Symbolic Laws Waste Taxpayer Cash, Detract From Real Issues


Democratic State Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Kentucky should probably avoid a career in comedy or satire.

During the week of Feb. 8, Marzian introduced a state bill that would require men to have signed permission slips from their wives in order to get Viagra prescriptions filled. Then men would have to swear on a Bible that they'd only use their Viagra prescriptions for sex with their spouses.

"The point is to illustrate how intrusive and ridiculous it is for elected officials to be inserting themselves into private and personal medical decisions," Marzian told Reuters, according to CBS News.

Marzian doesn't like Kentucky's so-called "informed consent" legislation, which requires women seeking abortions to consult with doctors at least 24 hours before the procedure. The law requires doctors to perform ultrasound and "describe" the images to their pregnant patients.

Point taken.

But it's worth noting that the informed consent legislation was drawn up and sponsored by a woman, Republican State Rep. Julie Raque Adams. It's also worth asking where Marzian got the notion that all men are her ideological enemies when it comes to reproductive rights.

Marzian admits her bill "will not see the light of day in a legislative committee meeting any time soon," as she put it in a column for

What it will do is waste state resources, waste the time of state legislators, rankle legislators who might otherwise support Marzian, and needlessly offend Christians who view the Bible as a sacred object, not a prop for humorless jokes about reproductive rights.

Marzian may end up hurting her cause instead of helping it, especially because her joke bill sounds more like a protest against Sharia law than the informed consent bill. Permission slips and spousal approval rules conjure images of women in Saudia Arabia who can't leave their houses without their husbands, not doctors describing clinically neutral facts during a check-up.

Most of all, Marzian's legislative joke illustrates the futility and waste of symbolic legislation.

Republicans wasted an estimated $50 million in taxpayer dollars on futile attempts to repeal Obamacare, according to CBS News. Congressional Republicans knew they did not have the Senate votes to repeal the president's health care reform, but they did it anyway -- 37 times.

Those efforts consumed weeks of congressional floor time, delaying real legislation in addition to wasting money. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that repeal efforts across the board -- not just related to Obamacare -- would cost American taxpayers $109 billion over a decade.

One hundred and nine billion dollars, so that politicians can grandstand, pretend they're getting things done, and tell voters how they rolled up their sleeves and made tough stands against legislation they opposed.

In fact, that's really what symbolic legislation is all about: Politicians trying to make themselves look good. Often, they're no-brainers that lawmakers can tout when election season comes around. Lawmakers can pat themselves on the back and give themselves props in campaign literature for passing bills making it illegal to fold the American flag a certain way, or expressing solidarity with child abuse victims, but do those laws actually accomplish anything?

Some of the more ridiculous bills include Washington State's "Undiscovered Species Protection Act," which protects the rights of hypothetical, crypto-zoological animals like Bigfoot, notes. A Missouri law forbids people from giving beer to elephants, according to Business Insider. A New Mexico law specifies that "idiots" can't vote in state elections. In Florida, you could be fined $1,000 for participating in dwarf tossing. Down in Georgia, it's illegal to ride llamas. Hoarders in Illinois suffered a setback when lawmakers there made it illegal to possess more than $600 worth of salamanders.

And Idaho apparently has a cannibalism epidemic, because a 1990 law expressly forbids people in the state from eating other humans -- unless it's a life or death situation.

Kentucky's Marzian was trying to make an ideological point with her proposed law, a more noble cause than Utah's ban on firing missiles at public buses. But all symbolic legislation amounts to waste, and as the Congressional Budget office's $109 billion legislative waste estimate proves, it's not chump change.

Lawmakers should stick to the serious, and leave the jokes to comedians.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Business Insider, SalonCBS News (2), The Hill, / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (2)

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