January 17, 2008
By my estimation we're right in the thick of winter, judging by the fact that my parched furnace doesn't seem to pause and my car battery appears to be getting weaker by the day. This also means that the legislature is starting to roll up its sleeves as it chips away at the more than 2,000 bills put forth by senators, representatives, and everyday Mainers. But does that mountain of legislation, less than half of which will ever become law and which cost up to $10,000 apiece to process, really need to be so enormous? Over the years I've noticed more than a few proposals that probably should have been dispensed with before they ever reached Augusta.
Take, for instance, last year's proposal by Representative Brian Duprey, a Republican from Hampden, to criminalize the use of restrooms by members of the opposite sex. It doesn't matter how badly you'd like to say goodbye to that cup of coffee you downed in Portland; if the men's room is booked when you get to Houlton you still better not duck into the ladies'. And let us not forget the proposal submitted by Chandler Woodcock, a Republican from Farmington and former gubernatorial candidate, to fine anyone caught shooting at a turkey decoy. We can appreciate the need to protect hunters, but somehow criminalizing such stupidity doesn't seem the best use of our legislators' time. And then there are the even more minor affairs that fill the hallowed State House chambers: LD 168, "An Act to End Fraud in Maine's Welfare Benefit Programs"; LD 2087, to study the feasibility of a public dock on Mooselookmeguntic Lake; and LD 878, which amended the charter of the Harrison Water District. Each of these actions was worthwhile - who wouldn't want to end fraud? and isn't expanding public access a no-brainer? - but somehow paying our legislators to debate such local affairs as the nitty-gritty of a water district hardly seems the way to guide Maine to a more prosperous tomorrow.
Perhaps next year a new bill will make its way to Augusta: An Act to Focus on the Big Picture.
JOSHUA F. MOORE
Deputy Editor, Fan of Big Pictures