In a Nixon-to-China moment, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown
reminded voters – and his party leaders – that they voted in a different type
of Democrat last November.

In a message vetoing SB105, a bill by Democratic state Sen.
Leland Yee that would have required helmets for all skiers and snowboarders
under 18, Brown took dead aim at his party’s long-standing belief that the
Legislature always knows best.

"I’m concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable
transfer of authority from parents to the state," the governor wrote. "Not
every human problem deserves a law."

Let’s look at that last line again: "Not every human
problem deserves a law."

For a Democrat, that’s heresy coming from the former Jesuit
seminarian. Of course we need laws to solve the state’s many problems. Or what
would the Legislature have left to do.

(Well, they could take the time saved from the unnecessary
lawmaking and use it to come up with a plan to get California out of its
financial hole, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

So we get a steady stream of bills to right the wrongs and
make California an idyllic state where no one will ever be injured, annoyed, be
allowed to make a bad decision or have their feelings hurt.

Not surprising, every effort reveals another problem where
"there oughta be a law."

So we get bills to stop the sale of Gatorade in high
schools, fine people who smoke with minors in the car, block the sale of
violent video games to minors, require a $60 license before someone is allowed
to flip burgers at a fast food joint, force hotels to use fitted sheets and, at
the local level, bar Happy Meals at McDonalds because the fast food isn’t
healthy enough, which is a bit of an oxymoron.

Some of these pass, some of these fail, but they keep on
coming because there’s always someone confident that he knows what’s best for
everyone else.

And they may be right. Helmets for motorcyclists save lives,
people want clean air and water and nobody’s looking to have 10-year-olds buy
smokes or 20-somethings pick up Uzis at the local hardware store.

Nannies often do know best.

But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t have a chance to make
their own decisions, even wrong ones. And I don’t think you’ll find many people
arguing that the state Legislature has the inside track on all wisdom.

Now the difference between Nanny State overregulation and
necessary concern for people’s health and the public good depends in large part
which side of the aisle you’re sitting on. But Brown’s veto message is a sign
that he’s not going to be an automatic rubberstamp for an ever-more-invasive

Helmets absolutely have value for young skiers, Brown said,
but that’s not a decision for legislators to make.

"I believe parents have the ability and responsibility to
make good choices for their children."

John Wildermuth is a
longtime writer on California politics.