Here’s a New Year’s resolution for legislators returning to Sacramento from the holiday break: make fewer laws and get rid of some of the old ones.
Eager legislators have plenty of ideas how to “fix” problems. Therefore, many pieces of legislation are introduced. A great number will become law. California saw about 950 new laws on the books on January 1. Last year there were about 800 new laws and the year before hundreds more — you get the idea. Over a decade the state adds thousands and thousands of new laws.
No one can possibly understand all the laws. Even in debating the measures the lawmakers themselves can’t keep up. A few decades ago, state senator H. L. Richardson wrote a book titled, What Makes You Think We Read the Bills?
Creating new laws is not the only function of legislators. Managing the government more effectively – especially the financial end – is a big responsibility for the solons. More attention must be paid to that responsibility and less to coming up with new laws.
One of the big problems with adding more and more laws is that the citizens often don’t know what the laws are. In many instances, new laws come with regulations and paperwork attached, which rob the affected parties, often businesses, of time to fill out the paperwork and keep up with the changing regulations while trying to run a business.
Part of the problem might be the particular designation attached to the legislators: “Lawmakers.” A quick etymological research found the word is Middle English and has been around since the 14th or 15th century. Lots of laws have been made since then. Perhaps if legislators were not called lawmakers they would not have the urge to make so many laws.
With shelves groaning under the weight of so many state laws, subtracting a number of the old laws would be in order.
Who knows what might be found if a committee were formed to clean up the law books and reduce the number of laws.
Here’s one I learned about a few years ago that still is on the books the last I checked. During the Cold War period, Governor Pat Brown signed a bill to create seven stand-in governors by gubernatorial appointment with legislative concurrence. These back-up governors would be from different regions of the state and if catastrophe struck, the hope was someone would be around to lead.
Not sure we need that one any longer, if we ever did. It was never implemented. However, I might change my mind if Governor Jerry Brown chooses me as one of the stand-in governors!