The Nanny state – H.R. 6068 – the bedbug bill.

Some members of the Congress of the United States have seen fit to bring the powers of the federal legislature to bear on hotel owners and operators on the issue of bedbugs by introducing a bill to “establish a grant program to assist States in inspecting hotel rooms for bed bugs”. Introduced by George (G.K.) Butterfield, Jr., representative of North Carolina’s District 1 along with 6 co-sponsors, the bill if enacted would be called “Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act of 2008”.

The Honorable representative submitted as part of his findings that “on February 12, 2008, a thorough inspection of a hotel in Nashua, New Hampshire, found that 16 of 117 rooms were infested with bedbugs;
(2) cimex lectularius, commonly known as bed bugs, travel through the ventilation systems in multi-unit establishments causing exponential infestations;(3) female bedbugs can lay up to 5 eggs in a day and 500 during a lifetime;(4) bedbug populations in the United States have increased by 500 percent in the past few years;(5) in 2004, New York City had 377 bedbug violations and from July to November of 2005, a 5-month span, there were 449 violations reported in the city, an alarming increase in infestations over a short period of time;(6) in a study of 700 hotel rooms between 2002 and 2006, 25 percent of hotels were found to be in need of bedbug treatment; and(7) bed bugs possess all of the necessary prerequisites for being capable of passing diseases from one host to another”

For starters, a perusal of Congress’ own account, the incidence of bedbugs has obviously gone down as evidenced by the latest count of incidents in hotels in New Hampshire. But implicit in Congress taking up the issue is that this is a pandemic with health care consequences whereas informed medical opinion shows that a bedbug bite does not result in transmission of any disease even though it can be traumatic to many. This site first commented about bedbugs nearly two years ago (and more recently in March of this year) noted the need to involve the EPA to allow the use of stronger compounds to combat the problem which has been exacerbated by the ease of international travel.

However, for Congress to mandate the provision of grants to “conduct inspections of lodging facilities for cimex lectularius (clinical name for bedbugs) including transportation, lodging, and meal expenses for inspectors;(2) train inspection personnel; and (3) educate the proprietors and staff of lodging establishments about methods to prevent and eradicate cimex lectularius” is arguably a case of legislative overreach. It will only serve to crimp hotels and do little, if anything to mitigate the problem. With the advent of third party review sites and recourse through a hotel brand’s main offices customers are reasonably well served. A lodging establishment that does not have an active program to combat bedbugs is unlikely to operate successfully for any sustained period of time as customers are not only likely to vote with their feet by going elsewhere but also seek remedial measures.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.