We ELECT these people

The Virginia legislative season is back.

Time for amusement.  The do-nothing, feel-good legislation rolls on.

I’ll be adding more of these as I happen across them.  I have only just so much duct tape I can wrap around my head at one time to keep my brain from exploding.

 

HB1366 “makes it unlawful for a person to smoke in a motor vehicle in the presence of a child younger than 13 years of age; punishable by a civil penalty of $100.”   (Delegate J. Morrisey, D-74)

Okay, who thinks it’s a smart idea to light up in an enclosed space around a child?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Better yet, who thinks a police officer will take the time to cite someone for such a feel-good law?  Oh, by the way, it’s a secondary offense, so you have to do something else wrong, for which the officer will cite you, and then s/he can pile on, if s/he’s in a bad mood.   (Of course, by now the cigarette would be gone, wouldn’t it?  More on that later …)  Since it’s been my experience officers in Fairfax County  run red lights, change lanes in an intersection, cut off other drivers, don’t bother with directional signals, and read their computer screens while driving, I’m not sure they’d recognize a traffic offense.

And … the fine doesn’t go to some health fund, as one would expect since smoking is a health danger, but to a literary fund.  Maybe so offenders could read the new law.  And that literary fund sure could use an extra $200/year.

 

HB 1367  ” includes cigarettes specifically in the category of things deemed litter for purposes of criminal punishment for improper disposal of trash. The bill also provides that in lieu of the imposition of the Class 1 misdemeanor criminal penalty, the court may order the defendant to perform community service in litter abatement activities. If the offense involves a cigarette or cigarettes, the court shall order the payment of a $100 civil penalty payable to the Litter Control and Recycling Fund established in § 10.1-1422.01 in addition to the imposition of such community service.”  (Delegate J. Morrisey, D-74)

At least this one goes to the the Litter Control and Recycling Fund.

 

HB1375 “requires a retail establishment that has a toilet facility for its employees to allow a customer who suffers from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or other medical condition that requires immediate access to a toilet facility, to use that facility during normal business hours if certain conditions are met. The measure does not apply to certain filling stations or service stations or to banks or savings institutions. The operator of a retail establishment that violates this requirement is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $100. A violation does not subject the retail establishment to further liability to the customer.” (K. Rob Krupika, D-45)

Full disclosure – I suffer from Crohn’s disease.

This bill says a business owner must allow me to use a restroom.  Unless he runs a gas station or bank, though why those are excluded escapes me.

If he doesn’t, there’s no penalty.

But we’d have a law ……..

SB 736 “requires drivers and passengers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic. The bill also requires that in this case vehicle doors only be left open as long as necessary. A violation constitutes a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $100.”  (J. Chapman Peterson, D-34)

Because I always leave my car doors open much longer than necessary, and I’m sure hundreds (or even thousands) of others do as well.

And wasn’t it sweet of him not to include “any law-enforcement officer, school guard, firefighter, or member of a rescue squad engaged in the performance of his duties.”

You Gotta Wonder …

Delegate Scott Surovell (VA-44) has led several clean-up days over the past few years for Little Hunting Creek.  Volunteers have cleaned (and re-cleaned, and re-cleaned, apparently) an area of the creek that is used as a dumping grounds.

These efforts are commendable, though I wonder if perhaps a fundraising effort for fences to keep trash from getting IN to the creek might be more long-lasting.

Here comes the “but …”   Surovell writes in an e-mail:

To help deal with the never ending [sic] stream of trash into our community’s creeks, I am currently considering the following action items:

    -Legislation authorize Fairfax County to enact legislation to allow fines for abandoned shopping carts
-A comprehensive litter education program in the Route 1 Corridor
-Supporting measures to make trash and litter a measurable metrics [sic] in determining stream health
-Re-introducing a $0.05 plastic bag fee

Being me, I have to ask the obvious questions …

Who the hell are we going to fine?  Stores, which already lose hundreds of dollars when a cart is stolen?  The dumper?  As if we’d find them.  Gods know the police have so much free time they can investigate cases of dumped shopping carts.  And why only Fairfax County?  What’s so special about carts dumped here instead of, say, Prince William County?

Why would we need legislation to enact a comprehensive education program in the area?   Sure, we’re a Dillon Rule state, but there is no state law that says communities cannot educate their citizens.  (Sounds like a plea for funding the program, which I would oppose vehemently as not high-enough priority.)

Along the Route 1 corridor, there are hundreds of families who don’t have cars (which they would have to fuel, insure, and maintain).  They take buses to work, and stop at WalMart, Safeway, Target or, yes, 7-11, for food and toiletries on their way home from work.  The $.05 tax harms these people more than any.  (I can almost hear the “oh, wait, we’ll provide them reusable bags”)

FYI – the didn’t the volunteers collect, this time, 51 plastic bags of trash?

I can’t argue the remaining point, simply because I don’t know enough.  IS litter a metric of a stream’s health?  One cannot make it relevant just by enacting legislation.  Nor is anyone helped if the state or administrative bureaucracy is forced to collect measures on topics that do not drive action.  If the metric can be shown to be useful, why is it not already part of data-collection efforts?

An open letter, and a promise, to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Governor McDonnell, you have the power to stop this atrocity.   The government of Virginia is poised to retrogress to a patronizing, sanctimonious mass of social laws designed to step on women.

I urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject in whatever form the “personhood” bill and the “ultrasound” bill reach you.  Reject them outright.

I am so repulsed by the ideas espoused in these bills that I will make a promise.

I will promise, should these bills pass with or without your signature, that I will not cast a vote for a Republican in Virginia until they are repealed.  Nor will I cast a vote in a national election for any ticket with which your name or your endorsement is affiliated.

I will do what I can to get other women and others who value individual freedom to join me.

Voter ID laws

Voter identification laws are getting a lot of attention in Virginia this legislative season.

Proponents are correctly noting that ID requirements can help to prevent voter fraud.  Opponents are correctly noting that voter fraud is not a big issue.

Opponents are also claiming that voter ID laws disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, and minorities.   In some way, that’s true.  Those groups are less likely to have ID, though with the possible exception of elderly individuals born before widespread (one might even say mandatory) issuance of birth certificates.  Opponents are claiming that minorities and the poor are less likely to have driver licenses — also (perhaps) true, but irrelevant if the acceptable forms of ID are not limited to drive licenses.

The real purpose of voter ID laws is to prevent unscrupulous political operatives (are there any other kind?) from offering to drive any group of people to polling places (to “exercise their god-given rights”), extolling the virtues of their candidate (and the “evils” of his opponent) during the drive, and thus swaying the elections.  This type of community do-gooder action (“driving people to the polls”) is touted highly, but is actually most often buying a vote.  If an individual calls a campaign headquarters and asks for a ride, it would be reasonable for that campaign to presume the individual will vote for its candidate.  For a campaign to go out to seek out people to take to the polls is disgusting.

I would surmise that amongst those people who would likely not have gone to the polls otherwise, there will be a percentage who do not have, for one reason or another, an ID.  I’d like to see actual data, but apparently it doesn’t prove a thing or the sides would be trotting it out.

Now, one might argue that it is a damn shame there are groups of people in any area who might be subject to such practices.  I’d agree.  That’s also irrelevant to the voter ID issue.

So one party is always afraid the other party will perform such “community service.”

It just so happens this time it’s the Republicans who believe the Democrats have more to gain by using this tactic.  This time, the Republicans believe the Democrats buy votes with promises of government programs (or loss of same).  It has not always been this way.

We pay legislators to do WHAT? (Redux)

I’ve been trying for two days to comment on Del. Surovell’s reply to my comments.  Can’t do it at the Dixie Pig; I’ll do it here.

Why is it the government’s role to “protect” my property values?  Can you find that anywhere in either the US or the Virginia  Constitutions? Regulating grass height to protect property values is the role of the community of residents, not the community of legislators.

Can you say “nanny state”?  I knew you could.

Del. Surovell is bemoaning the steps a locality has to take in order to request permission to regulate grass height.

I say don’t allow any locality to regulate it, and the problem is solved.

Protect me? Oh, really?

In Warren v. District of Columbia, DC’s highest court ruled it is a “fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen.”

The Supreme Court has upheld such decisions.  Police have no duty to protect individual citizens.  (See here for several citations; the Wikipedia citation is down on SOPA protest day.)

So why do they rule that speed traps and drunk-driving checkpoints are legal?  Aren’t those designed to protect individuals?  Some states get it right, and either prohibit them or don’t conduct them because police lack the statutory authority.     I like this page about the legality of the checkpoints, noting the “DUI exception to the Constitution.”

What could possibly be the states’ vested interest, other than – wait for it – protecting individuals?

So what the courts are really telling us is that governments (police forces) don’t have to protect individuals unless they can potentially make money from it.

The American Bar Association is on the government-solution bandwagon

The ABA has done it too.   In its Resolution 111-A, it asks the government to help out students who voluntarily take on too much debt.

They’re asking the federal government to alter the terms of loans the individuals took from private corporations — commercial lenders.  Sure, they’re asking the commercial lenders to change terms as well, but the idea of asking the federal government to change loan terms after-the-fact is an anathema to me.

To the ABA and anyone else…

If you want to go to law school, fine.  Figure out how to pay for it, negotiate for the loans if needed, then live up to your end of the contract.  If you make a mistake, live with it.  DO NOT ask Uncle Sam to take care of it for you.

What our government bureaucracy rewards

I would hope civil libertarians have this on their scope:

“Finalists named for top federal workforce awards”

Note what the Washington Post considers noteworthy.  The first one they list is someone who will regulate what goes in to your body.  Now, I’m in no way defending smokers; though I quit over 10 years ago, I’m not the rabid anti-smoker, and don’t care what you do to yours.  What I do find reprehensible is a statement like “We have a fundamental authority now that no other country has.”  Fundamental?  Really?  What they have is an assumed authority based on a fundamental assumption that the government has a right to control you.  In my book. Deyton would be doing a great service if he advertised and educated, so people understand what they’re ingesting, and its effects.  From there, personal responsibility takes over.

I’ve not gone to the full list of nominees. In a couple of past years, some deserving folks have actually been recognized.  This year, I hope it’s not the one the Washington Post is cheering.

Never thought I’d thank the Washington Post

The Post printed a fabulous editorial piece on Sunday, though.  By Christopher M. Fairman, the piece was headlined “Saying it hurtful.  Banning it is worse.”  The piece presents a thoughtful response to the do-gooder movement to remove the word “retarded” from the English language.

I have such an emotional response to this issue that I have quit supporting the ARC of Northern Virginia (oh, by the way, ARC comes from Association of (for?) Retarded Citizens) and their rabid stance on it.

Yes, I understand.  Being called “retard” hurts,  as does being called “fatso” or “four-eyes”.   But people need to understand sometimes the meaning of a word is separated from a faddish use.  Legislating away the use of the word “retard” may make some feel good, but it will not change the fact that some people have a retarded intellectual, social, emotional, or multi-faceted development.

I sympathize with the effort in the pledge “I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”  (The pledge is from http://www.r-word.org (as if that isn’t patronizing … like I can’t understand what the word might be?)  The kicker is in “… the derogatory use …”.  If you can’t tell the difference, legislation is not going to help you.

As the parent of a retarded son, I feel it important to retain the distinction.  My son is retarded … his intellectual capacity is significantly less than that of most of his peers, and his social development lags.   He is not stupid in any way, though.  No, he can’t read or write.  He doesn’t understand a cold shoulder, or the concept of what most people consider personal space.  He has difficulty with any number of abstract concepts.  But he understands his world, and in a way, is probably much more fortunate than many of us.  He doesn’t question his abilities, or doubt himself, or long for impossibilities.

But as much as I would challenge anyone who derogatorily call him names, I also challenge those who think they’re “doing something” to get over their paternalism and offer a supportive hand instead.

Asking the wrong question

I love pollsters.

That’s said only partly tongue-in-cheek.  They provide such amusement.

Today another asked the wrong question.

(Paraphrasing) The caller said “Sen. Harry Reid’s health care reform bill will raise taxes and costs and bring nothing new to the American consumer.  Do you agree Congress should defeat this bill and start anew at health care reform?”

You could almost hear the disappointment in the caller’s voice when I said “no”.

Not that I don’t want this bill defeated; I do.  I think it’s full of nonworkable “solutions” that only congressional staffers and special-interests (not necessarily even health-related special interests) could devise.

But Congress?  Come on.  The same organization that gave you TSA, which proved last weekend how well it can do its job?  The same organization that gave us the IRS, the Department of Education, the Department of Homeland Security, and two constitutionally ineligible Cabinet secretaries?  The organization that oversees the notoriously bureaucratic and inefficient Department of Veterans Affairs medical system?

Surely you jest.

Now, had the caller asked the right questions:

– Do you agree with the Senate’s Health Care proposal? (No)

– Do you think the Congress should start over? (A big YES, but that’s separate from “Do you thing Congress should start anew to devise a health care plan?”)

– Do you want Congress to pass a health care reform?  (Maybe, but I want to see what they define as “reform”.)

He might have had very, very different answers.