At Paris fashion week this spring, designer Karl Lagerfeld stunned viewers with the fluffy, ice-age suits he presented for Chanel's fall line. The biggest surprise: every outfit in the show was made with fake fur.
In California, consumers face the same fuzzy confusion: A loophole in the federal law allows many fur products to go unlabeled, so consumers don't know if the soft trim on their jacket is made from synthetic products or raccoon dogs.
That could change under legislation scheduled to be heard this week in the Assembly.
"I believe that people would think twice if they knew that they were wearing real animals," said bill author Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco.
Those animals are raised in foreign factories that sell fur at low prices, Ma said. Because the fur price is kept so low, clothing manufacturers don't have to label their coats and sweaters as containing real fur.
Under current law, only garments that contain more than $150 worth of animal fur have to be labeled as containing real fur. Ma's bill would require that all garments containing fur are labeled with the type of animal and the country of origin.
Five other states have passed similar legislation.
Identifying the source of fur can be tricky. Ma this week showed off a jacket in her office that features a pink fur-trimmed hood that she said was made from a raccoon dog, a canine species from Asia. Because of the unnatural color and low price, a consumer may be fooled into thinking it's fake, Ma said.
Real fur garments also can cause problems for people with allergies, not to mention ethical objections. The cost of the raccoon dog fur lining the pink jacket is estimated at 25 cents, Ma said.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that one in eight fur-trimmed garments lack a label explaining the source of the fur, Ma said.
Knowing that a dog was killed for a piece of garment, I wouldn't want to do that," said Ma, who introduced the bill at the request of The Humane Society of the United States.
Ma's office knows of no opposition to the bill so far.
Among other bills scheduled for hearings this week:
- Yolo County voters would cast their ballots by mail in local elections, under a bill scheduled to be heard Tuesday before the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee. The measure by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, would be a pilot program through December 2016. Elections for statewide primaries and elections to fill a vacancy in a state office, the Legislature, or Congress would not be part of the vote-by-mail program.
- Orange County spent slightly more than $1.6 million to hold a special election to fill the Assembly seat left vacant last year by disgraced Republican Mike Duvall. Now the Legislature is being asked to reimburse the county out of the strapped general fund under a bill by Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Costa Mesa. The Legislature typically reimburses counties for special election costs. Republican Chris Norby of Fullerton replaced Duvall, who resigned after being caught on videotape bragging about having sex with lobbyists. The bill is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday before the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee.
- Nobody would be forced to sign a waiver giving up their civil rights as part of a contract for goods and services under legislation scheduled Tuesday before the Judiciary Committee. The bill by Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, would affect contracts entered into or modified beginning in January 2012. Existing state law generally prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition.
- It could become more costly to try to qualify an initiative for the ballot. A measure by Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, would raise the filing fee from $200 to $500 in 2011. The bill, which is scheduled to be heard Tuesday before the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, would raise the fee to $1,000 in 2013, $1,500 in 2015, and $2,000 in 2017. Filing fees are refunded to proponents whose initiatives garner enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
- An additional 3 percent of state lottery proceeds would be returned to the public in prizes or school aid under a bill scheduled to be heard Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill would require that 87 percent go to schools or winners by lowering the amount used for administration by 3 percent, to no more than 13 percent of lottery proceeds. The bill by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, also gives the California State Lottery Commission more flexibility in splitting the proceeds between winners and schools.
- State employees would keep getting their full paychecks even if the state has no budget by the July 1 start of each new fiscal year, under a bill awaiting consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday. The bill by Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, D-Baldwin Park, would change current practice, where employees' paychecks have been reduced or delayed if the Legislature failed to pass a budget.
- The Senate Local Government Committee is set to consider a bill by Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Lake Forest, on Wednesday that would repeal a law dating to World War I. In 1917, the Legislature gave counties the power to condemn private land and turn it over to the Secretary of War for military bases. Since the end of the Cold War, the federal government has closed nearly three-dozen bases in California, returning them to civilian use.