Here’s a contest idea: ‘It oughta not be a law’ |

Here’s a contest idea: ‘It oughta not be a law’

California is finally hammering out its budget in a rare showing of compromise between a Democrat-controlled Legislature and a Republican governor. It’s good to see that everyone is finally getting along, especially after the “girlie men” comment – the shot heard ’round the world – that threatened to stall action indefinitely.

Now the Legislature can get back to the “important” business of passing laws that we all benefit from. Laws like the one we wrote about Wednesday requiring drivers in bad weather to turn on their lights. It’s about time somebody told us to do that … no wonder it’s been hard to see in those snowstorms.

There are others. In fact there are a lot of other proposed laws, so many that California has become famous for it. We’re also famous for our multi-billion dollar debt, which will continue under the current proposed budget. It includes billions of additional borrowing, and a thin reduction in spending. Hmmm … debt and legislation. Maybe there’s a connection.

Last year, the California Senate and Assembly introduced several thousand bills for consideration (more than 600 were signed by the governor). They’re on target to do it again this year, as we enter the latter part of the legislative session. Many bills are targeted to streamline, save money and help people, but there are also a lot that are just new laws. New regulations. New restrictions. New fees. New taxes. A new “state grass.” Meanwhile, legislators are ignoring the “WHOOSH” sound of California businesses and residents leaving the state for greener pastures in Nevada, Idaho, Washington and beyond.

So, as diligent consumers of California legislation, we do our research. All it requires is a Ph.d in legalese, and the Web site address of the senate and assembly archives. Here are a few of the gems for the 2003-2004 session (remember, they knew it was going to be a tough budget year before the session started):

— AB 62: Prohibits any advertising display from being placed or maintained on property adjacent to a section of a freeway that has been landscaped if the advertising display is designed to be viewed primarily by persons traveling on the main-traveled way of the landscaped freeway.

— SB 1226: This bill would make purple needlegrass, or Nassella pulchra, the official state grass.

— AB 173: No person may furnish a tape or video of any horse race occurring in this state to any other person either within or outside of the state for any commercial purpose, including use for any type of video game, without permission.

— AB 202: This bill would prohibit a pet shop from possessing unweaned birds, unless certain conditions are met. It would also prohibit a pet shop or a vendor from selling a bird that is not weaned, and would require a pet shop or a vendor to document the weight of any hand-fed bird under one year of age, and note the weight on the sales receipt at the time of sale.

— SB 1532: This bill would authorize a county or city and county to pay a fish screen installation incentive payment.

— AB 471: This bill would prohibit cruise ships from conducting onboard incineration while operating within 20 miles of the California coast.

— SB 206: The department of prisons shall maintain a canteen at any prison or institution under its jurisdiction for the sale to persons confined therein of toilet articles, candy, tobacco products, notions, and other sundries, and may provide the necessary facilities, equipment, personnel, and merchandise for the canteen.

— SB 367: This bill would delete the provision prohibiting a bike carrier from being used on a bus that exceeds 40 feet in length.

— SB 1689: This bill would exclude settlement payments received by a person persecuted by the regime that was in control of the Ottoman Turkish Empire from 1915 until 1923, or the individual’s heirs or estate, from the determination of the individual’s eligibility for state education grants, priorities, and program enrollments, and for state disability insurance benefits.

— SB 1781: This bill would require the State Fire Marshal to adopt regulations governing the possession and use of flamethrowing devices.

— SB 1901: This bill would prohibit employers from requiring harvesting employees to taste or consume unwashed grapes in the field or prior to processing, except in limited circumstances and under certain conditions.

The list goes on and on, but time and space are limited here, but not, apparently, in the state legislature.

Palo Alto Assemblyman Joseph Simitian introduced the windshield wiper bill after running his annual “It oughta be a law” contest. From his Web site, constituents can enter the contest and the finalists’ ideas are drafted and considered by the Assembly, and may end up chartered by the governor. The wiper bill was one of this year’s three finalists.

Maybe when California wakes up from its spending stupor, one of our Assembly members will realize it’s time to cool it with new laws, and new regulations, and new budget items.

Maybe one of them will run a contest – “It oughta not be a law.” Now that has a nice ring to it.

– Jim Scripps, Tahoe Daily Tribune managing editor, can be reached at

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