Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a measure that subjects drivers who smoke with minors in cars to a $100 fine. The Belmont City Council passed a measure to ban smoking, not only on sidewalks or in parks, but even in your own apartment or condo, if the neighbors complain.
Witness the Florida-ization of California. Wags have called California the Nanny State. Now it's turning into the Granny State -- as Sacramento lawmakers pass laws that work like real estate CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions) that restrict how other people can live.
My generation is the generation that got away with everything. We partied. (OK, maybe you didn't, but I did.) We partook of illegal substances. We changed the drinking age to 18, as we chanted, "Old enough to fight, old enough to drink." We promised that when we were in charge, we wouldn't tell people how to live their lives. We would let others find their own path and make their own mistakes.
So what do we do when we are old enough to run things? Having sown our wild oats, we're outlawing oatmeal. The drinking age in America is 21 -- states that don't comply stand too lose 10 percent of federal highway funding.
California lawmakers repeatedly have tried to pass bills to make California the first state to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. After the Belmont vote, it seems only a matter of time before it passes.
Look what we've done with America. If you're 18, you can serve in Afghanistan, but don't drink a beer. You can vote, but if some California lawmakers have their way, you won't be able to buy a cigar.
In Belmont, soon you might not be able to smoke in your own home, while statewide you will be subject to a fine if you drive and smoke with someone under 18 in your car.
What about freedom? Perhaps Californians should be grateful that the bill by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber to make it a crime for a parent to spank a young child did not survive. Ditto Gov. Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill to require car seats for children up to 8 years old.
Note that liberals are leading the way in pushing granny state laws. Only one Republican in the entire Legislature voted for SB7 (the smoking in cars with minors bill), while Democrats provided all 44 aye votes in the Assembly and 20 yes votes in the Senate. Democrats were behind bills to ban the sale of soft drinks first in elementary and middle schools, then in high schools. (Fairweather Republican Schwarzenegger signed said legislation.) The generation that lobbied for kegs on campus is booting cola out of classrooms.
Sure, liberal lawmakers talk about choice. But if they believe your choices are bad for you, they will use the full force of the law to impose their will on you.
"It is, 'I can do it, so I'm going to,'" explained Belmont Councilman Bill Dickenson, who voted against the even-in-your-own-home smoking ban.
Assembly GOP Leader Michael Villines of Clovis lamented bills to mandate "what you can eat and can't eat" -- when mainstream voters are looking for "a good school, a good job and to live in a safe community."
Pity the poor busybody politician in search on an excuse to pass laws that mandate how other people live. After all, they can't outlaw all unhealthy behavior, so they have to find unpopular targets -- smokers, fat people -- or claim they are passing a granny law For The Children.
Then, they expand childhood. So that law to require booster seats for children until they're age 6 or weigh 60 pounds is rejiggered to kids up to age 8. After all, Sacto solons can't allow parents to decide whether or not to put school-age children in car seats. And they want to tell voting-age military-age 20-year-olds, who can't drink, that they can't smoke.
I don't want to knock old people. I plan on being one some day. But I don't want a stereotypical old lady, who peaks through her curtains, passing laws that dictate what I can or cannot do -- especially in my own home.
Yet that is what Sacramento lawmakers -- the macho Schwarzenegger even -- have decided they have the right to do. My generation thought we'd be so tolerant and open to the different drummer. Yet we keep electing politicians who believe they have a right to dictate how other adults live. Busybody granny politicians treat adults -- whether they're 20 or 50 -- like children. Maybe they're right, because California voters let them do it.