Who says civics can't be fun?

A View Askew

Posted: Sunday, March 02, 2008

In this day and age of the Internet, teleconferences and e-mail alerts, it is easier than ever to keep fully informed and up-to-date on what's going on in the Alaska Legislature.


Scandals aside, I generally find the Legislature to be much more exciting when I'm only partially paying attention. That makes it easier to indulge in my birthright as an Alaskan gripe first, ask questions later. (Not to be confused with our other birthright considering Carhartts and plaid flannel to be appropriate for any occasion.)

Just skimming through the list of bills being wrangled over is a constant source of entertainment, for the wording of the abbreviated titles alone. My favorites so far this session:

* SB 211 Aggravating Factor: Homelessness. Well, duh. I've fortunately always had a hovel to call home, but I would imagine not having one would indeed be aggravating. Perhaps next session we'll see SB 311 Annoyance: Back Itches You Can't Quite Reach. Or SB 411 Seriously Obnoxious: Pizza Boys Radio Advertisements. And I can't wait for SB 511 Really Freaking Irritating: When There's Only One Checker And You Finally Get To Be Next In Line When The Person Checking Out Announces They Left Their Wallet In The Car.

* HJR 30 Disapproving Ketchikan Annexation. If Ketchikan garners official state disapproval over annexation, just think what would happen if it brought home a boyfriend with a nose ring. And God forbid it decides to drop out of law school to pursue a career as a dried flower arranger.

* HB 280 Automated Telephone Solicitation: Robocall. I don't even have a joke about this one. I just like the term "Robocall."

* HB 219 Light Bulb Energy Use. I'll take care of this one right now: Yes, light bulbs use energy. Ask Thomas Edison. Now let's all move on with life.

* SB 181 Anatomical Gifts. Otherwise known as: Oh, gee, you shouldn't have. No, you really shouldn't have. Seriously, a card would have been just fine ...

Bills like these lose their humor when you find out what they actually pertain to, because they usually have something to do with, like, helping people.

I hate it when that happens.

Luckily, other bills just get funnier when you research them. For instance:

* HB 283 Purple Heart Trail. As it turns out, this bill proposes renaming the Alaska Highway and part of the Richardson Highway as the Purple Heart Trail. I have nothing against veterans or naming things in honor of them, but I don't think associating a highway with a medal given for sustaining life-threatening injuries does much to promote the image of transportation safety. If it passes, we might as well rename the section of Sterling Highway right by Gwin's Lodge as Coroner's Corner, or the stretch of the Seward along the cliffs between Anchorage and Girdwood as The Widowmaker. The tourism industry would looooove that.

Then there are the bills filed under the category of Somebody Needs A Hobby:

* HB 387 Distribution of Telephone Books. This bill would only allow a utility to distribute one telephone directory per household. Is this really a problem? Is someone out there regularly getting 40 phone books? Or even five? Even if you are, how cranky do you have to be to tie up legislators with a law restricting phone book distribution? Just give the extras to a college student needing to construct dorm furniture, or a kid trying to reach the candy stash in the top cupboard. Use 'em for target practice. Fill a pothole. Recycle. Tear out the pages and wrap up an anatomical gift. Something.

Then there's my personal favorite, which is a strong candidate for Lamest Bill of the Year:

* HB 51 Recorking Wine Served After A Meal. If passed, this bill would allow a diner to take a partially drunk bottle of wine home with them from a restaurant if the cork is reinserted in the bottle by restaurant personnel in such a way that the cork can only be removed again with a corkscrew or similar device.

Really. This is an actual bill. I swear. Profusely, in fact, at whatever $#&*@% thought this was a worthwhile use of government time and resources when there are actual matters of importance facing our state.

If you want to have wine with dinner but don't want to drink a whole bottle, then just order a glass. If you want wine at the restaurant and more later at home, then stop at a liquor store and buy a bottle. Some brands go for $6. Ask Lindsay Lohan, she'll recommend a few varieties if you're really so cheap you think this needs to be a law.

Of course, this bill is a sign of progress. Dirty bastards turning skinflint is a sure sign Bill Allen is no longer footing the bill at restaurants.

Jenny Neyman is a freelance writer living in Soldotna. She can be reached at jennyneyman@gmail.com.

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