The start of a new year is the perfect time to set goals, plan projects and get your life organized.
And unless you want to spend part of the next year in jail, it’s also a great time to review the thousands of new laws that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. It’s an even better time to ask yourself, “What idiot thought this law was needed to begin with?”
It’s actually easy to figure out if you remember that many—if not most—new laws aren’t really aimed at making the public healthier, happier or safer. Most laws are designed to fill a politician’s urgent need to benefit a major campaign contributor.
An excellent example is a new California law that bans the sale of so-called “assault weapons.” If you’re not sure whether or not your Red Ryder BB gun qualifies, California law now defines assault weapons as “semi-automatic weapons with evil features.” Really. “Evil features” include pistol grips, flash hiders and so-called bullet buttons that make it easier to remove and replace ammunition magazines.
Former California state senator Leland Yee fought for years to pass this bill, claiming he wanted to “protect Californians from assault weapons on our streets.”
Unfortunately, Yee was not around on New Year’s Day to celebrate with his fellow gun-haters. He was busy serving a five-year prison sentence for trafficking fully automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades—in exchange for campaign contributions.
Visitors to America’s version of ancient Babylon know that prostitution has long been legal in Nevada. But thanks to a new law legalizing marijuana, Las Vegas is now the official global capital of (legal) sex, drugs and rock & roll.
Speaking of sex and drugs, Oregon tightened up its statutes in 2017 by making it illegal for pimps and pushers to avoid criminal prosecution by accepting sex and drugs in payment for “services” instead of cash.
Illinois residents are walking taller now that they have a new official State Artifact. The honored item is a pirogue, a long narrow canoe once used by Illinois Native Americans and still paddled by Cajuns through the south Louisiana swamps.
Canoes are cool, but considering Illinois's long and distinguished reputation for political corruption, a mockup of a prison cell might have been more appropriate.
The mostly widely discussed—and mocked—new law of 2017 also comes from Illinois. Senate Bill 2342 makes it legal to “harvest” catfish with a pitchfork, spear gun or bow and arrow.
The big question is “Who pushed for passage of this legislation?” Catching a catfish is about as hard as catching a cold. Just slap some foul-smelling bait—or a ball of dough—on a hook, drop it into the nearest pond and get ready to rock. If you can’t catch enough in 30 minutes to make a fried catfish platter, you’re doing something wrong.
It’s been said that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. That’s nothing. Give a man a cane pole and a decent catfish pond and he’ll feed himself—and everybody else he knows—forever.
And who thought catfishers needed to bring bows, arrows and spear guns to the fishing hole? Are Illinois farm supply dealers so threatened they needed a spike in pitchfork sales to stay solvent? Are Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops working behind the scenes to boost sales of bows, arrows and spear guns?
So far the new law hasn’t drawn any opposition. Perhaps because Illinois lawmakers didn’t discuss the legislation with my fishing pals. If they had, new “tools” for harvesting catfish would include dynamite.
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