In the comments to my recent piece on the new babysitter legislation on its way to becoming law in California, co-blogger Tom Van Dyke mentioned that Gov. Jerry Brown “has a righteous spark.” The very next day, Gov. Brown proved him right by vetoing a ridiculous bill (yes, it made it through both houses of this state’s dysfunctional legislature) that would have criminalized child skiing and snowboarding without state-approved headgear. In his veto message, Gov. Brown reminded his fellow Democrats in the state legislature the limits of lawmaking:
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 105 without my signature.
This measure would impose criminal penalties on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents if the child skis or snowboards without a helmet.
While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.
I believe parents have the ability and responsibility to make good choices for their children. [Emphasis added.]
The bill had been introduced by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, the lawmaker who earlier this year proposed making it illegal for businesses in the state to require its employees to speak any specific language. I wrote about that proposal here. Gov. Brown vetoed that bill, too.
Cleaning up the inning, Gov. Brown also vetoed a measure to increase base fines for using a cell phone while driving by $50 on the first offense and $100 on subsequent offenses. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the measure “would have brought the total penalty to $328 for the first offense and $528 for subsequent offenses. It also would have applied to bicyclists, but with lower penalties.”
As participants in our previous discussion recall, I noted the same wrongheaded yet pervasive approach to lawmaking that Gov. Brown criticizes in his veto message. Specifically, while we can agree that most proposed laws have in mind the enforcement of some nice-sounding objective, the law is not an appropriate instrument to achieve every such objective. To the (surprising) number of you who defended the babysitting bill, then, I want to know your response to Gov. Brown here. Do you agree with his vetoes of these bills? If you agree, how does the basis for that agreement square with your support for the babysitter law?