Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest

Stupidity sells a lot of tickets to the movies. It is the basis of many fiction and non shows on television. It’s a treasured tool in the blogger arsenal. Many websites (,, exist that document the most egregious laws. In Fresno, CA it’s illegal if you’re a midget to dress like a lephercaun. (St. Patrick’s Day in Fresno must suck!)  In Bethany Missouri, it is illegal for any black men to wear skirts while driving a truck. (I guess it's OK while driving a car or a motorcycle?)

California’s Legislature is the highest paid in the country.  The state is one of the largest, so it’s not terribly surprising. What do we get for that? For 2011 the legislators convened January 3rd and recessed for the year September 9th. In between there were another 45 work days off for various holidays and recesses. It’s nearly 6 months out of the year that the legislature isn’t in session. They are considered a full-time entity though there have been attempts to convert to part-time, the most recent in 2009 that didn’t work. What would that look like – 3 months of work instead of 6?

Governor Jerry Brown has until October 9 to sign or veto bills that made it through the 2011 legislative process. One of the one’s that didn’t is SB432 which proposed requiring hotels use fitted sheets instead of flat sheets or pay significant penalties and fines.

The Unions were more successful with AB101. The “child care” act requires that babysitters join a union.

In the week since the Legislature left the Capitol 24,000 people have called the Governor encouraging him to sign AB376 – the bill that would ban the sale of shark fin in California.

In 2010 some 672 new pieces of legislation became law  while 2011 just about 192 did.  Governor Brown is considering the 600+ that passed for 2012 (which is nearly 3 per each day the Legislature was in session).

It’s easy (and perhaps a bit lazy) to make fun of legislation that protects just the fin of a shark, hotels right to choose the linen for their rooms or for teenage babysitters to remain non-union in order to help out with a neighbors toddler.

It would be convenient to conclude that the lack of intelligence is inherent in those who are in politics. There are actually lots of very smart people who are committed to serving their communities. Blame can also be placed on the legislative process. The process itself isn’t flawed, it’s been around for centuries. The dependence on special interest money impacts laws that are proposed and signed. There is a lot of truth that when legislators need to be in a constant campaign funding mode that those with the cash have influence.

The money problem is easily fixed. I’ve opined previously and still think it's the best solution: Simply the regulations so that anybody who is eligible to vote in a particular election can contribute however much they want to a candidate (allowing for reasonable verification that a babysitter isn’t giving beyond their means). Political representation would change instantly because people couldn’t contribute to candidates or issues outside of their districts and candidates would have to interact one-on-one with people for votes and funding. It would immediately re-democratize the process.

Arrogance, however, trumps the influence of money. Legislators, by the very nature of their role, believe that most problems can be solved by making law. Shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy that is served at traditional events like weddings. 73 million sharks are killed each year. Is a law in only one state the best way to remedy the real impact on the shark population? Biology Letters did a census and found there are 219 Great White Sharks off of the California Coast. Why not educate people about ths issue? Or a tariff? Or some other solution that doesn’t criminalize fisherman?
Lawmakers are influenced by those whom they spend the most time with: unions and corporations because they have the resources that fund the campaigns. They also have the research staffs to provide data to short-staffed legislative offices. Politicians then propose laws to accommodate issues that are raised not out of a corrupt backroom deal, but out of an arrogance of believing that government can and should solve every problem. The result is trying to unionize teenagers. The real stupidity is that those lawmakers will be re-elected. The voters who do that that are the dumbest of all.

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