Reluctant Townie: New laws — and how to make them better
It's 2014, and the new year brings new laws for Illinois citizens.
Today we're going to look at a few of those new laws and brainstorm ways to improve them in 2015. Because it's never too early to start working on the laws you're going to break next year.
No. 1: NO CELLPHONES WHILE DRIVING, UNLESS THEY'RE COMPLETELY HANDS FREE. Failure to comply will result in a $75 fine you won't pay until your car gets booted.
How this law could be better: We are a distracted culture. Driving was invented in a simpler time, before Candy Crush and Snapchat. The law doesn't go far enough. It should ban all forms of distraction: chit-chat with the passengers, games of padiddle, singing along to Journey and especially talk radio. In fact, it would be better if we just blah blah blah blah blah blah ...
Hey, are you even listening to me? Please get off your cellphone while reading this column.
No. 2: NO TANNING BEDS IF YOU'RE UNDER 18. Except with a doctor's written permission. Expect to see a lot of assistant high school track coaches transition to the dermatology field in 2014. You heard of Dr. Feelgood? Get ready for Dr. Howyoudoin'.
How this law could be better: Forgo the clause that allows minors to operate tanning beds in their own home to avoid the proliferation of unregulated tanning speakeasies. Also, outlaw the music of Ke$ha. (I just died a little inside typing that dollar sign.)
No. 3: IF YOU BUY A SICK PUPPY, THE PET STORE HAS TO TAKE IT BACK OR PAY YOUR VET BILLS. Sounds legit.
How this law could be better: If you buy a dog that is not housebroken, the pet store has to come over and clean up after it. And take it for walks when it's too cold outside. Or when "The Bachelor" is coming back from commercial.
No. 4: THROWING CIGARETTE BUTTS ON THE GROUND IS NOW CONSIDERED LITTERING. And it will cost you $50. Almost as much as a pack of cigarettes! (Rimshot.) I never regret my decision to quit smoking in 2007, and this law is another reason why. For the most part, I've always been conscientious about litter, but when I was a smoker, I threw more butts on the ground than Nelly's 2004 single "Flap Your Wings."
How this law could be better: Instead of fining the offender $50, law enforcement should make them pick up their butt and eat it. Fines can be ignored. A mouthful of fiberglass, cotton and menthol is not so easily forgotten.
No. 5: SCHOOLS WILL BE REQUIRED TO TEACH ABOUT CONDOMS AND BIRTH CONTROL IN SEX ED. Should that prove to be too PG-13 for some administrators, schools can choose to opt out of Sex Ed entirely. I usually opt out of Sex Ed, too, when I see him hanging around the dumpsters. (Fun fact: It's not a nickname if you give it to yourself, Edward.)
How this law could be better: Take sex ed out of schools entirely and put it where it's needed: under the bleachers at the homecoming game or on the mixed-gender floor at a coed dormitory.
No. 6: IF YOU STIFF THE TOLLBOOTH TOO MANY TIMES, YOUR FACE COULD BE ADDED TO AN ONLINE HALL OF SHAME. Here's a true story: A couple of years ago, I was driving on a tollway near Chicago, and I missed my exit. This resulted in a comedy of errors in which I drove through four consecutive tollbooths to turn around — causing me to run out of cash on the last two. No big deal. I had the option of paying missed tolls online up to 11 days later. So I went online and paid the $4 worth of tolls using a completely arbitrary system in which you select (guess) the tollbooth you think you went through, and estimate (guess) the time you think you went through it.
Fast-forward two years. My wife and I ran our credit report and found outstanding debt owed to the Illinois Department of Transportation: $4 for the "unpaid" tolls (which we, in actuality, paid), and more than $200 in fines.
How this law could be better: Every driver should have the option of challenging the tollbooth operator to a game of rock, paper, scissors in lieu of paying. Also, I want my $200 back! IDOT? More like IDIOT.
No. 7: MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGALIZED. The state will have one of the most restrictive medicinal marijuana programs in the nation, but despite that, it looks like the devil's lettuce is on the menu, folks! I wonder what the co-pay is for a fat, strawberry-flavored White Owl of dank?
How this law could be better: Mandatory medical marijuana for all squares, buzz-kills and your mom when you didn't pick up your room.
No. 8: INTERSTATE SPEED LIMIT INCREASED TO 70 MPH. Which just means you're going to get that much angrier when you're stuck behind some old biddy doing 53 in the passing lane.
How this law could be better: Anybody caught driving under the speed limit will be forced off the road "Mad Max" style and have their picture added to an online database of Worst People in The World.
Ryan Jackson is a legal scholar at the Institute of Googling Stuff, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.