Outside the Bubble 2/12/15

Republican senator calls to wash away federal handwashing laws

Republican Senator Thom Tillis’ remarks at a recent Q and A session for the Bipartisan Policy Center have been the source of much attention. When asked about his views concerning government regulation, the senator from North Carolina related a conversation he had with a voter in 2010. “I was having a discussion with someone,” he said. “[W]e were talking about certain regulations where I felt like maybe you should allow businesses to opt out” (Chicago Sun Times, “Thom Tillis doesn’t ‘have any problem’ with optional hand washing for restaurant employees,” 02.03.15).

Tillis was referring to signs mandating that employees wash their hands after using the bathroom, which are required by law. Tillis argued that he considers the signs unnecessary. “Let them decide,” Tillis commented. “[W]e need to reduce the regulatory burden on this country” (BBC News, “US senator questions forcing food workers to wash their hands,” 02.04.15). Tillis favors private, consumer-based solutions to food industry issues over federal mandate.

He later defended his statements in an interview at the Capitol. He maintained, “Sometimes there are regulations that maybe we want to set a direction, but then let those who are regulated decide whether or not it makes sense. They might pay a huge price, but they get to make that decision versus government” (Associated Press, “Give firms more leeway on sanitation,” 02.03.15).

Many in the media consider Tillis’ remarks to be the latest of conservative hostility towards science, notably those related to vaccinations.

As public health issues become increasingly important in the nation, further debates over the role of regulation seem inevitable to many.


– Chris Pompetzki ’18, Guest Reporter

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