A new bill introduced in the California State Assembly proposes to place stringent penalties on any restaurant worker who hands out a single unsolicited plastic straw. Introduced by the majority leader of the Assembly, Ian Calderon (D) the bill contains provisions under which such workers can face to jail sentences of up to six months.
However the lawmaker has blamed a miscommunication for the bill’s strict criminal penalties and has said that they will be removed before the bill is voted on as they were never “intended to be in it”.
However the repercussions from it has already spread beyond California and has pulled in a national movement to eliminate drinking straws.
Drinking Straw Consumption Statistics Questioned
A report in the libertarian magazine, Reason has raised questions on the national drinking straw estimates that states that around 500 million are used each day, a statistic that has been cited by Calderon in the bill, and has been used for years by environmental groups and also the federal government in anti-drinking-straw campaigns.
According to Reason the widely used figure is actually based on a telephone poll conducted by a 9-year-old boy.
Calderon’s spokeswoman, Lerna Shirinian, has said that his office stands by the number, stating that there was no reason to “believe it’s not accurate”
Images of Trash-Littered Oceans Initiated Movement
The movement to eliminate plastic straws had been gaining support across the country for years before Calderon’s bill was introduced. According to a Washington Post article, it has been fueled by reports of trash-littered oceans as well as a viral video of a sea turtle found to have a straw up its nose.
California is at the forefront of several environmental causes, such as fighting climate change and has taken steps against drinking straws as well.
So far at least two cities in the state have cleared “straw-on-request” laws, under which servers are not allowed to hand out straws unless a diner asks. One of them, San Luis Obispo, passed the measure last year after around 1,400 straws and stirrers were found in a closeby beach.
Penalties Included Accidentally
The state’s recently introduced anti-drinking straw bill makes it a crime to offer unsolicited straws and has laid down jail sentences of up to six months, or fines of up to $1,000 or a combination of the two.
Calderon however later clarified that there was no intention to include criminal penalties in the final law.
The inclusion had occurred inadvertently after his office asked the California Office of Legislative Counsel to draft a “straws-upon-request” bill and the agency drafted it into a section of the state health code with jail penalties.
He has said that as a result of the filing deadline approaching and the agency being “inundated,” it was decided that the bill will be amended when it reaches a committee later.
However, conservative media caught wind of it and highlighted it before that could happen, causing a public furor.
Calderon has said that he is not concerned about the public criticism and expects the legislation to become law containing minimal or no penalties for noncompliance.