Seven Silly Laws That Shred Our Personal Freedom
By David Kamioner and Maureen Mackey | December 21, 2019
In a civilized nation, laws at the state and local level should keep people safe from crime against person and property.
They should also keep contracts valid through a fair judicial system.
But even with a more expansive view than those who firmly believe small government, it seems that some public-sector types have gone the extra mile to regulate, via their august wisdom, even the most esoteric and mundane aspects of Americans’ lives.
In other words — they’re trying to save us from ourselves.
As pointed out about some of the wackiest laws that have been around awhile, “Many older laws often seem quaint or unusual when looking back in time, but [they were] often a response to a pragmatic issue of a specific period of time,” as reference librarian Beck Johnson told Fox News not long ago. So it’s up to lawmakers to change or remove laws that don’t make sense anymore — an action that some states and local jurisdictions do routinely. Yet plenty of surprising new statues still make their way into the books even now.
Here are seven examples of some, shall we say, “interesting” laws on the books.
Read these and tell us what you think.
1.) In Mobile, Alabama, is unlawful to carry, manufacture, sell or distribute plastic confetti in the city — a place that throws a pretty good Mardi Gras. The use of plastic confetti there is thought an “offense to public safety.” City and business leaders last year said plastic confetti does not disintegrate — and can end up sitting in greenery areas for months, as Fox10TV.com reported. The use of paper confetti, however, is still permitted. “Rather than using tissue confetti, which melts away in water, so the city’s cleaning crews can get it or it takes care of itself, what’s being used now [by attendees] is this plastic or mylar confetti, which doesn’t go away. Once it’s popped out, it’s there forever,” noted Joel Daves, a council member, about the ordinance, as AL.com reported last year. This isn’t just a public litter issue — it’s an environmental concern, he said. So make a note of this well before February 2020.
2.) In amphibian-friendly California, you cannot by law eat a frog that dies as a result of a frog-jumping contest — and said dead frog, if there is one during the contest, must be destroyed as soon as possible. This law likely came about in connection to the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee in Angel’s Camp, California, the contest inspired by Mark Twain’s story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras,” which takes place over four days on the third weekend in May. It’s the longest running county fair in California.
3.) In a small village within Westchester County, New York, you cannot idle your car longer than one minute, including on your own private property. Otherwise you’ll face a fine. This is two minutes more restrictive — or more “progressive,” as one community leader put it — than Westchester County itself, which has a three-minute anti-idling law. “No person shall allow or permit the engine of a motor vehicle to idle for more than three consecutive minutes when the motor vehicle is not in motion,” that law states. There are some exemptions, including for first responder vehicles, for hybrid-electric vehicles that are recharging, and during freezing weather conditions. As Croton-on-Hudson told its residents about the three-minute limit, “Every minute of idling wastes fuel and affects the air quality of our area. Please do your part and not let your vehicle idle!”
4.) In Colorado, you cannot try to modify or control the weather unless you obtain a permit. This law comes courtesy of the Code of Colorado Regulations. “Weather modification is not only possible, but it’s actually a lucrative business,” as Business Insider noted about this topic, citing The Denver Post. “Colorado ski resorts pay private companies to burn silver iodide on the slopes. The material carries into the clouds and stimulates precipitation, which creates a fresh sheet of powder for skiers. Requiring a permit ensures minimal harm to the land and maximum benefit to the people.” Darn it — now we’re going to have to stand all day in line at the Department of Magic.
5.) In New Jersey, you cannot drive a horse “attached to a sleigh or sled on a highway unless there are a sufficient number of bells attached to the horse’s harness to give warning of its approach.” Anachronistic? Maybe a tad. That’s why, in 2018, the New Jersey Law Revision Commission examined this and other old-fashioned laws on the books in the Garden State — and recommended repeal.
But even the reasoning and wording of the commission on this one law — and the time it likely took to consider this, draft this, and more — sets off some “alarm bells,” if you will.
Here’s part of what the commission shared of its reasoning: “Despite the rarity of encountering horse-drawn sleighs on our modern roadways, both because of the overwhelming use of automobile travel and the lack of snow-covered thoroughfares due to modern snow removal techniques, the Yellow Pages contain 389 results for the search term “horse drawn sleigh rides” in New Jersey. It is also possible that individuals endeavor to operate horse-drawn sleighs on snow-covered roads in a non-commercial context. Whether sleigh rides involve public roadway travel, or whether they are conducted on roadways that would potentially involve public traffic, it appears likely that other safety features, such as lights or reflectors, may now be more effective at preventing the kinds of accidents the sleigh bells were initially intended to guard against. In addition, modern vehicles are more insulated from outside noises than they were historically, and sleigh bells would be of limited effect in providing warning to the cars’ occupants. Therefore, repeal of this statute appears to be appropriate at this time.”
6.) In Georgia, if you engage in any “llama-related activities,” you — and not the state — must incur the cost of any injury that may befall you. As the George Department of Agriculture, Animal Industry Division, put it on this topic, “’Engages in a llama activity’ means riding, training, assisting in providing medical treatment of, driving, or being a passenger upon a llama, whether mounted or unmounted, or any person assisting a participant or show management. The term ‘engages in a llama activity’ does not include being a spectator at a llama activity, except in cases where the spectator places himself or herself in an unauthorized area and in immediate proximity to the llama activity.”
But wait, there’s more: “Every llama professional and every llama activity sponsor shall post and maintain signs” that contain the warning notice on this matter. The following warning must be publicly and clearly posted: “Under Georgia law, an llama activity sponsor or llama professional is not liable for an injury to or the death of a participant in llama activities resulting from the inherent risks of llama activities, pursuant to Chapter 12 of Title 4 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.”
7.) In Nevada, it is unlawful to use an x-ray machine to determine your shoe size. No joke. Here’s how justrichest.com put it: “Most citizens of the state prefer beauty to health, and for this reason Nevada had to enforce a law prohibiting people from using a show-fitting fluoroscope (also known as pedoscope or foot-o-scope). This pedoscope is a device that determines shoe size by scanning the feet with x-rays. And as BestLifeOnline also explained, “There was actually a novel device that did exactly this called a Pedoscope that was popular until the ’70s, when people figured out they shouldn’t be blasting x-rays at their unprotected feet.”
Think we missed any great ones? Want to bring others to our attention? Drop us a note in the comments section below, or email us at [email protected].
This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.
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