Our legislators are once again legislating life’s minutiae in order to avoid dealing with budget-busters like the most expensive prison system in the nation and public employee pension and health care programs gone wild.
Among the current crop of issues, two stand out (well, three, but I’m not gonna use the V word, right?)(whoa, and then there’s that motorcycle helmet deal, too, so make that four) – mandating the Pledge of Allegiance in all classrooms and permitting fireworks 30 days of the year.
On the surface, the Pledge of Allegiance bill is hardly noteworthy. Michigan is one of only 7 or 8 states that does not have a statute requiring schools to “provide an opportunity to recite the Pledge” each day. In addition, the bill being introduced requires that an American flag be placed in each classroom where the Pledge will be recited. There is also language that assures everyone that no student will be “compelled” to recite the Pledge. So why am I even blogging about this?
Two reasons: one is that this falls in the “don’t-they-have-better-things-to-do” category of legislation, and the second is that supporters of the bill claim this will make our children better patriots.
I need to state here that I love State Representative Bill Rogers. We share a quirky, sarcastic sense of humor, and are capable of having a wide range of smart conversations; although I can’t speak for him, I know I always walk away with some new insight on one topic or another. We also quite amicably agree to disagree, and we disagree on lots of things (and I think we both kind of enjoy it). This would be one of those disagreements. Bill believes requiring kids to recite the Pledge daily will teach them to appreciate the sacrifices our forefathers made for this country. He also thinks “it would be nice if the kids did get back and learn about real history, not some of the fake stuff.” (June 17 2012 in the Livingston Daily Press). Bill, Bill, Bill. I can only hope you were misquoted there. You are on the House Education Committee and claiming that our students are being taught fake history and that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is somehow going to fix that. Hmm.
Of more immediate local impact is the new revenue stream…uh, I mean, fireworks legislation…that went into effect in January. In addition to saving us all trips to Ohio to get the really good stuff, the state cash spigot will be turned all the way to ON in terms of licenses ($600-1000), safety fee (6%), sales tax (6%) and big fat fines for doing it all wrong ($10,000). You can check it out here.
Our legislators, continuing their commitment to protect acts of patriotic enthusiasm, also added this little paragraph:
(2) A local unit of government may enact an ordinance regulating the ignition, discharge, and use of consumer fireworks. However, an ordinance enacted under this subsection shall not regulate the use of consumer fireworks on the day preceding, the day of, or the day after a national holiday.
In case you were wondering, there are ten national holidays, which I had to Google, probably because I am a poor excuse for a patriot (I only say the Pledge 3-4 times a month) and learned all that fake history in school. I kept coming up with nine, because I forgot about Columbus Day, which is embarrassing since it is a holiday I am sure everyone associates with fireworks. Like Christmas and Martin Luther King Day. That makes 30 days each year that you can use bottle rockets and M80s, at all hours, and no one can do a damn thing about it.
And now all hell is breaking loose on so many, many levels. It’s the medical marijuana situation, all over again, with local governments scrambling to cover all the legislative holes created by the state statute. Everyone has local fireworks ordinances, that now have to be reviewed and perhaps amended. Vending ordinances for all those whopping big tents that are going up in parking lots everywhere. Noise ordinances. Disturbing the peace ordinances. All those pesky little societal rules that help us live in close proximity to each other – they all need to be examined and changed to accommodate the 30 days our legislators have deemed critical to penalty-free celebratory pyrotechnics.
The real question here is why is Lansing wasting their time on something like this? Other than the obvious revenue-stream angle, anyway. And perhaps more importantly, why are they wasting OUR time with this? Hours of time, not to mention the money, dealing with ordinance changes. Hours of frustration fielding complaints on those 30 days when law enforcement can do nothing. Not to mention the hours of sleep lost. And then there is the dog.
Hours we all could be spending on something else. And certainly hours that our legislators could use to address much more pressing issues.