Long Island Nanny-State Lawmakers Need to Get Priorities Straight

As Suffolk County residents face serious challenges, county lawmakers continue to waste time and tax dollars considering nonsensical “nanny-state” regulations. Today they are holding hearings on a bill offered by Legislator Lynn Nowick that would place regulations on non-alcoholic energy drinks.

Nowick wins the award for county “Nanny-in-Chief.” In 2008, she offered the bill that banned verbally communicated “blue-plate specials.” Now restaurants can only offer specials in print with prices included — or pay steep fines.

The law addresses what amounts to a “pet peeve” of Nowick’s. Apparently, she doesn’t it like when waitstaff communicate specials without mentioning the price because some customers might be afraid to ask a simple question: How much?

Why didn’t she consider the possibility that wasting paper, ink, and valuable time would be a “pet peeve” of the thousands of struggling small businesses forced to comply? To avoid the hassle, some over-worked mom-and-pop restaurateurs might simply do away with blue-plate specials — depriving customers who once enjoyed them.

This year, Nowick wants to protect kids against the “perils” vitamin B, caffeine, and maybe some sugar. Is she after dark chocolate? Not yet.

Instead, Nowick’s bill would ban sales of non-alcoholic energy drinks containing 80 or more milliliters per serving — some with sugar, some without, and most with vitamins and caffeine — to anyone under 19 years old. Retailers will bear the burden of carding energy-drink buyers or risk stiff fines. Another bill she proposed would require stores to post warning signs about the “dangers” associated with these products.

Most energy drinks contain no more caffeine than a cup of coffee or maybe two — and can be enjoyed responsibly. For example, the Mayo Clinic reports on its website that a generic coffee contains 95-200 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce serving. Meanwhile the popular energy drink, Red Bull, has 80 milligrams per eight ounce serving.

Still, Nowick fears that that kids will have too much, leading to lost sleep and elevated heart rates. Well, if that’s a huge problem, we also need to restrict coffee, chocolate, sodas, sweet tea — you name it. Where will it end? Might we eventually find half the goods at the supermarket located behind glass and surrounded by warning signs?

Unfortunately, such laws won’t keep kids from doing stupid things. It is the role of parents — not government — to monitor their childrens’ behavior and prepare them for the choices that lie ahead.

The legislature has already held one energy drink hearing last December, and it has booked another hearing for February 1. At the December hearing, the energy drink bill had seven co-sponsors — just shy of a majority of the 18 members.

One voice of reason, however, is Independent Party Legislator Jack Eddington (District 7) who, according to press reports, wisely commented at the hearing: “I don’t like telling 18-and-19-year-olds what they can and can’t do … They can fight in a war, but they can’t buy an energy drink? Where are our priorities?”

Eddington is right: it’s time to get priorities in order. Homes are going into foreclosure as property taxes climb. Many unemployed continue to search for jobs, and small businesses struggle to keep their doors open.

Suffolk has real problems. It’s time for lawmakers to set their pet peeves aside and start focusing on the issues that matter.

Image credit: z3taa’s flickr photostream.