Editor’s Note: A guest post from John Mason, candidate for Louisiana House District 80 – and a believer that law is best measured in quality, not quantity.
You’ve all heard the old adage “there ought to be a law!” You generally hear it immediately after someone does something stupid, outrageous, or really offensive. But is that really true? How many volumes do the Louisiana statutes are there? Well, one prominent law publisher sells the complete 15 volume set of annotated Louisiana statutes for $13,443. That might be a bit out of reach for the average Louisiana citizen.
Let’s take a light-hearted look at this year’s laws as well as some of the strangest laws from yesteryear. We’ll start with the just concluded 2019 Louisiana legislative session.
It’s Not Getting Any Better, Folks
How many laws did the 2019 Louisiana Legislature pass, and how long did it take them? Let’s answer the second question first. Article III, Section 2(A)(4) states that legislative sessions in odd-numbered years should meet no more than 45 days, although those 45 days may be spread out over a 60 day period.
The Shreveport Times has an article describing some of the 260 laws that took effect on August 1, 2019. You read that right, 260 laws were passed over 45 days. This doesn’t even count the laws that were vetoed! That means that our representatives and senators at the State Capitol were busy generating 5.77 new laws per day!
Do we really need this many laws?!
Most of us struggle to follow the ten commandments, and we can fit those on an index card. Nonetheless, our intrepid Louisiana legislators are busy churning out 5.77 new laws per day. Something tells me that we’re going to need another volume right quick, because 15 volumes just won’t be enough.
Do Laws Ever Die?
There are several articles, including the one I just linked above, about this year’s 260 new laws. New laws are constantly born, but do they ever die? The answer is yes, but it’s extremely rare for a law to be removed from the books. Legislators are happy to create new ones, but loathe to cull those that are obsolete and/or illegal. You’re probably wondering what I mean by illegal. Well, some of the laws on the books are clearly unconstitutional, and therefore illegal. I’ll show you an example later in this article.
By refusing to remove obsolete and/or illegal laws, they continue to clutter the law books and legal databases. Worse, these obsolete laws encourage all level of government to just ignore them. They’re simply not enforced. This is really scary, folks. Do you want to live in a society where the GOVERNMENT decides which laws should be enforced and which should be ignored? I know I don’t. A law should be enforced or repealed. The government doesn’t get to decide which laws it likes, at least not in the United States.
“Gems” from Yesteryear
There are many websites that list laws that are labelled “obsolete”, or “weird”, or “funny” or “strange”. Most of the laws I’ll describe here are on multiple websites, but I will generally credit only one site. Let’s take a look at some “gems” that need to be repealed. The first law is clearly unconstitutional, and regardless of whether you find it funny or offensive or somewhere in between, it’s time for it to go. In New Orleans it’s illegal for a woman to drive a car UNLESS her husband runs in front of it, waving a red flag! Can you honestly say this law should not be repealed with a straight face?
Here’s a good one: it’s illegal to have a goatee, unless you’ve paid a licensing fee for the privilege of wearing one in public. Even worse (at least if you’re a liberal), is that I’m sure this law was only meant to apply to men or “male biologicals” or whatever we’re calling the masculine gender in 2019.
Here’s are a couple of gems from Jefferson Parish, which I hope to change if I’m elected. All garbage must be cooked before it is fed to hogs. Apparently this one was motivated by health concerns. Minors may not enter businesses with coin-operated foosball machines unless accompanied by an adult. It’s hard for me to read that without chuckling. Clearly foosball machines are destroying the moral character of our youths!
There’s a $500 fine and/or six months in prison if you order a pizza and have it delivered to a residence without the occupants of the residence knowing about it. Louisiana wants every pizza to be a planned and wanted pizza, apparently. This isn’t the worst law in the world, but shouldn’t it apply to most goods and services. If someone orders electronic equipment to be billed and delivered to you without your consent, isn’t that pretty much the same thing? Shouldn’t there be one uniform law, without needing an exception for pizza?
In Sulphur, Louisiana, it’s against the law to use obscenities on the telephone. While you can certainly understand the sentiment behind this law, it’s both vague and unenforceable. The government gets to determine what an obscenity is, then it gets to spend all of its time ticketing and enforcing this.
In New Orleans it’s illegal to throw condoms from a Mardi Gras float, but this is apparently legal in parades in Jefferson Parish, which bills its celebration as “Family Gras”. It’s also illegal to practice voodoo in New Orleans, unless it’s for religious purposes. Logically, this means that there are those who practice voodoo for non-religious reasons.
Conclusion – Dangerous or All in Good Fun?
I encourage you to do your own research. There are over twenty articles on strange/funny/odd/archaic Louisiana laws. They’re all meant to make you think and shake your head, but it doesn’t take much thinking to realize that letting these laws continue to rot while still being law is bad public policy. It allows the government to selectively enforce laws while simultaneously sending a message to the public that some laws can safely be ignored. Neither of these is a good thing for society.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get rid of some of the dead wood and cull the revised statutes down to a measly 14 volumes? Clearly that would be much easier to digest than 15.