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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Balloon Ban?

Every now and then, one of the news stories I read about just catches my attention for multiple reasons at once. The headline of the article was about a ban on metallic balloons. My first thought was about the recent Mythbusters episode about the lead balloon and how they busted the saying by actually constructing a lighter-than-air lead balloon. Eventually, once I clicked on the article, I realized that they were talking about Mylar balloons. But a BAN on them??

Apparently the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. of Northern California is complaining that Mylar balloons that come into contact with power lines have caused more than 200 blackouts in the past year in their service area. So a California senator proposed a bill that makes it illegal to sell metallic balloons that are filled with a lighter-than-air gas which could allow the balloon to rise high enough to hit a power line.

Believe it or not, there already ARE laws regarding the sale of metallic balloons. California law already requires that helium-filled metallic balloons must be sold with weights to hold them down. But Senator Scott said those weights are often candies or action figures designed to be removed by children.

This bill, if passed, would make California the first state to ban the sale of these balloons filled with helium.

Barry Broad, a lobbyist for The Balloon Council, objects to what he calls a "wacky" attempt to criminalize a party toy.

In other news...


Apparently so. They even have a website:

Meanwhile, the bill has already cleared the Senate Public Safety Committee, sets a $100 fine for selling the helium-filled balloons starting in 2010. Repeat offenders could be charged with misdemeanors.

I've actually READ the bill. I hunted it down and looked at the wording and such.

Apparently it would be a crime to sell or distribute metallic balloons that are filled with helium (and any balloon that has a metallic or conductive string or is tied to a metallic balloon). The law says nothing about selling or distributing non-inflated metallic balloons or about selling or distributing helium as seperate entities. Which means that the law doesn't care if you fill that balloon up yourself.

Also, the law "shall not apply to manned hot air balloons, or to
balloons used in governmental or scientific research projects."
Which means that all you'd have to do is claim it's for your science fair project and you and your distributor are off the hook?? I suppose you could also tie a basket to the balloon and place a small creature in the basket - but I don't know if hamster balloons would count as "manned" for the sake of this law.

I'm a little irked that official government parties could probably have helium-filled Mylar balloons but my birthday party would require two separate purchases and having to fill the balloons myself.

Anyway, it's a stupid law. And The Balloon Council agrees.

Really, are you going to disagree with The Balloon Council? How could you??

(The news article about the ban)
(Once more, a link to The Balloon Council, in all its official-type glory)
(The ACTUAL BILL, in all its balloon-popping pomposity)


Anonymous said...

I liked your article. One thing that would have been useful to know was who the senator is, when he is up for re-election, and which committees he sits on.

I propose an experiment. Those that live in the service area should go out and buy a balloon, and on a calm day stand under power lines and release it. Not the big distribution lines, as I know nothing will happen, but under the neighborhood wires on poles.

Nothing will happen, of course. But if the senator is right there might be a show worth seeing, the neighborhood will be without power, the power company will fix it, and there is no crime. Fun experiment.

sandi said...

Great article! Well written! Here is a link to a follow up to see what actually became of the bill. http://balloonutopia.com/governor-schwarzenegger-and-california-balloon-laws/

Technically a mylar balloon could put out a grid, but the frquency of outages and the severity of said outages was grossly exaggereated. All the same, mylar balloons should never be let go outdoors. It was Senator Scott that introduced this version of the bill.

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