- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2011


Sometimes it’s hard to take America’s most populous state seriously. In recent days, the California Legislature has devoted attention to issues such as the appropriate color of BB guns and the size of the font used for mandatory “Hello, my name is” tags for initiative signature collectors. No matter is too insignificant to escape the attention of Golden State solons, who held a hearing Thursday considering the weighty question of bedsheet safety.

State Assembly lawmakers quietly postponed further action on Senate Bill 432, which recently has become a bit of a public embarrassment. The measure would create a “new crime” involving the use of flat sheets in “all hotels, motels and other similar transient lodging establishments in California.” The idea has real backing, as it sailed through the California State Senate by a 25-15 vote in June.

The bill’s supporters insist that for safety reasons, all hotels should be required to use fitted sheets by 2015. They claim maids are being denied their right to use fitted sheets when changing bedding in hotels, which somehow leads to serious injuries. Opponents think the idea would throw a wet blanket on a key part of the tourism industry. “Notwithstanding the fact of an unemployment rate of 12 percent, this Legislature is determined to heap new regulations on this ailing economy - it’s rather remarkable,” state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, a Republican, told The Washington Times.

This particular regulation could impose up to $50 million in costs for replacement linens and equipment. Hoteliers contend it’s actually easier to work with flat sheets because housekeeping staff members do not have to haul around separate sets of sheets for twin-, queen- and king-sized beds.

If the Assembly revives the measure next session, it would operate in a fashion similar to the state’s ban on incandescent light bulbs, which took effect in January. The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board would create bedsheet “standards” designed to force hotels to make the switch despite the complete lack of evidence regarding the purported safety advantage of fitted sheets.

This advantage is news to the U.S. Army, which is known for instructing all new recruits in the fine art of making a bed with hospital corners using flat sheets. When it’s properly executed, a quarter will flip off a properly made military rack. With 570,000 troops on active duty, the Army was unable to find any report of bedsheet-related injury within the past five years. Asked by The Washington Times, an Army Public Health Command spokesman said there were no known risks associated with non-fitted sheets.

Insiders suggest the real motivation behind the sheet mandate is to give trial lawyers something to sue about and a new basis for workers’ compensation claims. Labor unions see the bill as a way of hobbling hotels where employees are not already burdened by room-cleaning quotas and other restrictions found in union hotels. No wonder California is almost bankrupt.

Liberals once prided themselves on keeping government out of the bedroom. Now they’re letting Big Brother get between the sheets. If the state can dictate the acceptable level of elastic in the corners of bedding material, can a thread-count minimum be far behind? As Mr. Blakeslee put it, “I can hardly wait until the fitted-sheet police come banging on the door to inspect my sheets along with my mattress tag.” California’s economy will never recover until its residents sack the clowns obsessed with micromanaging colors, fonts and bedding material.

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