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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Laying down the law

    With a total of 1,450 bills presented this session, it seems the politicians at the Arizona state Legislature are too busy justifying their own positions to concern themselves with whether bills being contemplated are actually worthy of becoming laws.

    Those bills are 1,450 potential new ways for the government to poke and prod Arizona residents for doing dumb things like trying to text message and drive at the same time.

    Even more bills have been discussed, researched and written but never saw the light of public record because they were never officially presented. Thank goodness.

    “”The number of bills certainly has gone up over the last four or five years,”” said Michael Braun, executive director of the Arizona Legislative Council. “”This year is not a record year, but it’s higher than it has been.””

    Some of these bills are minor corrections to existing laws, but there is plenty of new legislation. And many of the bills that stand to affect the daily life of everyone who calls Arizona home (even if it’s for only one more semester) aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

    According to the Arizona state Constitution, the government is formed, by the consent of the governed, to establish and protect individual rights. But most of the worthless bills are paternal legislation that would make it illegal for adults (who really should know better) to do stupid things. This does nothing to protect individual freedoms.

    For example, state Rep. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are sponsoring House Bill 2660 to prevent the “”power hour”” by changing the drinking age to 8 the morning of a person’s 21st birthday.

    But if law-abiding patrons had not been restricted from consuming alcohol past the arbitrary time of 2 a.m. in the first place, new 21-year-olds would never have crafted the ill-conceived rite of passage of drinking as much as possible between midnight of their birthdays and closing time.

    Most of the worthless bills are paternal legislation that would make it illegal for adults (who really should know better) to do stupid things.

    Still, more Band-Aid paternal legislation is not the answer – I doubt the new birthday boy or girl will be any wiser (or more sober) eight hours later.

    In a similar vein, Senate Bill 1584, introduced by Sen. Amanda Aguirre, D-Yuma, would enable police officers to pull over and ticket drivers just for driving without a seatbelt. As the original law was written, police could not pull over seatbeltless drivers unless there was another offense, like speeding.

    Everyone should wear a seatbelt. It takes a fraction of a second to put on, and it saves lives – but no one should be forced to don one. Besides, with Arizona’s crime rate, police must have more important things to do than write a ticket for $10 because someone didn’t buckle up.

    There are also instances where the intent of the bill is valid, but the wording does not properly reflect the intent, such as HB 2442, introduced by Rep. Kirk Adams, R-Mesa.

    Adams’ bill would have allowed on-duty police officers to speed past photo radar with no consequences.

    Fortunately, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, noticed the gaping hole in the original legislation, and offered an intelligent amendment that requires people driving emergency vehicles to be speeding toward an actual emergency, not just out for a cruise with a lead foot.

    One of the seven legislators with his or her name on this bill’s sponsor list should have noticed the speeding-police-car sized hole in this legislation. But it was not until Biggs rewrote the intent of the original bill into quality legislation that it became more than just a seeming attempt to rack up police supporters.

    So before our legislators sit down, pens in hands, ready to try to craft yet another piece of meaningless legislation, I ask that they stop and think.

    They were not hired to reinvent the wheel. They were elected to craft a budget and establish the law of the land, which does not necessarily entail churning out bills like term papers.

    Meaningful legislation can have a very powerful impact, and our current leaders need only look to the Constitution for an example.

    The original law of the land has lasted for more than two centuries, with only 17 later changes, and the stupidity factor has applied to only two (Amendments 16 and 18), at the dawn of the 20th century.

    If only our current state government was more serious about securing liberty than protecting us from ourselves.

    Kara Karlson is a journalism senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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