Monday, June 30, 2008

A Nation of Laws . . . . and more Laws

It’s frequently said that we live in a nation of laws. Boy do we.

We also seem to have become an irony-free zone.

Independence Day looms but the papers in Colorado, in what has become an annual ritual, are full of stories about a slew of new laws that become effective July 1st -- the “fruits” of law-manufacturers (a term I prefer to the vainglorious “lawmakers”) cranking out new rules and regulations like so many widgets. The media encourage this by measuring a legislature’s success or failure based on production. Quality control is an afterthought.

The widgets officially become law tomorrow. Whether we’re better off as a result is doubtful. On this issue I tend to agree with Tacitus, who said: “The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates.” Can a nation really be free that stamps out laws on an assembly line?

We have a new anti-ticket scalping law in Colorado: I’ll sleep better as a result. Massage therapists now need to be licensed by the state. Drivers exceeding the speed limit face stiffer fines. The state’s insurance commissioner has been granted new powers to deny health insurance rate increases he or she deems unjustified. A new Passenger Tramway Safety Board will keep tabs on the state’s 374 “tramways” — meaning it’s ski lifts – although there have been no recent ski tram disasters I can recount, and resorts that want to stay in business have every incentive to monitor their safety.

There are only two new laws on the books that expand, rather than contract, freedom in Colorado. Grocery stores are now permitted to sell a bottle of wine on Sundays, and art galleries may now serve complimentary alcoholic beverages at art shows or other events – though they can’t serve alcohol more than four hours a day and 15 days a year.

Shoot off some fireworks -- we can now have a cocktail at a gallery show. But be warned: The state’s art gallery police will be coming down hard on scofflaws who bend the rules.

Colorado is blessed to have a part-time legislature. While lawmakers in other states continue cranking out the widgets -- some do it year-round -- our citizen-legislators thankfully have gone home, to live under the often-inane laws they and the governor just approved. We’re vastly better off, therefore, than many other states. It’s undoubtedly true that a lot of damage can be done by a legislature in a hurry – we in Colorado can testify to that. But I would bet that there’s a direct correlation between the length of time a state legislature stays in session and how screwed-up the state is, in terms of the tax and regulatory burdens it imposes on its businesses and people.

A part-time legislature is something we in Colorado can celebrate this 4th of July. We can take a little solace in the fact that things could be worse.

Happy Independence Day everyone. Now go out there and Obey The Law!

No comments: