The Septuagenarian Speaks – published March 4, 2020, Siskiyou Daily News

“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”  This quote has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain.  But most historians believe that the original version was written in 1866 by Gideon J. Tucker, an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician.  At that time, he was a member of the Surrogate’s Court of the State of New York, which handled probate and estate proceedings.  The quote was from a decision in a will case.

Fast forward 154 years to February 20, 2020, the day California Assemblyman Evan Low introduced Assembly Bill 2826, entitled “Gender Neutral Retail Departments.”  The bill, if passed, will require a retail department store with 500 or more employees that sells childcare articles, children’s clothing, or toys, to maintain undivided neutral areas of its sales floor where all such items shall be displayed together, regardless of whether a particular item has traditionally been marketed for either girls or for boys.  A retail store that fails to correct a violation of this law within 30 days of receiving written notice of the violation from the Attorney General will be liable for a civil penalty of $1,000.

The preamble of the bill explains why this new legislation is necessary to protect the safety and welfare of California citizens, to wit:

“(a) Unjustified differences in similar products that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys can be more easily identified by the consumer if similar items are displayed closer to one another in one, undivided area of the retail sales floor.
“(b) Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate.”

So, the law will protect us from retailers who “incorrectly” imply that use of a children’s product by a certain gender is “inappropriate.”  I guess protecting us from that outrage is pretty important, especially when compared to other less important social issues facing the state legislature, such as the fact that California has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation.   

Wow!  Is it just me, or is there really something wrong with this?  The state government wants to dictate how California retail stores can display their children’s items?  If it passes, the Attorney General will of course need more money to enforce the new law.  But no problem, California has a surplus.  (Does anyone remember how recently the state was broke?  So broke, in fact, that in August, 2016, because of a state fiscal crisis, the legislature and governor swept the funds earmarked to build our new courthouse.  Our courthouse was shovel-ready, days away from start of construction, but the money was snatched away.  Ah, but the state coffers are now fat again, and the courthouse is near completion, thank god.)  But wait!  Now we know the coffers aren’t fat enough, necessitating a measure scheduled for the November ballot that will partially gut Proposition 13.

Well, you say, the law only applies to retail department stores with 500 or more employees, so why should we give a damn here in Siskiyou County?  It won’t affect us, right?  Maybe, maybe not.  How about Walmart?  Or JCPenney’s?  The proposed law is ambiguous as to whether the 500-employee limitation applies to a single store or a chain of stores.  But that’s not the point.  Whether or not the proposed law directly affects us in Siskiyou County also isn’t the point.

And, you wouldn’t think that AB 2826 has a chance in hell of actually passing (or does it?)  But that’s not the point either.  What’s scary is that an assemblyman, duly elected by the people in his district (Silicon Valley), actually introduced it.

Making it worse, California proudly holds itself out to be the leader of the pack; the trend-setter for the rest of the nation.  If by some chance AB 2826 passes, the federal government will no doubt follow suit.  Suppose you want to buy a Christmas gift from Amazon for your thirteen-year-old granddaughter.  Today you can search on line for “gifts for 13-year-old girls,” really helpful for a septuagenarian grandpa.  But, sorry.  No more.  That would be Amazon “incorrectly” implying to you that such gifts may be “inappropriate” for use by different gender.  So, Amazon won’t be able to do that anymore.  It would be against the law.

ADDENDUM: As I am writing this, the March 3 Primary Election is just around the corner.  By the time you read this, the results should be in.  Of local importance to us in Siskiyou County are three contested races for seats on the County Board of Supervisors.  To the winners, congratulations.  To the losers, condolences.  But to all, thanks for jumping into the fray.  I know from personal experience that, win or lose, running for office is a difficult, exhausting, and painful undertaking, no matter what level of political office is being sought.  Thank you for getting involved.  We need qualified people in public office, if for no other reason than to challenge stupid officials who want to insert government into everything, such as dictating to retail stores how they must display children’s merchandise.

Bob Kaster
Yreka, CA

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