Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
Story Archives: Proposed Laws to Touch Everyday Lives
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|Proposed Laws to Touch Everyday Lives|
When lawmakers meet in fiscal session every other year, they are supposed to focus almost entirely on budgetary matters. But this year that picture is so bleak and their chances of improving it much are so small that it's understandable there are an unusually high number of non-fiscal bills on a variety of subjects, including a batch that would touch everyday lives.
It bothers some that a government having trouble running its own business should be messing with anybody else's. Yet we all daily see people behaving in ways that are dangerous to themselves and others, and who could use Big Brother, if not their mama, keeping a closer eye on them.
This would include those who insist on the right to drive a motorcycle without a helmet, which was granted in a 1996 bill and then repealed in 2004. Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City, is back with legislation to allow motorcyclists 21 or older to ride with heads free in the wind. Opponents point out that drivers not very well insured would become a burden on society should they bust those heads open.
Beyond the financial responsibility question, the larger problem for the bill is that it flies in the face of good common sense. Such can be suspended by legislators if it is very important to the governor, as it was during Mike Foster's eight years without helmets. Gov. Bobby Jindal supports the bill to lift the ban again, but he doesn't seem to be leaning on legislators too hard to pass it, and so it probably won't be.
Not using a cell phone while driving also makes good common sense, but it will take passage of a bill by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, to change that daily bad habit of hundreds of thousands of drivers. Last year, Badon's bill narrowly passed the House but failed in the Senate, and its prospects look no better this time.
It still ought to be law, even though any such ban would be spottily enforced at best. Law-abiding drivers would gravitate toward hands-free devices, or simply refrain, making them better able to watch out for those who aren't going to let some statute make them hang up.
Lawmakers did take a small step in the right direction last year by banning the sending or reading of text messages or e-mails while at the wheel. This would now include the new rage of twittering, the obsession of a growing number to post on-line the details of their lives every five minutes. That's not stopping more and more people from tweating in traffic--Going to the dentist!--but at least they are helpfully offering self-incriminating evidence.
Smoking while driving is not illegal, yet. Paranoid puffers might wonder, though, given government's relentless march to stamp out the practice in all public places. Now a bill by Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, seeks to take away one of the last refuges of smokers: the barroom. Yet, judging by key supporters of this bill, the concern is not about public health, but, rather, competition.
The restaurant industry complains that the 2006 law to make eating establishments smoke-free has put them at a competitive disadvantage to bars that serve some food, which were exempted. An alternative bill would allow smoking only in bars that serve no food, not even those scary-looking pickled eggs. But our liquor laws are confusing enough that it might be time to clear the air and tell the smokers to take it outside.
Probably no law enforcement device has modified public behavior more than cameras at traffic intersections that catch drivers running red lights. Most citizens wholeheartedly approve of the cameras, until they get caught, at which point many become civil libertarians, complaining about due process. Taking up their cause is Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, who has filed a bill to make cities and parishes turn off the cameras.
This bill has some vocal supporters, but likely not enough to make legislators empathize with lawbreakers caught in the act. Camera technology and the legal process might be improved, but driving behavior already has been, as I can self-attest. Traffic cameras might be the most effective law enforcement technology since fingerprinting, which is why legislators should keep their hands off.