Why Lawmakers Really Are Better Than The Rest Of Us


State Rep. Ray Barnes went zippity do dahing through the photo traffic ticket setup in Star Valley back on May 3 -- and got a fond reminder of the experience in the mail about two weeks later.

Surprisingly, he did not smile sheepishly and make out a check for $187.

Instead, he invoked one of the legislature's more entertaining exercises in lawmaking: Turns out, those stalwarts of public order went and exempted themselves from arrest or citation while the legislature is in session.

Now, who'd a thunk.

Let us consider the merits of a law that exempts lawmakers from their own handiwork.

Well, for starters, you wouldn't want to delay by even a moment a state lawmaker's arrival at the august deliberations of the legislature. Why, if they hadn't all gotten down there so fast, the shortfall might have grown to even more than $1.8 billion in the course of the eight months they spent yammering about the projected deficit before they slapped a Band-Aid on the gush of red ink at the last possible moment.

You think it's easy ignoring huge problems for months or years and then improvising some stop-gap measure that gets you through the fiscal year without addressing the underlying problem?

For instance, Payson just heard that the state is jerking back $171,000 in gas tax money lawmakers most solemnly promised to share with the towns -- since the stated purpose of the gas tax is to maintain the streets drivers actually use. The state still hasn't let the cities know whether they'll lose more revenue sharing money in the budget they're required by state law to have adopted by July 1. Now, how could state lawmakers have come up with such a brilliant idea if they'd all been sitting around in traffic court?

Just think of all the insightful, compassionate and necessary things the Arizona legislature enacts during each precious moment of the session. Like ... well ... like. Give us a minute. We're thinking. No. Never mind. Move on, we'll come back to this point.

Besides, lawmakers are so, well, gosh darn important. And their time is so precious.

Mind you, emergency room doctors don't get to wave off their traffic tickets.

Neither do reporters, come to think of it -- and we have deadlines at least twice a week.

Well. All right. We admit that so far the argument for law-proof lawmakers is less than compelling.

But how about this: If lawmakers were subject to the law, then they might be afraid to actually pass any laws. Think about that: Chaos.

Now, some narrow-minded cynics might make just the opposite argument. They'd say we wouldn't have to be looking over our photographed left shoulders if you doubled the fines for lawmakers. Bet lawmakers would ban speed traps in about 10 minutes. They might even keep the clutter of laws to a minimum.

But we digress.

Barnes says he doesn't even like those pesky speeding cameras. Says they're unconstitutional. Says you ought to be able to face your accuser -- look that bullet-proof-vested cop right in the eye and lie about your busted speedometer.

The man has a point.

And we're quite sure that since he was sworn to defend the Constitution and has now come eyeball to eyeball with an unconstitutional law, he's gonna do something about it -- besides not paying his ticket.

So it would be a shame if the town actually did wait until the session adjourned and re-issued the ticket. Turns out, soon as the legislature adjourns, lawmakers revert to being just like the rest of us.

That's why re-issuing that ticket would just send the wrong message.

Why, it just wouldn't be fair.

Almost like we were all equal under the crazy laws those fellas pass.

Can't have that.

It'd be un-American.

As we know -- we're all promised equal protection under the law.

And as the legislature has decreed -- some of us are more equal than others.

You go Ray.

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