Column: It's 2012 - happy new law!
ST. PAUL -- With the turning of the calendar page from 2011 to 2012 comes an onslaught of thousands of new laws and regulations. Most people were unaware that as they worked, played and lived their daily lives throughout 2011, legislators around the country were toiling to create new rules and regulations to govern the lives that others will live in 2012.
The total of new laws that took effect at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1 was more than 40,000. So much for the idea of less government. Everywhere across the Unites States, state legislators passed new laws regulating everything from drink specials to music therapy. There is no comprehensive list -- just a mountain of paper in state capitol buildings across America that will confine and confuse citizens and businesses with the new rules and regulations.
We've all heard the old Reagan line, "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it," but how often as Americans and Minnesotans do we take the time to learn the rules that have been enacted upon us -- and possibly the freedoms we have surrendered as a result of all these regulations?
The following is just a sample of new state laws that took effect Jan. 1 across the country.
l It may be 5 o'clock somewhere, but that somewhere won't be Utah. As of Jan. 1, a new Utah state law makes it illegal to offer drink specials based on the time of day. In other words, they've outlawed happy hour.
l If you live in Georgia, the good news is that because of a new law you now have the freedom to drive a golf cart on the street. The bad news? Because of that same law, your golf cart is now required to have more safety features including a street capable breaking system and horn -- even if you never plan on taking it from the fairway to the freeway.
Minnesota fared slightly better than some of the other states when it came to passing new laws that burden the citizens and limit their freedom, but our state lawmakers still managed to pass 106 laws during the last regular and special legislative session that resulted in 1,817 new, amended or repealed state statutes. As someone who embraces limited government, the price of lost freedoms may not be worth the perceived benefit resulting from the new legislation. Here are a few examples of some of the new Minnesota laws that you may not know about, and ones which probably could have stayed out of the statute books without a public outcry.
l By law now, if you apply for a new driver's license, you will not only be asked if you would like to donate your organs in the event of a fatal accident, but you will also be asked to donate $2 on top of the license fee towards a donor awareness program. This question may not be all bad when getting a driver's license, but the question now extends to when an individual is registering and transferring titles on motor vehicles. What's next, funding questions when applying for a fishing license?
l If you have a teenager that plans to take their driver's license test in the new year, they may want to study their chemistry books on top of their driver's ed homework. A new law dubbed "Tyler's Law" mandates that those being tested for a driver's license must also be tested on their knowledge of carbon monoxide.
l If you are charged with causing "great bodily harm" to a police dog in 2012, you will now face the same punishment for killing a public service dog -- a two-year felony and mandatory restitution of $25,000 to help purchase and train a new dog.
No matter which state you are in, every American will be subject to a host of new federal laws in 2012.
People with asthma who rely on inexpensive, over-the-counter inhalers will have to look elsewhere to catch their breath in 2012. Epinephrine inhalers stopped being made or sold after Dec. 31, 2011 because they rely on CFCs to dispense the drug into the lungs. Environmentalists lobbied for this ban, claiming the CFCs damage the ozone and air quality. It doesn't matter how good the air quality is if you can't breathe. There are surely ways to enhance air quality other than a product ban that could jeopardize life quality.
In an effort to phase out the traditional, inexpensive incandescent bulbs, we will all be forced into using more expensive yet energy efficient bulbs. Congress passed a law banning the manufacturing and retailing of 100-watt incandescent bulbs. As a result of the new law, consumers will be shelling out $9 for a light bulb that once only cost them $2. They may also be forced to spend money on a new lamp, because some traditional lamps cannot accommodate the shape of the mandated CFL bulbs.
Will families prosper and our communities be safer under these 40,000 new laws? Or did our elected officials just add a bunch of burdensome regulations to the existing volumes? The answer is most likely the latter. Every time new laws and regulations are put in place, individual liberty is diminished in some manner.
Phil Krinkie is a former Republican state rep from Lino Lakes and president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.