Wednesday, September 24, 2003
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Half Measures and Half-Wits
By RAY HAYNES
(The writer represents the 66th Assembly District, which includes portions of western Riverside County and northern San Diego County.)
My daughter hates to clean her room. When my wife tells her to clean it up, she begins a ritual that starts with temper tantrums, moves to blaming (mostly her sister for messing up her room), to a series of half measures, like picking up one or two pieces of clothing, and claiming she is done. The ritual finally ends when she resigns herself to the inevitable and finishes the job.
This Legislature is in serious need of adult supervision, and my daughterís story is an example of how this yearís legislative session was more of a childish temper tantrum than a serious effort at solving the problems of the state.
There were three major issues that needed serious attention by the Legislature this year: (a) a fix of Meganís Law, the law which is supposed to protect people from child molesters living in their neighborhood, which was scheduled to expire at the end of the year; (b) serious workersí compensation reform; and (c) a major reform of the unfair business practices act, the law which allows lawyers to troll for lawsuits, and specifically allowed the Trevor Law Group in Beverly Hills to extort millions of dollars from small businesses in Southern California under the guise of ďprotecting consumers.Ē The Legislature chose to follow my daughterís ritual of temper tantrums and half measures rather than fixing the problems.
The current Meganís Law contains several defects. First, today, the list is maintained by zip code, which means that parents cannot get information about a child molester in their neighborhood, only in their zip code. Second, the information is now available only at the local police station, not on the Internet. Not very useful to the thousands of working parents who canít drop into the police station during business hours to find out if their child is in danger. Finally, the current system has allowed thousands of molesters to avoid the list, once again diminishing the effectiveness of the list to parents who actually want to protect their children.
Republicans tried to fix these problems. Republicans had said they would not accept half measures in a Meganís Law fix, since the current law was not working. Democrats had been trying to kill Meganís Law, and are now blaming Republicans for its failure. To accomplish that feat, Democrats made the law a two-thirds vote bill, a totally unnecessary move, since the current law doesnít expire until January 1. Republicans refused to go along with just an extension of an ineffective law. It simply was not enough.
The same scenario occurred with workersí compensation and unfair business practices reform. Those two laws have been cited as the two major reasons why businesses are leaving this state in droves. Real reform would require the Democrats to abandon their trial lawyer masters, and streamline the system to take out the fraud. First, they denied there was any fraud (like my daughter saying her room isnít messy). Then they passed half measures claiming they fixed the system (like my daughter picking up some of the mess). Lastly they accused the Republicans of playing politics when Republicans voted no on those bills (itís my sisterís fault).
In each of these cases, the Democrats didnít want to do anything. In the case of Meganís Law, it was because they claim it encourages ďvigilantismĒ (as if a parent trying to protect their child from harm is a vigilante). In the case of workersí compensation and unfair business practices, they needed to protect the income of their trial lawyer contributors. Nobody in the capitol today has the authority and the willingness to provide the adult supervision the Democrats need. Like my daughter, the Democrats need to resign themselves to the inevitable. But somebody else has to step up and show them that their temper tantrums and half measures wonít work. If the voters of this state donít hold their representatives accountable and force them to do their job right, it wonít get done.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company