Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More of the Stoopid

I thought I’d take a brief look at some of the really stupid, idiotic, and downright unbelievable bills that have been introduced in other states. And trust me, there have been some really, really stupid, idiotic, and unbelievable bills introduced. For example, apparently Indiana is not alone in having bills seeking to outlaw cooperation with “Agenda 21 agencies” or calling for nullification of federal laws and the arrest of federal agents. I’m not sure if states other than Indiana are looking to put the right to hunt and raise poultry into their Constitutions and certainly none (that I know of) have attempted to force women seeking chemical abortions to undergo not one but two transvaginal ultrasounds. But legislators in Missouri and Montana have, somehow, managed to out-crazy even the craziest of Hoosier crazies.

My “favorite” bill of the year has to be Missouri House Bill 663. It’s short and sweet (and oh, so crazy):

Any member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States, shall be guilty of a class D felony.

You might want to read that a few times to be sure that you really understand it. Were this bill to pass, an elected Missouri legislator that, for example, offered a bill to outlaw armor piercing bullets or high capacity magazines would be guilty of a felony. Think of it this way: This law would infringe the First Amendment to prevent potential infringement of the Second Amendment. Can you imagine the outcry if a Democratic legislator were to introduce a bill to make it a felony to propose legislation that further restricts a woman’s constitutionally protected right to seek an abortion?

Or we could take this bill to its ridiculous logical endpoint. A majority could pass a law saying that it’s a felony to introduce legislation on subject X and is also a felony to introduce legislation to repeal that legislation. Thus, even were the majority tossed out, the new majority couldn’t repeal legislation that they didn’t like without committing a felony in the process.

Yep. That’s how our democratic legislative process is supposed to work.

And speaking of the democratic process, let’s take a look at Montana House Bill 486 which would grant corporations that own land the right to vote in municipal elections. Well, corporations are people, right? Seriously, though, can you imagine corporations having the right to vote? Never mind that the shareholders of the corporation already have the right to vote. Nope. Apparently, that’s not good enough. The legislator who introduced this bill apparently feels the need to give even more control in the governing process to corporations because, you know, lobbying just isn’t effective enough. Nor is spending enormous amounts of “dark money” to influence elections. Nope. Those pesky citizens just have too much influence and we need to even the playing field for those poor downtrodden corporations. People who live in the municipality illegally, but still pay also sorts of local taxes, couldn’t vote, but corporations could. I’d say that tells us a lot about where values are being placed.

And let’s tease this one out a bit, too. If this bill were to pass, I could probably make some money in Montana. First, I’d buy a tiny, tiny parcel of land in each municipality. Then I’d sell what are known as tenancy in common interests in that parcel to corporations (both from within and outside of Montana). Each parcel could, essentially, have an unlimited number of corporate owners, all of whom would then own real property within the municipality and, thus, apparently, have the right to vote. Cool beans. But what if that wasn’t enough bang for some corporation’s proverbial buck? What if it needed to really be sure that it could control the municipality? Well, if Montana is like Indiana, forming a corporation is actually inexpensive (I think in Indiana the filing fee is still just $90). So why couldn’t Really Big Company create a whole bunch of little shell subsidiaries and “sell” to each of them a tiny percentage in that plot of real estate? Then each of those corporations could cast a vote. So imagine if Really Big Business really wanted a zoning change and needed a particular candidate to get elected. Presuming the filing fee was $90, then for just $1,000,000, Really Big Business could essentially buy itself the right to cast over 11,000 votes. Boom. Done. Plus, as I read the statute, the ultimate owner of the business not only doesn’t have to be from Montana, he or she could even be a foreign national (or the parent company could be a foreign corporation). So just imagine if a Saudi Arabian oil company wanted a zoning change to allow it to start drilling in a rural Montana community…

Yep. That’s how our democratic process is supposed to work. But then corporations are people, right?

Note: Between the time that I started writing this post and the time that I finished it, the Indiana Senate debated and passed legislation calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention. I guess they wanted to recapture the craziest legislature crown.

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