Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cuz lawmakers don't have real problems to address?

My colleague Steve Sebelius, editor of Las Vegas CityLife, is really excited today over something the Legislature is working on. I want to believe he's kidding, but he seems to be sincerely elated over Assembly Bill 257.

What, you ask, does AB257 do? Does it resolve the state's massive budget crisis? No! Does it address such rampant social challenges as teen pregnancy, mental illness, unemployment, workplace safety, school overcrowding, homeless children or gambling addiction? No, no, no, no, no, no and no! Does it make it so that Miles and I can be legally obligated to nag at one another for the rest of our earthly days? No again!

AB257 -- and I'm not making this up much as I wish I were -- makes it a misdemeanor to take more than 10 copies of a free publication if the intent is "(1) profit by recycling the newspaper; (2) sell or barter the newspaper; (3) deprive others of the opportunity to read the newspaper; or (4) harm a business competitor." It's a thought crime based on a California law! The punishment could be a $250 fine.

We at the crack staff of VegasHappensHere.Com have yet to investigate how much revenue the Golden State is pulling down from such stupidity, but I'll bet Mr. Sebelius a steak dinner it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $0.00.

This is a joke, you think. Me, too, but no, there are 13 got-nothing-better-to-do Assembly members co-sponsoring this bill, which is probably called the Pussy Legislators Sucking Up To The Alternative Press Act. (I have to make an airport run in a few minutes or I'd come up with a clever acronym.) One who isn't co-sponsoring it, I'm proud to say, is my own rep, Mark Manendo. No, Manendo is too busy trying to pass a law requiring grass, not desert landscaping, at veterans' cemeteries. We're all so proud.

So tell me, geniuses and Mr. Sebelius, are cops going to be on hand to count out the number of copies someone has taken and write tickets? And does it apply to the porn stuff pictured here?

Because, really, I want my police busy doing something so idiotic. Or will someone fixed on take lots of something allegedly "free" stop themselves by thinking, "Aww, shit, some moron in Carson City actually passed a law against this and I could be out 250 clams if I do this. Maybe I'll go take fistfuls of straws from Jack in the Crack instead."

Oh! Oh! Oh! Also, this proposed law NOW only applies to "free" publications, but it's a slippery slope! You know, like letting Miles and me marry will lead to men trying to marry their beloved flat-screen TVs and women wedding Manolos and 10-year-olds of both gender marrying Jonas Brothers posters and there goes the culture! After they ban taking 10+ copies of the Jewish Reporter or Q Vegas, will they start legislating how many of those candies I can have at my dry cleaner? Or how about napkins at Arby's? Or how long I can sit on that sofa at RC Willey?

OMG. This IS brilliant! There are whole new revenue streams just waiting to be tapped! Woo hoo! Budget deficit solved!

Or maybe we can put a sign on the boxes that says, "Please only take one." Then maybe our esteemed lawmakers can get back to dealing with actual problems.


Steve said...

Oh, so very clever, Steve, but hardly original. A couple blog comments have already taken the "is this the most important thing they have to do" angle. Which, of course, is not what I said. I didn't CALL for such a bill to be introduced; I merely commented on it once it was.

But allow me to apologize to you, the purveyor of the most serious, news oriented, problem-solving blog in all of Las Vegas. You know, stories such as Donald Trump, Witch Mountain and, of course, the ever-important, really pressing question of whether or not that was actually Montecore the tiger on stage with S&R. Please don't let my blog's focus on the trivial and insignificant detract you from your hard-hitting news mission, OK?


touché, mr s. Except I wasn't mocking the fact that you chose to blog about this so much that your self-interest gave you the impression that an unenforceable law to solve an imaginary problem is worth declaring public glee over. I am not obligated to solve the world's problems or address anything serious at all because, uh, I'm not elected to do so! Hooray for me!

Ps. Congrats on amy kingsley. She's a great addition. Now give her some real space to do what she's capable of. And I mean that in all sincerity.

Todd said...

This law actually address a legitimate issue -- occasionally people trash every issue of a free paper they can find because they dislike one of the articles or want to put a competitor out of business.

Here are some examples:

But because a paper is "free" there is nothing the police can do about it, unless there is a law on the books. I can't imagine the police would try to enforce it unless people started junking hundreds or thousands of copies of a paper, however.

Barry said...

Yes, there are examples where people have wiped out free-newspaper racks to prevent people from reading them. Steve S. cited a couple. There have been a couple in the north, too, including one where a free newspaper did an investigative story on an employee being screwed out of health benefits, and all the copies in the vicinity of the business mysteriously disappeared. Maybe it was just a popular issue ...
In addition to depriving readers, these thefts deprive businesses of the value of the advertising they bought. Maybe they had coupons, a special offer, a sale they were promoting. Free newspapers often cater to specialized audiences, such as minorities, seniors and religious groups.
No, I would not expect police to be patrolling the racks. I would expect a publisher, seeing a major theft or repeated instances, to file a police report.
And no, it doesn't apply to the smut.
— Barry Smith, Nevada Press Association


Well let's see. there are thousands of free publications distributed each week. we're talking millions of individual issues. And of those, there are a handful of examples -- over the course of SEVEN years -- of deliberate theft. yeah, that sounds like a "problem" some politician can build a career on! By the way, the California law evidently didn't help the folks at the Daily Aztec last year, did it? That's because this measure is neither preventative nor enforceable.

Anonymous said...

You know Congress took time out from the financial meltdown to pass to make tomorrow 3/14 Pi day.


Jeff Simpson said...

Hey, Steve. While I agree with you that the Legislature has more important things to do, I agree with Barry and Steve S. that the proposed law would give authorities a tool to protect against those who'd take a whole rack or multiple racks' worth of papers to prevent people from reading them. Of course the police wouldn't patrol newspaper racks, but if someone or some group acted to prevent the distribution of free papers they could be prosecuted. I think it's a worthwhile idea.