Legislature gone wild

By Daniel Dunkle | Jun 04, 2009

The Legislature needs help. Its figurative train is off the tracks.

A headline in Thursday's paper was: "State may require chain restaurants to count calories."

The Maine House voted 88-56 to approve Hannah Pingree's bill: "An Act to Increase Access to Nutrition Information." The bill would require restaurants that do business under the same name in 20 or more locations to provide information on the number of calories in their food.

Personally, I think it's fine for restaurants to share calorie information with their patrons. Many of them, especially the dreaded chains, do because there is more demand for this these days.

I don't think we need a law for it. We especially don't need a state law that puts us on an uneven playing field with other states when competing for businesses and jobs.

Of course this is part of the ongoing persecution of all things big business in Maine. I hear the arguments that these businesses make everything look the same and send their profits out of state. Driving to North Carolina, I could see in town after town the same old story. You had your Walmart flanked by an Olive Garden, McDonald's and Pizza Hut. Repeat every ten miles.

I don't necessarily want that for Maine anymore than anyone else does, though I do enjoy the convenience of many of these businesses that have worked out the formula for success.

However, when I walk around Lowe's in Thomaston, I see a lot of people earning paychecks in that Big Box chain store.

Our last story on the unemployment picture included the following information:

"The Knox County unemployment rate in April was 8.1 percent. This is down from 9.6 percent in March and the high of 9.7 percent reached in February."

Can we afford to chase businesses out of Maine? We should be encouraging businesses.

Here's another recent story I found interesting:

"The Maine House narrowly approved a bill May 28 that would guarantee the right of people to dry their clothes outside in the sun."

So in Maine, we need a law put on the books to give us the right, on our own property, to hang our clothes out to dry! This is what the Legislature is spending its time on. Don't get me wrong. I guess I support the law. I just don't understand how this got to be a debate in a supposedly free country.

Right now, many law enforcement agencies are cracking down on seatbelt laws, and I'm of two minds on this one.

There is a part of me that feels that if I want to go through my windshield at 60 mph that's my right, in a free country.

However, the more I really sit down and think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that we do need seatbelt laws. There's absolutely no argument when it comes to kids. If a law saves the life of a single child, it's worth it.

I also find it difficult, having covered fatal crashes for the newspaper, to really argue that even adults should have the right to go without seatbelts. On the one hand, we can educate people about the dangers, but you know people aren't going to listen. And when you go through that windshield and get killed, you're forcing police, firefighters and EMS to come out and deal with that mess, and that's not really a right or a freedom I favor.

I don't understand why enforcing this one particular law has suddenly become a top priority over all else, however.

And riddle me this: Why aren't there seatbelts on school buses?

Here's another recent headline:

"Representatives ditch motorcycle helmet law"

"The Maine House defeated a bill May 18 that would have required all motorcyclists and their passengers to wear helmets. …The Senate voted 25-9 on May 21 to also defeat the proposal.

"Helmet laws have been proposed regularly before the Legislature in recent years but have been defeated," Steve Betts wrote. "Supporters have cited the reduction in deaths and injuries with the use of helmets while opponents have cited the loss of personal freedom."

Why is it a matter of personal freedom to kill yourself on a motorcycle but not in a car?

I'm concerned about what freedoms the government will take away from me in the future. There is talk about bans on certain kinds of fats in the news around the country. Will I be told I can't have certain foods because they are bad for me, and is that the country we want to have? Will taxes on junk food be raised exponentially out of concern for our health?

Will all common sense be Legislated for us?

Don't tell me we're all paying for my healthcare, because I don't buy it. The government doesn't provide me with any healthcare, and I am forced to help subsidize both the poor and now the status quo for the rich in banking and other big businesses that have been "bailed out."

An erratic government imposing more restrictions and rules every day needs to be watched very carefully.

I liked this comment posted on our site in response to the laundry story:

"We Mainers evidently need to legislate our right to breathe." — Judy Olson

Let's not let it reach that point.

Associate Editor Steve Betts wrote several of the Legislative stories I quoted in this column.
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