May 29, 2014

A state legislative session devoted to “unlegislating”

Filed under: Government, Law — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:56

Our elected officials at all levels of government spend much of their time passing new laws … to the extent that it is no longer possible for an average citizen of a state or province to know what their legal status is on any given issue — it’s been estimated that you’ll commit three felonies a day without ever knowing it. Given that, this session of the Minnesota state legislature has a huge natural attraction:

It’s no longer a crime in Minnesota to carry fruit in an illegally sized container. The state’s telegraph regulations are gone. And it’s now legal to drive a car in neutral — if you can figure out how to do it.

Those were among the 1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature repealed this year as part of the governor’s “unsession” initiative. His goal was to make state government work better, faster and smarter.

“I think we’re off to a very good start,” Dayton said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference.

In addition to getting rid of outdated laws, the project made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language.

“We got rid of all the silly laws,” said Tony Sertich, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board commissioner who headed Dayton’s effort.

Well, not quite all of them. They kept a law on the books that requires state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson to personally capture or destroy any wild boar that gets loose in Minneapolis or St. Paul. Sertich said it’s conceivable that such a critter could wander into the cities.

It would be a good use of any legislature’s time to trim old laws from the books, but that’s not how most politicians view their job, unfortunately.

H/T to Doug Mataconis for the link.


  1. Perhaps we could lobby for new laws to force legislators to spend time in each term removing outdated laws…

    Comment by Liam — May 29, 2014 @ 16:13

  2. Great idea, if every jurisdiction would do this if for only a few days each session it would make life a lot simpler. There would be a few places where it would be the most productive days of the session too.

    Comment by Clive — May 30, 2014 @ 13:05

  3. …we could lobby for new laws…

    I see what you did there.

    Comment by Nicholas — May 30, 2014 @ 13:28

  4. Someone once proposed that the upper house of any bicameral legislature have as its only power the ability to abolish existing laws. While I like the idea in theory, I suspect that given the natural human ability to twist organizations to do things other than what they’re supposed to do, in no time the upper house would be bargaining with the lower house (using the threat of striking down useful laws to get other laws passed). Perhaps I’m being too cynical.

    [Pause for thought.] No, I’m probably still being too optimistic.

    Comment by Nicholas — May 30, 2014 @ 13:33

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress