Gov. Brown Signs Stupid Straw Bill

California in a nutshell: Laws that "feel good" but don't work pass. One that might actually help kids gets vetoed.


Silly straws
Tim Gray /

We're still waiting to see if California Gov. Jerry Brown has the courage to sign legislation requiring greater transparency about police misconduct. But he's clearly happy to meddle in what and how Californians drink. Yesterday he signed legislation that adds tiresome new rules about the straws used in restaurants and the drinks offered in kids' meals.

AB 1889 doesn't go so far as to ban straws entirely, but it does forbid full-service restaurants from giving customers plastic straws unless the customers ask for them. Violators face fines of up to $25 a day, up to a maximum of $300 annually. So it's essentially a tax on giving out plastic straws, should a restaurant decide to ignore the law.

That the law is so mild and inconsequential is a testament to how much the posturing around plastic straws is a symbolic gesture rather than anything that actually helps the environment. Brown rarely puts out statements when he signs bills, but he specifically did for AB 1889, noting that plastics are killing ocean life.

Reason's Christian Britschgi has been documenting the absurd, unscientific foundations of the push to ban straws. Faulty statistics and a poor grasp of where most of our ocean pollution comes from (not the United States, and certainly not from straws) have led to inane bills like this. We should be glad it isn't harsher. But the law also permits California cities to implement stricter regulations, and we've already been seeing that happen as well.

The tiresome top-down food controls don't stop there. Brown also signed SB 1192, which requires restaurants that offer children's meals to offer water or unflavored milk as the "default" drink rather than soda or juice. It further requires them to display water or milk as the drink in images and in menus. At least it doesn't forbid restaurants from providing other choices if they're asked.

We have no reason to believe that this law will stop kids and their parents from ordering sodas instead if that's what they want. Indeed, Brown embraced this paternalism the same week a bunch of nutrition studies that supposedly justified other nudge-style controls on kids' school lunch choices were retracted as junk science.

But the important thing is that California cares about the health of children, right? Well, no. In the same round of bills, Brown vetoed SB 328, which would prohibit non-rural middle and high schools from starting classes earlier than 8:30 in the morning. There are scientific studies that show later school start times allow children to get more sleep, which results in increased academic performance.

You'd think Brown would be all over this bill to help children do better in life, right? But in his veto note, Brown says that it is "opposed by teachers and school boards," some of which "prefer" to start the school day earlier. The message is clear. It's fine for the state to inconvenience restaurants and interfere with your decisions in the name of sketchy studies about kids' health, but don't start meddling with the preferred work schedules of public employees. California in a nutshell.

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  1. We’re still waiting to see if California Gov. Jerry Brown has the courage to sign legislation requiring greater transparency about police misconduct.

    Maybe if it was based on a 9-year-old’s research.

    1. What exactly are the police doing with straws?

      1. Man , you don’t wanna know.

        1. Do I see a straw man coming?

          1. They’re just grasping at straws.

          2. The answer is gonna suck.

      2. Yes of course a cop will now need to be hired, at Taxpayer expense, to enforce this law for each and every business that provides, for free or sale, any fluid that may be drank threw a straw.

  2. This bill sucks, it’s the last straw.

    1. There will be more such straws, you betcher booty.

  3. I can’t wait for the light to go on when people put “all this plastic in the ocean is from Asia” and “America sends all its plastic recycling to Asia” together.

    1. Are they actually related?

      No sarc, asking seriously.

      1. No. Almost all of US plastic goes to US landfills. Little is recycled, anywhere.
        There’s an article from earlier this summer with good data, from right here at Reason: Starbucks Wants to Send More Plastic to a Recycling Industry in Crisis

    2. How do they know plastic is actually American? There is no way to differentiate plastic from Ameircans and produced by Americans in the USA or elsewhere.

      In other words, American looking plastic is used all over the World and places with bad refuse disposal are likely to blame not the USA which has excellent trash disposal systems.

      1. Plastic debris in the oceans can be very accurately tracked to its source through ocean currents. This tracking has been done, and 7 rivers, ALL in Asia, 2 in China and 2 in India, are responsible for about 95% of plastic debris in the oceans. The Pacific and Indian Oceans are most heavily impacted. In the North Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean, areas which are fed primarily by North America and Europe, the problem of plastic debris pollution is minimal.

  4. Why do California restaurants throw their used straws in the ocean?

    1. We all hate the ocean!

    2. It could be repurposed to good effect……

  5. “have led to inane bills like this”

    Some one spelling and grammar checker is not working.

    I think the deal of forcing restaurants to show drinks having water or milk, should run in conflict of free speech issues. Not counting on offending the lactose intolerant in California. Any one want to take a bet on how soon their will be a protest on how insensitive it is?

    1. Don’t you know you forfeit your rights to free speech as soon as you try to make a buck? Because commercial speech apparently isn’t real speech, and faces all sorts of legal restrictions.

    2. Inane is a word, actually. It’s not a misspelling of insane. And it’s being used correctly here; inane roughly means “a waste of time; idiotic” depending on context.

      1. An alternate definition of inane: any idea proposed by a progressive.

  6. Just rename them extra-large drink stirrers.

    1. According to the bill,

      “Single-use plastic straw” means a single-use, disposable tube made predominantly of plastic derived from either petroleum or a biologically based polymer, such as corn or other plant sources, used to transfer a beverage from a container to the mouth of the person drinking the beverage. “Single-use plastic straw” does not include a straw made from non-plastic materials, including, but not limited to, paper, pasta, sugar cane, wood, or bamboo.”

      And the meat of the bill: “A full-service restaurant shall not provide a single-use plastic straw to a consumer unless requested by the consumer.”

      OK, then, instead of plastic *tubes,* hand out hollow straw-sized plastic *cylinders* with the two ends easily removable.

      Someone should get on this.

      1. PS – I can’t believe sugar cane is still legal in California, in straw form or otherwise.

        1. Sip you coke through a sugar cane straw, sweetens it up nice. ( this idea brought to you by your local dentist)

        2. Coca-cola shall rise again!

      2. All I have to do is ask for a straw?

        1. Apparently they’ve been pushing straws on unwilling customers, but then, I wouldn’t put anything past those evil capitalists.

          1. To be fair, I am routinely given straws I don’t want. I don’t understand why people use straws for water. Makes it taste awful.

      3. Is the waiter allowed to ask them if they want a straw when he takes the order? That would seem a lot simpler than trying to engineer a black market straw.

  7. But was it credibly stupid?

    1. It’s the government; not even plausibly stupid.

      Truth is stranger than fiction; fiction has to sound plausible.

  8. it does forbid full-service restaurants from giving customers plastic straws unless the customers ask for them.

    “Entering this establishment implies a plastic straw request.”

  9. When can I apply for the state secret straw snooper position? I have no doubt it will be a prime public service union job.

    1. California needs laws that mandate children turn in their parents if they see them using plastic straws. Ditto for neighbors, etc.

  10. Thanks to the absurdity of free speech, we now have this crap.

    #NoFreeSpeech for leftists!

    Although to be perfectly honest if you can demonstrate to me that this kind of heavy handed state interference furthers the collective interest of white children, I might be inclined to support it. After all, Hitler was environmentally conscious, too.

    1. 9/10

      You are much, much better at this than LTAL-tarian.

  11. Also…

    “SACRAMENTO?The Physicians Committee?a nonprofit with 12,000 doctor members?applauds California Gov. Jerry Brown for signing into law a landmark bill that guarantees patients a healthful plant-based option at every meal. Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) authored Senate Bill 1138, which was co-sponsored by the Physicians Committee and Social Compassion in Legislation.

    SB 1138 will require licensed California health care facilities and state prisons to make available plant-based meal options containing no animal products or by-products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs.”

    Gov. Jerry Brown Makes Plant-Based Meals the Law in California Hospitals

    1. At least this time the state is regulating itself.

    2. SB 1138 will require licensed California health care facilities and state prisons to make available plant-based meal options

      “Here’s your gruel.”

      1. Frankly, I’m shocked they offer anything else.

  12. In his defense, Jerry Brown said he was vetoing the schoolday bill because teachers and school boards may want to start the day earlier. A Mises Institute governor would veto it for exactly the same reason. I usually bring their extreme subsidiarism up in order to criticize it as a fetish–I am rather close to the opposite extreme in my level of concern for that consideration–but here I think I’m on their side! It certainly looks like an easy call, slamming Jerry Brown for siding with teachers’ unions. But when you look at the actual facts, I really am not sure that this is a grave enough crisis, and a clear enough call, to call for central control on the matter from Sacramento. Let the districts–cesspools though they are–decide for themselves when to start school based on local conditions.

    1. You hit on my first thought. When did Reason start supporting government restrictions on local decisions?

      1. I don’t. And nothing in my post endorses the bill. I’m pointing out Brown’s hypocrisy when it comes to deciding whose decisions to meddle with. He says he cares about kids’ health, but not to the extent that he’s going to inconvenience those in positions of power in California. Note that his veto message says nothing about the parents or children saying they want school to start earlier.

      2. Local government decisions are government decisions too. Libertarianism doesn’t prefer one over the other.

        In practice, usually local is better, but there are plenty of situations where allowing matters to be decided locally would be bad for liberty. Firearms preemption laws are an example.

  13. It would be cheaper and less stressful to ignore the law and pay the $300 a year than it would be to spend the resources retraining the staff to obey it and then worry that they’re not following the new training.

  14. Well, dang it, we have the worse roads in the country, almost the worse public schools in the country, we have a huge amount of debt obligation, there is no effort to fix California’s perennial water shortage, but dang it we banned soda straws! This is proof that California politicians can do something – they aren’t totally helpless.

    1. +1 for truth in sarcasm.

  15. Fuck you Brown turd.

    I will make it a point to import the straws that you have banned.

    Again, Fuck you Fucking Ass hole Ass hat Fucking clown Brown.

    Fuck you.

    1. You Californians should exterminate your progtards. Granted, you do have your work cut out for you.


  16. Of course, even if this law is really weak then it still blocks any other attempts at a stronger law because the politicians can point to this one and say “we used a lot of political capital on this, it’s the best we can do and pushing for more could backfire.”

    So the politicians get an easy win and can brush off the activists who can also claim a win but will likely lose interest in awhile. And for the people who enforce these things, they add yet another thing to their list that they can ignore if the issue doesn’t matter to them. It might not even be enforced much.

    Of course the restaurants have to add up to $300 to their overhead but it might not even come to that much.

  17. If it includes those little cocktail straws people will get drunk faster. One of the reasons they put them there is that you take smaller sips. I never use them except to stir the drink to get the ice / bourbon ratio just right.

  18. . . . the same week a bunch of nutrition studies . . . were retracted as junk science.

    . . . which would prohibit non-rural middle and high schools from starting classes earlier than 8:30 in the morning. There are scientific studies that show . . .


    Given how often the former happens you’d think it would lead people to skepticism of scientific reports instead of taking an attitude that ‘well, *these* studies are good’.

    Here, read this.

  19. They can have my plastic straw when they pry it from between my dead, clenched, porcelain-enamel, dental implants. I have a lifetime supply of plastic straws and will gladly supply one to anyone who sends a reply requesting it (offer limited to one plastic straw per requester). You should travel to the coasts with several extra that can be handed out to diners stranded in the politically-correct backwaters of the left and right coasts.

    * Attn: This offer is intended to supply you with one, clean, plastic straw. It is suitable for the sucking of liquids and should not be used for the ingestion of any illegal substances. Users who cannot act responsibly should not take advantage of my generous offer.

  20. Are self service straw dispensers still legal?

    1. Looks like it applies only to full service restaurants, which don’t tend to have those.

  21. People saw that youtube video about that turtle with a straw up its nose and all of a sudden there is a massive campaign to ban them nationwide.

  22. So it’s basically a $300 license to give out straws.

  23. Yep they’re morons. I’ve for years had a 64 oz container I air brushed and bought big Tupperware straws to go with it. This all started because of the huge amount of plastic straws being left on beaches in the Santa Barbara area. Understand that the area is thoroughly occupied by indoctrinated Commiecrats.
    I’ve been trying to wake people to the growing problem of the Pacific Garbage Patch for years (one of the reasons I take the 64 oz everywhere I go). Other than the waste running unfiltered out of flood run offs on the West Coast most of the trash comes from Asia, shipping, and fishing. Millions of plactic straws aren’t going to add much to the size of it. Understand that unlike “Climate Change” this is a man made problem that is affecting our oxygen and food supply.

    1. Oh yea, the morons blame more hirricanes on climate change now that there are less hurricanes, they blame more rainy hurricanes on climate change.

      It almost like climate change is the Jew of the 21st century.

    2. “I’ve been trying to wake people to the growing problem of the Pacific Garbage Patch for years”

      Correction: You’ve been bullshitting people for years:

      Maybe you should STFU.

  24. “California Governor Brown signs stupid [Fill in the blank] law.”

    And in other breaking news, the sun will once again rise in the east tomorrow morning.

  25. I’ve spent the last couple of months traveling the west coast. I’ve been on many beaches. I’ve seen plastic bottles, plastic bags, tampons, bottle caps, cigarettes, fast food bags, cups and containers, etc., etc., etc. The one thing I have yet to see on a beach is a plastic straw.

  26. That’s the last straw.

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