Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fun with the Nebraska Legislature

by Kyle Michaelis
Two weeks into the 2006 legislative session, I regret that I haven't been able to write more on the issues being addressed and votes being decided. Thanks to term limits forcing 40% of the legislature out the door and this only being a 60 day session, senators are pulling out all the stops to get their ideas out there (and maybe even into law) while they have the chance. It's damn near impossible to keep-up.

Of course, there is always the big time legistlation that makes the headlines in the newspapers. So far, I haven't even gotten a chance to register my two cents on these, as the conceal & carry handgun permit and fetal assault bills made it through their first round of debate and have pretty much had a lock on media attention. Both have momentum on their side, though opposition - particularly to conceal & carry - is still likely to be fierce.

Personally, I can hardly conceal and carry my disgust at this horrible proposal. If people want to live in the Old West, the government should be investing more money into researching time travel. The argument that this is going to put criminals on notice and restore freedom to the long-suffering gun-nuts amongst us just doesn't really add-up.

Owning a gun is not a bad thing - its fine. But those who get off on owning guns are a scary bunch. Theirs is just so childish a mentality, antithetical to the whole idea of a civilized society, that it's ridiculous how our politicians placate them and their little club, the NRA. What these people need is a spanking and some time in the corner apart from their deadly toys.

Were it not for the extremely obsessive nature of the gun culture and all its obvious trigger-pulling power-tripping, I'd be a lot less inclined to worry about things like conceal and carry. Rationally, these permits, if well-regulated, are not the end of the world. It's just that the people who want them most are so irrational and rabid about it that forces one to start seeing the world through a prism of fear that must reflect their own stunted worldview.

Well, that's enough on that. We'll just see in the coming weeks what else will transpire. For now, here's a couple of note-worthy legislative proposals from just yesterday that caught my eye (courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald).
DRUNKEN DRIVING: People convicted of drunken driving who did not cause property damage or hurt someone would have an ignition locking device installed on their vehicles, instead of being subjected to the current penalties for DUI that involve license suspension, under a bill (LB1169) by Sen. Pam Redfield of Omaha. The device requires a person to blow into a breathalyzer and test below the legal limit for alcohol before the vehicle would start. Upon a first conviction, the device would be installed for a year on each vehicle the person owned. It would be in place for five years if there was one prior conviction, 10 years for two prior convictions and for life with three or more prior convictions.

Actually a pretty interesting proposal that you have to respect for its open-mindedness. Seems a little bit "futuristic" but that certainly isn't a bad thing. Still, likely charges by activists that this would be a lighter sentence, not to mention worries about offenders getting around the technology, make it hard to imagine this would become a reality any time soon. Doesn't mean it would be a bad idea, though.
BOOZE TAX: The tax on beer, wine and liquor would increase a whopping 630 percent under a measure (LB1209) by Sen. Lowen Kruse of Omaha. The $130 million generated would be put into a fund to compensate for loss suffered as a result of death, personal injury, or property damage incurred by anyone affected by an alcohol-related crash. Under a more modest bill (LB1206) by Sen. Leroy Louden of Ellsworth, the alcohol tax would go up enough to generate about $2 million. That money would be made available as grants to law enforcement agencies to combat violent crime.

While we're at it, why not raise the tax on alcohol by 8000%? Why not tax condoms? After all, we don't want people having sex, do we? And why not tax the hell out of guns??? Oh wait, that last one actually isn't a bad idea beyond the fact that all these "sin taxes" are cheap moralizing that make mockery of our freedoms. Imposing such taxes on cigarettes was one thing because smoking inherently results in cancer and other respiratory diseases with enormous social costs. Drinking, though, is not the same class of social ill if it is even one at all.

It's all a question of responsibility. You can drink responsibly. You can have sex responsibly. You can own a gun responsibly. If these Senators are so eager to expand the tax base, they should really be considering legalizing and taxing the hell out of marijuana and prostitution. I'm not actually advocating either, but it would be more reflective of our society's actual values rather than those here being imposed upon us.
AMERICANISM: Each school district would be required to form a "Committee on Americanism" under a bill (LB1211) by Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue. Each committee would "examine, inspect, and approve all textbooks used in the teaching of American history and civil government" and "adequately stress the services of the men and women who achieved our national independence, established our constitutional government, and preserved our union." The bill also would require American history courses to "include and adequately stress contributions of all ethnic groups to the development and growth of America into a great nation, to art, music, education, medicine, literature, science, politics, and government and to the war services in all wars of this nation."

Way to be a better American than everyone who didn't propose this bill, Sen. Cornett. That all it does is add another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy hardly matters, not when we all now know how much you love your country. Having witnessed the glory of forced multiculturalism in algrebra class and celebrated Constitution Day by attending a lecture on its being unconstitutional, I'm sure this politically-motivated government mandate in our public schools would be no less a success.

But seriously, rather than a committee, couldn't we just have an "America WOW!" day? I think it would be a hit. Also, how long before we finally get back to our roots and create the more important "Committee on UnAmericanism" that will root out the insidious forces corrupting our children and threatening this nation?

Then, we'll truly know how far we've come.


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