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Op-Ed: Colorado Is Becoming California With Proposed Straw BanEXPAND
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Op-Ed: Colorado Is Becoming California With Proposed Straw Ban

Colorado Democrats and progressives seem to be in a desperate sprint to make our state indistinguishable from California. From signing on to the National Popular Vote agreement to introducing a version of a bill banning plastic straws that garnered plenty of memes last year when it was brought forward in Santa Barbara, California, Colorado Democrats appear to have forgotten in which state they reside.

While the proposed legislation in Colorado will not fine or jail servers, it is within the realm of possibility that what happened in Santa Barbara is what is going to be the law of the land for all of Colorado.

The ordinance in California made instant criminals out of all the waitstaff in the city if they give a patron a straw — any straw, compostables included. What happens if you give a patron a straw? You could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The restaurant would not pay this fine. No, the server who dared hand you a straw without a request, out of pure habit, is personally fined.

Santa Barbara gained national attention when it passed this insanely draconian ordinance. Not to be outdone, Colorado Democrats are attempting to extend this idea to the entire state. Despite the proposed legislation appearing to be a purely symbolic gesture, it is more than likely that Colorado will be the epicenter of another national conversation on government overreach and the efficacy and morality of government intervention into the smallest aspects of our lives.

While the Libertarian party of Colorado supports environmental conservation through privatization and respect for property rights, it is always an occasion for concern when “big brother” attempts to legislate morality, even if the legislation is not — for the moment — intended to be enforced. There will be calls for this legislation to be amended so that it can be enforced, and that enforcement will always come with some sort of threat. Therein lies the Libertarian opposition to this legislation. Maybe you were a server once upon a time. Maybe you agree that single-use plastic is wasteful and destructive, but do you honestly believe that workers should be jailed for providing straws? Do you trust government officials to stop there? Are you comfortable with the possibility of our government exercising the Machiavellian idea of rule through fear?

We entrust our lives to those we elect to government. You vote for them because you believe that they will behave and act as you would, if you were in their shoes. You must then ask yourself: Would I be willing to separate my neighbor from their family, lock them in a cell and take their money, simply for using a straw after I politely asked them not to? This is the kind of self-reflection that we expect our representatives to also undertake. And it is the kind of self-reflection that we should all practice when we ask government to intervene in our lives.

The Libertarian party of Colorado believes that the environment can be defended without the threat of fines and jail time from government officials, that you and your neighbors can do more than government, and that our restaurant employees should be able to do their jobs without worrying about being fined or jailed for handing out straws. If Democrats in the state legislature truly want to protect the environment, they could encourage the use of plastics that can be recycled, compostable products, or any number of things that do not threaten people who are merely doing their jobs. As it is, it appears that they simply want to flex their “moral” muscle and punish anyone who does not fall in line. This legislation is not progressive or moral, nor is it the way of Coloradans. The Libertarian party calls on the legislature to cease their march toward social engineering through force, as they do in California.

Michael Lopez is a freelance writer, entrepreneur and libertarian who is dedicated to protecting the union that our founders established for us. You can read more of his thoughts at deadletters.org.

Westword occasionally publishes op-eds on topics of interest to the Denver community. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to editorial@westword.com.

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