It’s a development as startling as the smell that wafts from an 11-year-old’s clothes hamper: Doing your laundry now needs legislative protection. Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Democratic colleague Michael Barrett, of Lexington, are making a stand on Beacon Hill on behalf of everyone who wants to hang their sheets, sweats or underwear out to dry.
Their “right to dry” bill would beat back any condo or homeowners association that bans clotheslines — and many do. Under this law, those groups could restrict a clothesline but not prohibit it altogether. In a nod to local control, the clothesline protection law, or “An Act Relative to Solar Drying of Laundry,” as it’s officially called, only goes into effect in cities and towns where residents vote — at the ballot box — to adopt it.
All of this goes to environmental protection. Electric or gas dryers — at least 4 in 5 households have them — use a fair amount of energy, or about 4% of a home’s total consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. People who hang-dry the laundry save money and reduce the strain on energy resources. This law would protect them, in certain situations, and it isn’t unique to Massachusetts. Nor is this the first time it’s come up on Beacon Hill.
It’s difficult to quarrel with people who want to save energy and thus address serious concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, or who, like the senators, call attention to the energy wasted on a clothes dryer. Also, hang-dry evangelists insist that doing so preserves clothes — and makes them smell better too.
But calling attention and filing a bill are different things. Forcing condo groups to accept clotheslines, especially in light of their sometimes gaudy appearance, is excessive. People who buy a condo or move into an area with a homeowners association have ample chance to check out the restrictions they’ll face. If the no-clothesline rule is a deal-breaker, they can move on, or lobby their new neighbors to come around.
Advocates on behalf of those groups raise real concerns that this bill violations their property rights. It also begs the question, why would our state lawmakers stamp on those rights for a clothesline?