The Most Ridiculous Piece of Legislation We Were Spared
May 18, 2001
The 120 days are over, but the Lege is in detention. The Governor
insists on a growth bill before they can go home. I must confess I am a
bit bemused by the fact that the Lege is working on controlling growth
while Denver spent unknown amounts of time and money and even brought
out John Elway, trying to lure Boeing. They lost to Chicago, but had
they succeeded it would have compounded the growth problem by several
hundred high paid executives and their families searching for a wide
As a faithful Lege watcher, I sometimes wish it were more exciting, like
the one in Texas that Molly Ivins writes about. "The Legislature is,
among other things, the finest free entertainment in Texas. Better than
the zoo. Better than the circus."
In 1994 I started the tradition of picking "The Most Ridiculous Piece
of Legislation Award." There have been some interesting winners. The
first year there was a tie between the Trout Bill and the Flag Bill.
The first blew the rainbow out of the water and named the Greenback
Cutthroat Trout the state fish. The flag bill required that a flag be
on display at all times in all 33,000 classrooms and courtrooms in our
fair state. I honor and respect the flag, but this kind of silliness
This year the Lege was somewhat lacking in a sense of humor. They were
so busy trying to control every part of our personal lives that they
didn't have time get the growth bill finished. Fortunately most of the
crazy bills lost and perhaps I should re-name it, "The Most Ridiculous
Piece of Legislation that We Were Spared."
The Dr. Laura bill would have required parents to undergo a year of
counseling at their own expense before a divorce could be final. This
was a gem. They tried to put all of the emotional problems and trauma
of divorce into one package and pass a law to solve it. Fortunately, it
Then they decided the schools should teach character, and that bullying
should not be allowed. Those are estimable goals, but can't be achieved
with a law or two.
But of all the bills that got defeated the one that most deserved to go
down in flames was the "Children's Internet Protection Act." It gets
the Award for 2001. The Lege spends an inordinate amount of time
worrying about children's morals. And they obviously think that the
Internet is a major threat to them. Or more specifically, they seem to
believe with Dr. Laura that school and public libraries are a threat to
the moral fiber of our children. Never mind that according to NEC
research roughly 2% of Internet content involves sex. The remaining 98%
consists of the greatest explosion of knowledge since Guttenberg, and a
wealth of information valuable to children as well as their elders. HB
1376 would have required public and school libraries to install filters
on all computers (in adult as well as children's areas) equipped with
Libraries have been aware of the importance of protecting children from
the unsuitable parts of the Internet far longer than the legislature and
are handling the problem quietly and effectively. Filters simply don't
work. Probably the only way to be sure no child ever sees one thing his
parents disapprove of is to throw all the computers out in the landfill.
But all is not serious in Denver during those 120 days. There were some
John Andrews asked during the discussion on rubber duck races, "Are you
having trouble getting the left wing and the right wing together?"
Senate Majority Leader Thiebault commenting on an amendment to track
test scores of individual children, "Trust me, Rep. King. It's tough to
track children." He has 15.
Senator Penfield Tate opposing a motion: "I love you dearly, but this
is a horrible idea."
And I love to hear a woman stand up for herself. Our own Gayle Berry
said, "You wanted anyone who doesn't totally agree with you to speak
out. And that would be my turn."
The last word goes to Senator Pat Pasco during a discussion on a
resolution honoring women in the lege: "At this rate, by 2025 we're