Sunday, January 8, 2012

Let's Ban Novelty Lighters and Any Different National Anthem Singing! It's Important!

Every year the State Legislature is flooded with a ton of new bills.  Every year there's a decisive one or two that seems to fill the news coverage of what those bodies do.  Aside from those, though, there's always a mess of bills introduced that the public en masse don't pay any attention to, and the media doesn't bother mentioning.

Some of those bills are worthwhile additions to the Hoosier State, but get little attention because they aren't controversial, they pass easily, and thus there isn't any "news" to them.  Others, though, are a waste of time.  Laughable, really.  Let's look at a couple of those.

Rep. Randy Frye (R)
First on today's docket is Randall Frye's HB 1056.  HB 1056 is a bill introduced to ban the sale or distribution of novelty lighters.  It also charges the State Fire Marshall with "to identify and publish a list of novelty lighters."  Identify and publish a list of novelty lighters?  Really?  Is this what we want our State Fire Marshall spending his time and our tax dollars on?  Can you even fathom the enormous number of varieties that novelty lighters come in?

I'm sure I know this bill's origin.  Somewhere out there in Hoosierland, some kid picked up a novelty lighter and played with it like it's a toy.  The result: a home was destroyed.  Maybe someone was hurt.  Perhaps killed.  I'm not in any way trying to say that is not tragic.

The problem, though, is this bill blames the lighter for the fire.  It's the same flaw in most gun legislation: someone was irresponsible with proper gun safety and storage and someone got hurt.  Is it the irresponsible person's fault?  Of course's the gun's fault.  Let's ban them.

So now poorly thought out gun law comes around and is used to attack novelty lighters.  It's not the responsibility of parents or babysitters to keep dangerous items away from's the responsibility of the manufacturers to stop making them in the first place.

And why just novelty lighters?  I'd bet good money that if you looked at how many fires were caused by novelty lighters, and how many were caused by regular lighters or matches, regular caused more many, many times over.  Let's ban ALL lighters and matches...duh.

And while we're at it, let's make sure that no one ever, ever, ever sings the National Anthem in ANY way except for the way that we are used to hearing it.  That's exactly what Evansville Senator Vaneta Becker is proposing in SB 0122.

Senator Vaneta Becker (R)
Becker's bill requires all public schools and universities to be legally required to enter into a contract with anybody ever singing the national anthem at one of their events.  The contract must stipulate that the singer will not deviate from legally set requirements on the music and singing style used or face a (oh noes!!) $25 fine.  The institution would be required to record the performances and keep those recording for at least two years, in case there is a complaint filed.

Again, don't get me wrong here.  I know exactly what Becker is TRYING to accomplish....she's just horrible at accomplishing it.  She doesn't want anybody to get up in front of an audience at one of our public institutions and intentionally destroy the Star Spangled Banner.  It's happens, and there are very few among us like it when it does.

But sometimes a singer out there deviates from the traditional presentation of the national anthem and the audience says, "wow!  That was amazing!"  Such performances would also be illegal under this bill.

There's another side to this issue that is the main reason I think it is a total waste of time.  The First Amendment.  Frankly, if this bill were to be passed it would have absolutely zero chance of surviving a court battle based on the First Amendment.  The courts have ruled over and over again that even things like flag burning are protected free speech.  To think that legally requiring a very specific style of singing to be entered into by contract and fine those that do something else has any chance of staying law for very long at all is just naive. And those court fights are expensive.

These bills are a waste of time, and would lead to a waste of taxpayer money. These are the kinds of bills that go through our legislature every year, mostly unnoticed.  These are the people we elect to office.  These are the kind of things that they think are important enough to pass laws on.

These are the kind of things that make me horribly disappointed in those that represent us.

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