The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


February 16, 2013

Hitch your britches and your car — they're back

The Back Porch column


Thank God the Legislature is back in session. A reporter is never at a loss for a story when the follies convene under the dome.

The boys and girls who serve the people of this great state have been hard at work this session as evidenced by the bills already introduced.

One of the first out of the chute from the House of Delegates is H.B. 2454, which would establish a new law to hold someone criminally responsible for interfering with a member of the Legislature while said person “is engaged in the performance of his or her official duties or on account of such performance.”

The penalty for such interference is a misdemeanor conviction of a $500 fine or 30 days in jail or both.

Well, there’s a law big enough to drive a tractor through. In theory, lawmakers could claim they are always on duty, which gives them carte blanche to have someone arrested under this law.

Say, for example, a legislator is in the next bathroom stall doing his or her “duty” and realizes the toilet paper dispenser is empty. If the person in the adjoining stall refuses to tear off a wad and hand it under the door, that person could be arrested for interfering with the legislator’s “doo-ty.”

Say, for example, a legislator is walking down the street toward a favorite watering hole. A constituent walks up and starts a long story or complaint. The legislator, soon to be “on duty” with other constituents, summons the local constabulary to remove the long-winded person.

Say, for example, a legislator is sitting in a vehicle at a four-way stop and the person on the left does not yield the right-of-way. Woops. Interference. Throw a yellow hanky in the intersection and arrest somebody.

Logic suggests that the bill is to stop legislators from being harassed. Hold on; that comes with the territory. People who don’t want to be harassed shouldn’t run for office.

There’s nothing in the bill, either stated or implied, that’s significant enough and not covered by other laws. This is more good-ol’-boy lawmaking that makes a mockery of the process.

For once, I’d like to see the legislature do something of enough substance that warranted a little old-fashioned interference. Instead, state taxpayers are subjected to this exclusive, protectionist nonsense.

West Virginia’s education system has been nationally labeled subpar, and this is what the House deems worth introducing on the first business day of the session.

If that one isn’t silly enough, try H.B. 2443, which would exempt antique cars from taxes and fees. No wonder this state can’t get ahead. Every time a legislator turns around, he or she wants to exempt somebody or something else’s tax.

The Senate has its own side of silliness.

Here’s an issue that’s been crying for state regulation — hitch tongues. Yes, they are apparently out of control in the Mountain State because some people actually leave them in when their vehicle is not hitched to something. S.B. 156 will stop this heinous practice because vehicles could not be driven or even parked with the tongue attached unless said tongue is busy holding something.

Murder, rape and prescription drug abuse be damned. The new perfect West Virginia crime is to roll over a legislator’s foot while driving a taxed antique car with the hitch tongue in — without a legislator hitched to it.

—Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© Nerissa Young 2013

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