New laws more likely to add problems than solve them

Somebody should pass a law prohibiting any new laws from being passed. That makes a lot more sense than actions our local governmental entities have taken in recent weeks.

The city of Clovis has outlawed wildlife — prairie dogs, specifically — on private property. Curry County is taking steps to drive electronic cigarette smokers from public buildings. And the city of Portales enacted an ordinance prohibiting the sale and possession of “synthetic marijuana,” which was already illegal under state law.

Is it likely the ordinances will improve the quality of lives in the Clovis-Portales area? Not a chance.

Is it likely our already-overflowing court systems will become more congested? Guaranteed.

The stated goals of some of these new/proposed rules is admirable.

Smoking synthetic materials can lead to serious health problems, for example. But defining “synthetic marijuana” under the law can be as difficult as convincing adventurous teenagers not to huff gas fumes in search of “high.”

Shall we ban gas?

Clovis’ prairie dog ordinance is intended to protect neighbors who don’t have or desire a prairie dog population, but it also violates fundamental rights of private property ownership. And city leaders’ plan of enforcement is just as troubling: They’ll only act if someone complains.

Our local attorneys must be drooling at the prospects for litigation related to selective law enforcement, mostly against poor people who cannot afford to live in a city with so many laws.

But Curry County’s plan, announced last week at a commission meeting, to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public buildings just might be the most bizarre.

Effects of the smoking-cessation devices on users are not yet known, but who else could possibly be harmed by vapor that has no odor, no known environmental impact, and dissipates in seconds?

Did a tobacco smoker pitch a fit? That’s like banning alcoholic drinks from the workplace — then banning lemonade and water, too, so everyone gets treated fair.

The fundamental problem with laws, municipal ordinances and other formal “rules” is they’re not obeyed by their intended targets anyway, while the rest of us are inconvenienced and sometimes harmed.

Synthetic marijuana sellers will be more creative with packaging or simply conduct business in an unregulated dark alley; e-cig smokers can just close their office doors or hide out in bathroom stalls when they’re supposed to be working; and private property owners who become victims of prairie dog infestation and cannot afford to resolve the problem will just have to leave town.

Did we mention the city helped create the prairie dog problem by failing to control the population on its own properties for years?

Minor problems can become major problems when government steps up to the control panel.

If the goals are to create black-market environments, discourage tobacco addicts from redirecting bad habits, and warning prospective property owners that the heavy hand of government comes with the garden space, our public entities are doing a great job.

If the goals are enabling liberty and encouraging self-responsibility, our elected officials should stop making dumb laws.

 

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and Editor David Stevens.

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