California lawmakers pushing to get baby-changing tables in men's restrooms

Mar. 26, 2013: A two-month-old baby gets her diaper changed in Pomona, California.

Mar. 26, 2013: A two-month-old baby gets her diaper changed in Pomona, California.  (REUTERS)

Call it the diaper mandate. 

California lawmakers, in a bid to let dads play a bigger parenting role in public, are pushing for baby-changing tables to be installed in men's restrooms. They say the changes reflect shifting family dynamics, though the plan was criticized as yet another costly regulation on businesses. 

Two bills that would require businesses to give men equal access to baby-changing tables in their restrooms cleared the California state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday. Currently, there is no federal or state law requiring buildings to provide changing tables in their bathrooms, and any business that does so installs them voluntarily. 

But one sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, said the effort is a “common sense approach” to fix the problem of unequal access to changing stations.

“As the demographics of the modern American family evolve, traditional gender roles with women as the primary caregiver for the children are changing, and men are becoming more and more involved in the care of their young children,” he told FoxNews.com in a statement. “There are also a growing number of same-sex households with children. The bill also ensures that public facilities for changing babies’ diapers are equally available to both men and women.”

Lara's bill would require that if a business chooses to install a baby-changing station, it must be accessible to both men and women.

The other bill, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Lois Wolk, is more strict. It would require changing stations in men and women’s restrooms in new restaurants, movie theaters, shopping centers and other public and private buildings. It would also require they be installed during renovations that cost over $10,000.

Under the law, building inspectors would be required to enforce the changing tables mandate as part of their normal inspection process. Businesses that fail to do so would face a fine. 

In a bill summary provided to FoxNews.com, Wolk cites a 2013 study that found parenting responsibilities are becoming more equally distributed between partners and that fathers are spending triple the amount of time with their children than they were in 1965. She claims changing tables provide a more comfortable and sanitary environment for parents and children, and should be available to everyone.

However, Wolk’s bill raised concern with at least one Republican lawmaker, who noted that the mandate would apply to thousands of businesses in the state.

A policy consultant for Sen. Mark Wyland , who was one of two lawmakers in the committee who voted against Wolk’s bill, told FoxNews.com although it is not yet known how much the bill would cost businesses, the fact that changing stations would be obligatory is concerning.

She said the bill would just be another example of the legislature forcing potentially costly regulations on businesses, which Wyland does not support.

The bills next head to the Senate Appropriations Committee and will need to pass the Senate by the end of May to be considered by the California Assembly.