Parental consent, public health, business burdens and intrusive government all are being crammed into the same tanning bed.
It's an uncomfortable fit, largely a result of lawmakers losing focus on what the proposal is all about.
The Missouri House on Thursday - the eve of the legislative spring break - approved a bill to require parental approval for youths younger than 17 to use tanning beds.
The House voted 98-46 to advance the bill to the Senate. A division among Republican votes illustrates the differing priorities among members of the GOP majority.
The dissension seems to arise because the measure would punish not the children or parents, but tanning salons. Businesses that allow underage youths to tan without parental consent would face a $500 fine.
Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, opposed the bill, contending voters elected him because: "They wanted less government and they wanted me to stop government intrusion in their business and in their workplace."
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee's Summit, countered: "It's not about regulating people. It is about protecting our young, innocent youth." Proponents say the measure would help protect children from exposure to ultraviolet rays that may cause skin cancer.
The tanning bed proposal is similar to public health laws that prohibit alcohol and tobacco sales to youths below a specified age.
It differs, however, because it is not a blanket prohibition. Underage youths with parental permission still may use tanning beds.
We view the tanning bed measure as a public health issue. It preserves parental consent and is less egregious to businesses than an outright prohibition.
We know, from science and experience, that children do not have the same decision-making ability as adults. That's why some laws are age-specific. Add tanning bed restrictions to that age-specific group.