Feel-Good Laws: Job Security for Lawmakers; Nuisances for Folks

Written by Chuck Gruenwald on January 11, 2014

As of January 1, 2014, it is now illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving in Illinois. Like most feel-good laws, this one will most likely be ignored by the drivers who inspired it.

This law is really not a bad thing, since it now enables drivers to hold their Whoppers with two hands – instead of only one.

While distracted driving is a problem, Illinois politicians have seemingly decided to address this great plague – one piece at a time. There are state lawmakers who criticize this one-offense law as not addressing distracted driving as a whole.

What good is a law that addresses one part of a much bigger problem, while also turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals? Will a “no eating while driving” law soon follow a “no applying makeup while driving” law? How about a “no staring at a radio display for longer than three seconds” law? The only reason why supposed problems are solved incrementally is to try and create a perception of consistent accomplishment by lawmakers.

While many politicians believe that the only indication of accomplishment is the number of bills that they introduce – and then help become law – two legitimate signs of a productive leader are the ability to find and repeal useless, over-restrictive laws, and to minimize the possible unintended consequences that may leech onto new legislation – legislation that is not the product of crony-capitalism and/or nannyism.

Speaking of unintended consequences, this law has an exception for hands-free phone conversations. One of the possible ways to make a hands-free phone call is by using a Bluetooth earpiece.

For about three months – or until it had met its demise in a tragic washing machine accident — I had used one of those earpieces. Yes, that sucker was convenient, but a hearing exam shortly after the laundry incident showed that I had begun to lose low-end hearing in the ear that I’d used it in. Will these earpieces face a future ban based on the fact that they may or may not cause hearing loss? That depends on just how bad future politicians need to engage in “busy time.”

In a state that has serious budget problems – especially with its employee pension fund, both state and local politicians have proven that they will push these menial nuisances aside in order to tackle the real issues, such as this semi-distracted driving law on a state level, and Chicago’s landmark ordinance that requires horses to wear diapers.

Somehow, I’m able to sleep at night knowing that the elected leaders who threaten the future of my jobs are there to “help me” – whether I need them or not.

The next time members of Congress – or even the members of your state’s general assembly, threaten to bring the lawmaking process to a standstill for the sake of, perhaps conducting an investigation – or even impeachment proceedings – this may be a mixed blessing, since such activities serve as a distraction for politicians who may otherwise have passed feel-good laws – laws that would have prevented those folks from addressing the serious issues. In the meantime, if you live in Illinois, celebrate the passing of a distracted driving law that somehow doesn’t ban distracted driving, or the pension reform law that doesn’t quite reform the pension system.

Image: Courtesy of: http://www.autonorth.ca/home/2010/10/7/75-per-cent-of-canadians-are-still-being-naughty-little-text.html

Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for uncommonshow.com