New laws

Is government too intrusive?

Michael Reilley’s vexation over government regulations isn’t a new thing. The Chico insurance agent can name countless local, state and federal rules he considers unnecessary, some of them dating to the early ‘80s.

Just last month, he took to the City Council Chambers to protest a proposed ordinance to ban smokeless-tobacco giveaways in bars. Councilmembers noted Reilley’s impassioned pleas, but he left the meeting unmollified when a majority of the panel voted in favor of what he calls a “nanny law.”

Reilley, 54, decries the expenses associated with such laws. He also points out that many of them are darned near impossible to enforce. But much of his opposition comes down to one basic philosophy: The government shouldn’t have the right to choose what’s in our best interest.

“What’s next? What’s the next thing [government’s] going to say no to?” he asked on the eve of the New Year.

As in every preceding year in memory, California ushered in 2008 with a bevy of new state regulations handed down by our representatives in Sacramento. Some are aimed at keeping us safe—from others and (as Reilley laments) from ourselves.

So which ones make Reilley’s list of laws that give the government too much authority?

Foremost are a handful of traffic laws, although Californians have until July 1 to comply with a couple of them. One will require adults to use a hands-free device when driving and using a cell phone (except during emergencies). The other will make it illegal for minors to use any type of cellular device while driving.

Reilley sees the latter as another way the government is attempting to baby-sit children: “What happened to the good ol’ days when your greatest fear was your parents?”

No doubt, a lot of 16- and 17-year-old drivers are going to be blue about the ban, but not all is lost for teens. Starting immediately, California’s minimum wage jumped 50 cents to $8 an hour, the nation’s second-highest pay rate for its lowest-paid workers (after Washington state).

A new ban on smoking with kids in the car also hit the books. Senate Bill 7 is effective immediately and makes lighting up anything but incense illegal if minors are there, too. Break the law and you might be looking at a $100 fine.

Reilley has never been a smoker, and he didn’t show up to that Dec. 18 City Council meeting because of any affiliation with a bar or nightclub. Typically, he watches meetings on television from the comfort of his home near Lower Bidwell Park. But on occasion, he’ll jump into his car and head downtown to see that local officials don’t overstep their boundaries.

Protecting kids is admirable, but Reilley is confident parents already know smoking is unhealthy. He’d like to know what good a ban in automobiles is going to do when the same parents invariably will smoke at home.

Reilley notes he’s not against everything that heads through the Legislature, including rules designed to protect property. He’s just adamantly opposed to any of the many regulations he says chip away at various freedoms and personal responsibility.

“They’re going to catch up [with us] sooner or later,” he said.