Too Many New Laws Muddle Up Government

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A sloppy drunk in a bar turns suddenly to the well-dressed fellow on the adjacent stool — and takes the just-ordered shot of tequila out of the newcomer’s hand.

“Don’t drink that,” says the drunk. “It’s bad for you.”

Then the drunk drains the shot glass with a gulp and slurs, “Shame on you. Have you no self discipline?”

That’s a fair summary the just concluded legislative session’s impact on cities — both rude and hypocritical.

It’s not just the effrontery with which the Legislature picked the pockets of cities and towns of $47 million. One could almost swallow that — given the swoon in state revenues. Nope: It’s not the money — it’s the hypocrisy.

Here we have the most conservative group of legislators in memory, purple in the face complaining about federal mandates and calling for less government.

And what did they actually do?

Well, they introduced a near-record 1,347 new laws.

And they set out to micro-manage local government, although voters generally give local government much higher marks than either the state or federal governments.

For instance, despite the shooting of a congresswoman in Tucson, the Legislature actually adopted a law to require local government to let people bring their guns into all public buildings — including libraries, city council chambers, police stations — you name it. Towns could only ban guns in public buildings if they footed the bill for a guard, metal detector and lock box at every entrance to every public building. Thankfully, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed that one.

The list of bizarre laws goes on for pages. That includes a law that banned any local regulation of fireworks, a requirement that cities privatize services, a ban on fire-suppression sprinklers in homes, a requirement that towns set up work programs for prisoners, a ban on photo radar and a rule that basically invalidates any “ambiguously” worded ordinance — whatever the heck that means.

Who are these people? Did we actually elect them? What on earth were we thinking?

So here’s an idea we hope the brain trust will consider before they belly up to the legislative bar again. Every proposed new law has to also repeal an existing law. Along with that they should not be able pass new spending laws until they cut out some old spending to pay for the new spending.

While we’re at it, how about a rule that a legislator can’t vote on a bill until he actually reads it and writes a one-page summary that would meet the standards of the AIMS test.

Do that boys and girls and we’ll throw a party. Heck, we’ll even buy the first round.

Forest Service must control off-road use

Pity the Forest Service. No. Really. We mean it. Now, we’ll freely admit: Criticizing the Forest Service is so easy it’s hardly even sporting. It’s like shooting tigers at the zoo.

Even so — every now and then you’ve gotta feel sorry for the poor dears. Consider the Tonto and other national forests’ beleaguered effort to limit the damage done to the forest by the explosion of off-road vehicle use.

A couple of earnest, good-natured young Forest Service planners last week tried to explain that effort at a Payson Tea Party meeting. Half the time, they sounded like polite Christians trying to talk the lions into a vegetarian diet.

But on this one, we have to rally to the defense of the Forest Service.

A 400 percent increase in cross-country, off-road use in the 193 million acres of national forest land in the last decade prompted an examination of cross-country travel. The explosion of unrestricted use had dramatically increased erosion, damaged soils, impacted wildlife and given careless, fire-building visitors easy access to every corner of that vast terrain.

In the Tonto National Forest, planners are reviewing 4,000 miles of dirt roads and 500 miles of user-created motorized trails. In the adjacent Coconino Forest, the review involves another 4,000 miles of roads,

The effort has provoked a blizzard of reaction, including some 4,000 letters offering comments.

No doubt — the process has taken far too long. The order went out to draw up a plan in 2006. Coconino won’t actually issue its plan until December. Tonto won’t have its plan ready until next summer — at the earliest. Still, best to get it right the first time instead of losing the lawsuit.

Of course, some folks in the audience last week groused about any restrictions at all on the public’s use of public forests. But the Tonto National Forest attracts 6 million visitors each year. And if that figure doesn’t impress you — consider this: The nearly 400-square-mile Wallow Fire still raging out of control in the White Mountains started from a single, recklessly abandoned campfire. No one who has driven Rim Country back roads on a holiday weekend can doubt the urgent need to protect these precious forests.

So we figured that we’d take a break from our normal grousing about the Forest Service to extend our sympathies — and to urge those forest planners to hang in and not get rattled by the roaring of the lions.

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