Has it ever crossed your mind that, besides bickering, stalling, posturing, expostulating, and delaying, what legislators do is, um ... "legislate"? So, what exactly does it mean to "legislate"?
In its most fundamental formulation, to legislate means to make or enact new laws. So while our elected officers may seem incapable of doing very much meaningful work, they do seem to crank out a passel of new laws, many of which become effective with the stroke of the new year.
And so, in honor of our tireless legislators, a smattering of the new laws that the new year heralds in.
If you want to mind your Ps and Qs in the Golden State beginning this January, leash your hound. After Jan. 1, if you allow Fido to chase a bear or bobcat, you might just find yourself 'splainin' before a judge. Birds, however, remain on their own; you can hunt them willy-nilly with the help of man's best friend.
And while we're on the subject of our four-legged friends, no - and I mean absolutely no - releasing feral hogs in Kentucky. If you've been sorely tempted to do so, well you should have had your fun in good ol' 2012. If the urge strikes, you're just going to have to resist.
In New Mexico, you can - at last! - enjoy the pure indulgence of more frequent refills of prescription eye drops. Under the new law, insurance companies cannot deny coverage for a refill requested by a patient if his eye drops run out prematurely.
Hey, Turtle Bus, the writing's on the wall. Beginning this year, in sunny Cal, party bus operators will be held to the same exacting standards as limousine drivers, making them legally responsible for drinking by underage passengers. Yikes. The law is named in honor of the ironically named Brett Studebaker, a 19-year-old who died on his way home in his own car after a night of drinking on a party bus.
In New York, it will now be illegal to sell electronic cigarettes to minors. Retailers who engage in this weird form of e-commerce will be slapped with fines up to a cool thou if caught. For those of you not in the know, e-cigarettes are battery-powered smoke sticks used to inhale vaporized liquid nicotine rather than tobacco smoke. Their candy flavors, critics say, appeal to minors.
Maybe to distract from the travails of the now incarcerated Governor Bloggo, or the embattled Representative Jessie Jackson Jr., law-makers in Illinois, like Santa's elves, have had a busy year. Among the mischief they've been making, you can now include a motorcyclist's right to run a red light (provided he has waited patiently for at least two minutes). New on the books as well in the land of Lincoln is a law that makes it illegal for an employer to ask a job applicant for the passwords to his online social media sites. And, alas, no more shark fin soup for you when you visit the Windy City. Starting now, from Harrisburg to Waukegan, from Rockport to Danville, the trade, sale or distribution of shark fins is strictly verboten. While certainly laudable, one's got to scratch one's head and ask, in this deeply inland state, if this was one of the more pressing problems facing Illinoisans.
OK, a scary one, again from California. Beginning right now, computer driven cars will be allowed to ply the clogged arteries of that state's highways. The one caveat, however, is that an actual human being must be present in the car just in case the self-driven vehicle cops a Hal-like attitude.
Kentucky - always at the leading edge of innovative legislation - has dipped into the deep water of tectonic change. Starting with this year - hold on now - pensions for Confederate soldiers will no longer be available. Really. You can look it up. Maybe, just maybe, our federal legislators will take note and can act as quickly to effect meaningful change to our financial crises.
There are new laws covering everything from barring law enforcement officers from having sex with inmates on their way to prison (really, that didn't exist until this year?), to redefining the term "motor vehicle" to exclude swamp buggies, to increasing unemployment insurance taxes in the state of Georgia.
OK, OK, there are a few new laws that may actually make sense; in Maryland and Maine, same sex couple may now legally tie the knot. Alaska becomes the 31st state to require insurance coverage for autism. Washington is phasing out the use of copper and other heavy metals in brake pads in hopes of reducing water pollution. See, it's not all bad.
All in all, hundreds of new laws find ink in the new year. Some are silly, weird, or just plain "cra." Who knows (in Washington and Colorado anyway) what your legislators may have been smoking when they thunk 'em up?
It's a great big, beautiful, happy new year out there. More than ever, though, you've got to stay on your toes. Even as you read this, Big Brother may be breathing down your neck.
Anyway, I hope it's a good one for you, with lots of freshies and good cheer.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) and seen on ECOTV 18 as host of "Community Focus." Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his e-mail addresses, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.