4 New Year's Bans: Plastic Bags, Light Bulbs, and More!


Lynn Friedman / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

The new year provides a perfect time to turn a new leaf… whether you like it or not. Before diving headfirst into 2014, you may want to exhaust all your desires to put groceries in plastic bags, talk on the phone while driving, use a tanning bed, question a convicted felon, or buy incandescent light bulbs. At all different levels of government, these activities and products are about to banned.

4. Los Angeles Bans Free Plastic Bags

Los Angeles is about to become the nation's biggest city to ban free plastic groceries bags. According to the Los Angeles Times, any business caught violating the law will "face a fine of $100 after the first violation, $200 after the second and $500 after the third. Fines would be imposed for each day the violation continues."

The crusade against plastic grocery bags is not exactly popular. A Reason-Rupe poll conducted earlier this year found that "60 percent oppose a ban on plastic bags in all grocery stores and other retailers in the city or town where they live."

Likewise, although the initiative enjoys large support from environmentalists for ostensibly cutting down on waste. The sentiment is nice, but ReasonTV suggests this is just "feel-good legislation," because plastic bags actually have a negligible on the environment.

3. The Illinois Twofer: Phone Calls While Driving, Minors from Using Tanning Beds

It's about to be a long winter for image-conscious Illinois teens. As of Wednesday, no one under the age of 18 will be allowed to use a tanning bed, even with parental consent. A local ABC affiliate reveals how detrimental this will be to many small businesses in the state. Pushing tanning salons to the brink cannot help Illinois, which already bears high unemployment and burdens on businesses.

But that's not all. Come New Year's Day, talking on the phone (unless it's hands-free) while driving in will become a punishable offense with a $75 ticket. Illinois joins a growing number of states with similar prohibitions, despite murky evidence about their effectiveness. Reason's Peter Suderman addresses how laws banning cell phone use while driving have failed across the board to reduce crashes. Likewise, former Reason staffer Radley Balko highlights research that indicates that bans "actually may prompt a slight increase in road crashes."

2. Rhode Island "Bans the Box"

Rhode Island will become the fourth state to "ban the box." The law prohibits employers, whether public or private, from inquiring about a potential employee's criminal background during the application process. They will have to wait until interviewing an individual to ask. Law enforcement agencies are exempt from the law, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

This type of legislation is well-intentioned in its effort to help reintegrate convicts into society, but it doesn't address the problem of harsh laws that imprison non-violent offenders. After all, Department of Justice data shows that an increasing proportion of the roughly 1.5 million individuals in state and federal prisons are behind bars for non-violent crimes. Instead, Rhode Island is following a trend of creating an even more complex set of laws that infringe on the rights of business owners.

1. The Feds Black Out Incandescent Light Bulbs

Not unlike Canada or the People's Republic of China, our own federal government is phasing out incandescent light bulbs. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 already killed off 100-watt and 75-watt bulbs, but 2014 will mark the end of 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs.

The majority of Americans are in for a rude awakening about this. Computer World reports that as many as 60 percent of consumers are unaware of the ban. They will likely not realize its impact "until a few months into the next year when those light bulbs are bought and not replaced," explains The Sentinel.

The Heritage Foundation warns of how serious of an impact this government overreach will have. The feds not only used scare tactics to constrict consumer choice and distort market forces, but have forced "unnecessary job losses from traditional incandescent manufacturers in the United States. After already closing factories in Kentucky and Ohio, General Electric recently announced that it is closing its major incandescent factory in Winchester, Virginia—a factory that employed 200 people and the last major incandescent manufacturing facility in the United States."