A member of the California State legislature, Assemblyman Phil Ting, wants to ban paper receipts. It would be the first state to do so, he says, “leading the nation.” Swell.

Once upon a time in the last century, California led the nation in a much more productive manner – such as when it led a national tax revolt and its voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978. That landmark effort imposed a one percent cap on the annual growth of property taxes. Two years later, the nation elected its former Governor, Ronald Reagan, to the presidency. He followed by enacting the largest income tax cut in the nation’s history (sorry, President Trump; Reagan’s was larger).

That California of old, the one that led the way on cutting taxes, has long since disappeared.

The once Golden State is now leading in a different way – in the name of “saving the planet.” Recently, for example, the state banned plastic grocery bags, followed by outlawing plastic straws, to now proposing a ban on paper receipts from merchants.

California has major problems, from water shortages, recurring wildfires, crumbling highways, a growing welfare caseload, to massive long-term structural deficits and much else. So what do its elected officials focus so much time upon? Symbolic measures to bring us to an environmental nirvana that, in isolation may seem like small annoyances, but are fast becoming cumulative disruptions to routine daily living.

Thus, we can’t use straws; must bring our own grocery bags to the store; and soon, get no paper receipts for purchasing anything, unless you give your email address — which then enables even more junk email from merchants and further infringes on privacy.

Let’s examine the stated purpose here. California Assemblyman Phil Ting, from San Francisco, the lead sponsor of the bill to ban paper receipts, states that the substance used on the paper to keep the ink from running contains the chemicals Bisphenol A or Bisphenol S (BPA or BPS). The bill’s advocates point to a recent study that claims BPA is “linked” to “health effects” possibly with cashiers who handle lots of receipts. Yet, the study’s lead author acknowledged that a larger study is needed to confirm the indefinite, speculative findings.

Lots of chemicals in small amounts can be “linked” to something, which proves nothing. Indeed, there are lots of chemicals in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink, all within manageable, meaningless levels. Unless someone is licking the print off the receipts at a rate of, perhaps 60,000 per day, or eating the receipts entirely in such quantity, why is any of this a problem to be solved?

Locations throughout California, most prominently in San Francisco (Assemblyman Ting’s backyard), are overrun with syringes, human excrement, garbage left behind by drug addicts and an ever-burgeoning homeless population. So, let’s ban straws and plastic grocery bags – and soon paper receipts– so they don’t end up in the same litter? Is it too much to point out there are larger issues of public filth that are more directly in need of solving? Banning paper receipts won’t fix this mess in Mr. Ting’s hometown.

This penchant of more and more elected officials telling us –-ordering us — how to live and what choices we must make is getting more alarming. Such politicians are legion in California, but also are increasing in numbers throughout the nation.

Assuming the paper receipt ban actually passes in the California legislature, which is probable, what’s next? Many of the very same elected officials are calling for eliminating fossil fuels to be replaced entirely by “renewable” energy by 2030 or 2040. As impractical and implausible as that sounds in this timeframe, elected officials championing this so-called environmental cause will continue to impose higher costs on coal, oil, gasoline and natural gas in the interim that will sharply drive up the cost of living, curtail middle and working class lifestyles, and make lower-income households more dependent on government. Ultimately, if all goes as planned by those pushing these agenda items, the populace will need more government (i.e., the same politicians) for their basic necessities.

This “green” agenda must continue to be challenged, down to its basic assumptions. How many more such intrusions and costs will politicians impose before someone figures out our freedom of choice and our way of life is being eroded – and for no discernable, measureable benefit?

As California goes, so goes America?

Let’s hope not.


  • Peter Murphy

    Peter Murphy is Senior Fellow at CFACT. He has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy, both in the non-profit sector and in government in the administration of former New York Governor George Pataki. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the NY Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post, Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. Twitter: @PeterMurphy26 Website: https://www.petermurphylgs.com/