Well, the new year is here, and spring is just around the corner. We all know what that means. Legislative activity is in full bloom around the nation. Unlike mother nature’s springtime, which brings life, optimism, renewed hope and the promise of new beginnings, the legislative spring is a bit more of a quagmire-ish affair. While some new, exciting and useful ideas will be borne from the loins of legislator efforts, there will also be many less exciting creations being brought to life. Some of them will be downright scary – “Frankenlaws” if you will. A few will just be silly ideas that somehow made their way through committee and on to the full legislative body.
Many State House and Senate committees around the nation act like responsible parents from nature’s wild kingdom; they kill their young when they are too weak or ill to survive on their own. Some of them, however, let the feeble and weak idea blossom, until it becomes a full-blown legislative effort that somehow passes into law.
Then it is the courts job to kill what should have never lived. And that, in a nutshell, is essentially the silly season of legislative spring.
In her “5 Things” article on Monday, Nancy Grover touched on some legislative initiatives currently being considered around the nation. She wrote of efforts in Florida to once again get legislation considered that limits attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases.
I mean, we all remember how well that worked last time, don’t we?
The emphasis this time is due to a possible philosophical shift in the Florida Supreme Court. 3 of the state’s most liberal justices were forced into retirement this year by mandatory age restrictions. Newly installed Governer Rick DeSantis has nominated 2 conservative judges so far to fill vacancies on the court. The feeling is that the Florida court will take a decidedly rightward shift, and that legislation that was overturned by the old court may be upheld by the new one.
The fact that attorney’s fees are a symptom of a bigger issue does not appear to weigh in to the conversation. It seems to me that if you created a smoother running system that greatly reduced the need for litigation you would achieve the same goal, but what do I know?
In Oklahoma, a proposal being brought forth has the possibility to create a real catch 22 situation. A bill before their State House would require legislators to reimburse some costs to the state if their legislation was ruled unconstitutional. Former teacher turned Democratic Rep. John Waldron introduced the measure to force lawmakers to pay up to $46 for legislation deemed unconstitutional. According to Grover, HB 1413 says if any lawmakers write legislation that a federal or state court determines unconstitutional, the “amount of any litigation costs incurred by the state, or any of its political subdivisions, in challenges to the constitutionality of the legislation and paid by this state or any of its political subdivisions to the prevailing party in such action shall be reimbursed to the Office of the Attorney General or to the appropriate political subdivision in an amount not to exceed” $46.
I have no idea why Rep. Waldron chose $46 as the maximum amount. Perhaps that is how much money he had in his wallet when he thought up this idea.
That cockamamie scheme is a perfect example of the silly season of legislative spring.
First, I give this proposal virtually no chance of ever leaving the House. Few representatives will likely support a measure that holds them accountable for anything, much less something that requires them to personally pay any amount for generating cockamamie laws. Remember, this is Oklahoma, a state that in recent years has seen more turnovers than the Pillsbury Doughboy. Even at $46 bucks a crack, the guys and gals in the Sooner State Legislature could be ponying up some serious gwop (That is slang for money. I know that because I am a hip and happening guy. Also good at googling the term “slang for money”).
And what if, by chance, HB 1413 passes and becomes the law of the land, only to be found unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court? Would the legislators have to each pay $46 for supporting a bill that required them to pay $46 for writing a bill that was ultimately found to be unconstitutional? Or could they skip the $46 payment because the act that required them to pay $46 for passing something found to be unconstitutional was found to be unconstitutional?
I have a headache now. Not sure why.
It is probably the weather. There is a lot of dust and pollen in the air, as it always gets very windy during the silly season of legislative spring.