A bill proposed in California would make it illegal for restaurant servers to give guests plastic straws unless requested — with the threat of a $1,000 fine or jail time attached. Buzz60
City events and meetings held in Berkeley, California, on Mondays are required to serve no meat – yes, mandated meatless Mondays. The City Council passed the resolution last month, requiring vegan menus one day a week. Big Brother is now telling you to eat your vegetables. Or else.
This government move to reshape societal norms under the guise of knowing what its citizens really need – a sort of “A Handmaid’s Kale” – quickly became a national punchline. But Berkeley out-Berkeleying itself is hardly the first time Californians have made a move that caused the other 49 states to snicker.
In the last month alone, the Golden State has crafted several food-related rules that inspire people more than 20 yards from a surfboard to wonder, “What are those guys smoking?”
Home cooks are allowed to sell their edible wares, making California the first state to make it legal for mini-businesses to do so. It’s also the first state to outlaw plastic straws at full-service restaurants, unless a customer requests one. In addition, California is on the leading edge of children’s nutrition with a new law that requires eateries with kiddie meals to offer milk or water – not juice and soda – as the default drink, starting in 2019.
And next month, residents will vote on a proposition requiring all hens that lay eggs to be cage-free by 2022.
“Conventional wisdom is it’s weird, wacky, sick, perverted, grotesque, immoral. Cultural critics present us as a fun house mirror that distorts and brings out the worst of the country,” said Glen Gendzel, a history professor at San Jose State University. “California is America only more so. Instead of a fun house mirror, it’s more of a magnifier.”
But as the state’s more unusual laws make not just the national news but the late-night TV monologues, you’ve got to ask what’s next. Mandatory hot-yoga classes for cows before they’re slaughtered?
America clutches its pearls and tsk-tsks, while California grabs its hemp necklaces and wonders what more it can do. And with the population, land mass and economy to make a difference both east and north of itself, you bet it will.
Revving the engine is a 107-year-old California ballot initiative system, which enables anybody to get anything they want before voters – as long as they have the requisite number of signatures.
“If a citizen wants to get a law passed, they don’t have to do it in a conventional way. That’s given rise to a do-it-yourself political culture that doesn’t exist in other places,” said California expert Jim Newton, author of the upcoming book “Jerry Brown and the Creation of Modern California.” “Layer on top of that a long tradition of political experimentation.”
Empowering the electorate isn’t the only component of the Golden State alchemy that makes it the testing ground for what some would call out-there legislation. The kaleidoscopic population itself descends from the gamblers of the 1849 Gold Rush, starting-anew immigrants from Asia and Mexico, dreamers who built a professional world of make-believe called Hollywood and trailblazers creating technologies we can’t even imagine yet. Plus, all the odds and ends from the rest of America who want to take a risk or get away from old-school mores and mindsets, in the words of California author Joan Didion, “where we run out of continent.”
Where innovation led a water-challenged state to develop massive agriculture and an earthquake-threatened swath of coast to hone safer architecture, it now begets out-of-the-ballot-box thinking that makes citizens of the other 49 states roll their eyes.
“It’s an extremely big place and extremely varied, so there’s a whole range of ideas being kicked around,” Newton said. “People come here to get away from rigidity in other places in the country, so that probably helps fuel the free-thinking political culture.”
.The pattern is this: California does. Everyone mocks. Years later, they catch up.
It happened with gas emissions. In 1966, California was the first state to create a tailpipe emissions standard. In 1990, it passed the first state anti-stalking law. Other firsts from decades ago that today can be found emulated nationally include some as simple as permitting sunscreen in schools without a doctor’s note to the more socially significant such as creating a victims compensation fund and outlawing discrimination against women in public employment, public education or public contracting..
“California is America’s crystal ball, where a nation looks to see its future and doesn’t always like what it is,” Gendzel said. “California is willing to try. We’re not willing to say the old way of doing things is only way of doing things.”
But sometimes, the Golden State is anything but a golden child. Its Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in government hiring and public-university admissions, drew fire when it was passed in 1996 and beyond and 1994’s Proposition 187 denying public benefits and education to immigrants was declared unconstitutional. Plenty of other initiatives never garner enough ground support to make it onto the ballot.
The ones that do may make you wonder about requiring fish farms to blast Enya, banning sugary breakfast cereals, capping the number of artificial colors permitted in rainbow bagels – or whatever else the state populated by dreamers dreams up.
“California is often used as a specter, as a warning to the rest of the country, as a negative example, but it’s only a matter of time for the rest of you to catch up,” Gendzel said.
Wineries worldwide are confronting climate change as warming temperatures push viticulture further north. Vintners in Oregon and California are creating new wine-growing regions in areas known for their cooling coastal breezes. (June 28) AP
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