As the country goes on conducting its business, a problem has arisen. We amass laws that go on the books and stay there long after they become irrelevant. Some of these laws are now downright useless and silly.
In Derby, Kan. you can be fined $500 or spend 30 days in jail for screeching tires. In Topeka it is illegal to scream at haunted houses. Better pony up to your mechanic or better yet, don’t have fun next Halloween.
Kansas itself has some of these silly laws, and we used to have many more, but Gov. Sam Brownback enacted his initiative to remove such laws back in 2011. An Oct. 11, 2011 article by Deb Gruver in The Wichita Eagle reported about a state repealer’s job and highlighted how much of a pain it was just to have champagne or other forms of alcohol at weddings in state, as Kansas law prohibits it without a mass of red tape to go through.
Bill Rowe, owner of Blue Moon Caterers, showed how pointless the process of filing the forms for events was in the article. Along with the filled out forms and copies of credentials, you had to send in a hand-drawn map of the premises to the Alcoholic Beverage Control 10 days before the event. Once those papers were approved they were to be filled again in the sheriffs office.
The best part of the article is when a sheriff called the company back asking what exactly they had been sent. I can see some practicality in the provisions, but if state officials are at a loss then these laws should go in place of something that works.
These laws need to go, otherwise a situation could occur, like it did one day in Gainesville, Ga., that can’t be so easily fixed. In a July 2009 article from the Gainesville Times, it was reported that an old city ordinance was adapted into the joke that it is. The 1961 ordinance bans eating fried chicken with anything but ones hands, and a 91-year-old woman was “arrested” for its violation. It turned out her friend had coordinated the joke, and the conveniently nearby mayor was able to dismiss the charges.
This just shows how we have taken to legislating fun with these useless, redundant laws.
Consider more, the Tar Wars. Granted, it’s baseball, it still shows exactly what happens when laws like this are perpetuated.
George Brett became the first person to hit a game-losing home run in the summer of 1983. He was reprimanded for using too much pine tar on his bat. The amount used is not supposed to exceed a certain length on the bat. And here we ask the question, why was that rule on the books?
In the end, it was a game concern as well as a concern for television money. The game concern was that the ball would become unusable if it got slathered in pine tar. The real concern was that television pays money for it because clean white baseballs show up better on TV.
The aftermath was as much fun as enforcing the ruling. The Royals on one side, protesting the ruling of the umpires, and the Yankees objected, saying that the rules of the game are the rules of the game.
When all was said and done, the commissioner of baseball at the time, Lee MacPhail, overturned the umpires call because in his mind Brett had not violated the spirit of the law meant to deter getting baseballs dirty. He also noted that once Brett’s homer landed in the seats they would have had to replace the ball anyway.
It would have all turned out better if Major League Baseball had paid attention before Billy Martin unearthed the rule book. It would be for the better for most Americans if their legislators did so as well – though maybe this is wishful thinking.
Patrick White is a senior in journalism and electronic media. Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.