!

Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Second Worst State for Economic Freedom

A new international report has found that due to the burden of regulatory overreach and the highest taxes in the nation, California ranks 49th out of all 50 U.S. states in economic freedom. Only New York is worse.

When Canada’s Fraser Institute published its 2017 “Economic Freedom of the World” survey in September, the index surprisingly found that the United States suffered the third-worst plunge in economic wocalifornia-flagrld freedom (EWF) between 2000 and 2015, by falling 7 places from number 4 to number 11.

The index measures individual components for 1) the size of government and tax rates; 2) impartiality of the legal system and protection of property rights; 3) sound money and inflation; 4) freedom to trade; and 5) regulatory reach and costs.

Co-author Fred McMahon commented, “The freest economies operate with comparatively less government interference, relying more on personal choice and markets to decide what’s produced, how it’s produced, and how much is produced.”

Researchers at the Fraser Institute teamed with the U.S.-based Independent Institute’s Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation to gain insight into how much of America’s dismal loss of competitive standing was caused by California’s two-decade lurch to the left.

What they found is that California is now the second-least economically free state, with a score of 5.8 out of 10. That is about 30 percent lower than New Hampshire — America’s most economically free state, with a score of 8.3. New York continued to capture the booby prize for the least economically free with a score of 5.3.

To give a sense of just how far California has fallen, the nation of Mexico has a score of 6.17, or about 6.4 percent higher than California.

Independent Institute Senior Fellow Dr. Lawrence J. McQuillan stated that California has become so toxic for economic opportunity that 10,000 businesses left the Golden State, reduced operations, or expanded elsewhere over the last 7 years. Census data reveal that 3.5 million residents left California for greener pastures from 2010 to 2015.

Breitbart News recently reported that California continues to lead America in poverty, with 20.4 percent of residents in poverty, according to data released by the Census Bureau. With about 46,686,000, or 14.7 percent, of U.S. residents living in poverty, California, with 7,946,000, accounts for about one in six U.S. residents living in poverty.

According to David J. Theroux, Founder and President of the Independent Institute, “The 2017 report shows the public, news media, and policymakers in Sacramento what changes need to be made to make California competitive in the future.”

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California