California lawmakers have a history of trying to keep the state's air and waters clean. Now they're tackling language.
The state Assembly passed a resolution Thursday calling for a statewide "Cuss Free Week," to occur annually during the first week of March. It next goes to the state Senate for a final vote on Monday.
The rest of next week will be officially swear-word free if both houses approve the resolution.
The resolution by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, was inspired by a South Pasadena teenager, McKay Hatch, who founded a No Cussing Club at his junior high school in 2007. His efforts to stamp out profanity have generated international attention, with 35,000 members joining the No Cussing Club's Web site.
Portantino said the California Legislature — known for imposing strict clean air and clean water laws — is the first state legislative body in the nation to consider a statewide profanity-free week.
"I’ve always wondered why we behave differently when grandma is watching than when we’re on our own," said Portantino, who owned up to his share of four-letter words.
Hatch, now 16, said he sees a link between cussing and drug use, bullying and other harmful behavior. A cuss-free world would be a more harmonious one, he said.
"I want to bring as much awareness as I can to people about their language and how they're speaking to each other," Hatch said Wednesday as he was headed to Sacramento. "We need to stop tearing people down and uplift them instead."
Portantino said his resolution is simply a guideline, a reminder to "act like you're at your grandma's house." There would be no enforcement mechanism included.
"We're having fun with it," the lawmaker said.
Profanity is rare on the floor of the Assembly or Senate, where lawmakers of both parties try to maintain a sense of decorum even as they engage in heated arguments over legislation.
After one former lawmaker used the word "hell" in the Senate chambers in 2007, senators took time out from a busy day of voting to debate whether it was appropriate to use the word on the floor. Lawmakers eventually agreed to disagree.
Portantino said he and his staff plan to deliver a "cuss jar" to the office of every state lawmaker and the governor. Those who let a foul word slip would be encouraged to deposit money into the jar as penance, Portantino explained.
As for Hatch, the 16-year-old plans to promote no-cussing measures in other states and internationally.
“Next year I want to do a world tour,” he said. “Cussing is a hard habit to break, but anyone can do it.”