Tag Archives: dumb laws

Friday Regulation Roundup

Some of the stranger governmental goings-on I’ve dug up recently:

-Since 1960, it has been illegal to fly a kite in Schaumburg, Illinois.

-If you are a tree in need of help, the federal government has a Tree Assistance Program.

$18,881 of stimulus money spent on a single sign in Wyoming.

-Concerned about your fecundity? Consult the federal government’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee.

-Northern Arizona University spends $75,000 in stimulus funds to install electronic sensors to see if students skip class.  (hat tip to The Wall Street Journal‘s Kim Schatz)

-In Alabama, it is against the law to sell artificially colored potatoes.

-Need help with your math homework? Consult the government’s North American Numbering Council.

-In Yukon, Oklahoma, it is illegal for a patient to pull a dentist’s tooth.


Regulation of the Day 136: Off the Record

If you work for the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a regulation requires you to keep records of your off-the-record communications.

Which means off-the-record communications aren’t really off the record.

In fact, 18 CFR 385.2201(b) requires FERC to post a notice in the Federal Register whenever this happens. There was one today, for example. It’s public!

Which brings up the following conundrum: if FERC policy is that off-the-record communications are actually on the record, then there are no off-the-record communications. Therefore, regulations applying to off-the-record communications are at best redundant , because there are no off-the-record comments.

Oh, never mind.

Regulatory Problem, Regulatory Solution?

A dying patient in the UK’s NHS made the news after nurses refused to bring him a glass of water, despite his repeated begging. He died soon after of pneumonia. It really is a terrible story.

Had that poor soul lived in Arizona, he might not have had that problem. In that fine state, it is against the law to refuse someone a glass of water if you have any to spare.

As the U.S. slowly but surely hands its health care sector over to government, and NHS horror stories repeat themselves on this side of the Atlantic, this may become a more pressing issue than one would expect.

This Is an Actual Law

Texas state law states that “When two railroad trains meet at a crossing, each shall stop and neither shall proceed until the other has passed.”*

Sometimes, I think legislators are just messing with us.

*Robert Wayne Pelton, Loony Laws, p. 2.

Regulation of the Day 130: Roommates

In New York City, it is illegal for four or more unrelated people to live together. At least 15,000 New York homes openly flout the rule.

The ranks of lawless hooligans cut across lines of class and race. According to the New York Times, violators “include young actors and ponytailed post-graduates; rising and falling junior investment bankers; immigrants, legal and illegal; and trend-obsessed residents in Brooklyn neighborhoods.”

The Times also interviewed a young film star who lives with five other people. He is not related to any of them.

People break the regulation to save money on rent. Given the cost of living in New York, this is a smart and prudent way to save money. It also leaves more housing left over for others, which helps to drive down housing costs.

Even better, if enough people pool their resources, they can afford to live in a larger home in a nicer neighborhood than they could pay for alone.

The city has the good sense to rarely enforce the rule – just three times since July, according to the Times. This is good. What would be better is to repeal it. When a law is almost universally regarded as counterproductive, not only should go unenforced, it should go away.

Regulation of the Day 129: Droves of Animals on Streets

Washington, DC city law states that “No loose herd or flock shall be driven or conducted in the District, except with a permit issued by the Chief of Police.” (See District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, Title 24, Chapter 9, Sec. 906.10.)

Many, many years ago, Washington was a pretty rural place. There were even farms in the Northwest and Southeast quadrants of the city. This was before the automobile, and well before the federal workforce climbed into the millions. But a lot of these old laws are still on the books. Nobody seems to have thought to get rid of them.

Other animal herding laws in DC include:

-No droves of mules or horses larger than six animals are allowed. (906.6)

-However, “Horned cattle may be led singly by a rope or halter through any of the streets in the District.” (906.8). That includes K Street, Constitution Avenue, and every other street in the District, great or small (Note to self: this might be worth trying someday).

-As with cars, the driving age for herds is 16. (906.12)

-A drove of sheep crossing a bridge must have at least six drovers. (906.4)

-It is illegal to “water, feed, or clean any horse, mule, cow, or other animal” within 15 feet of a fire hydrant. The same rule apples to cars.(906.13)

(Hat tip: Marc Scribner)

Regulation of the Day 128: Bounty Hunters

You need a license to be a bounty hunter in New Jersey. You can apply by clicking here.

The license comes with a cool bounty hunter identification card that you must keep on your person whenever you’re on the job.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are lots of hoops to jump through first. For one, you need valid photo ID. And you need to pass a criminal background check, and give five character references.

You must also have at least five years of experience in either bounty hunting, law enforcement, or a related field. No one under the age of 25 may be a bounty hunter.

The license fee costs $300; biennial renewal costs $200.

You also need to take a 2-day, 16-hour bounty hunter training course at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville. Topics covered range from Constitutional law to proper boundaries on the use of force.

If you want to hire a secretary or other administrative worker, that employee has to register with the New Jersey State Police and go through a background check at his or her own expense. If the employee quits or is fired, you have to let the state know within ten days.

If you can get through all that, happy hunting!