The first thing you have to understand about how the Maine Legislature works is:

It doesn’t.

And it isn’t supposed to.

If it did and it was, legislators would pass even more boneheaded laws. Fortunately, the drafters of our state’s Constitution were aware some 189 years ago of the tendency of alleged representatives of the popular will to demonstrate their commitment to the public welfare by overtaxing, over-regulating and overcoming the restraints of common sense. To limit the potential damage from their elected leaders’ susceptibility to stupidity, redundancy and meddlesomeness, our founders wisely inserted clauses in our fundamental law that make it difficult for them to do much of anything.

For instance, buried in the language of Article IX, Section 4, Locker 3A, Deposit Box M-109C is this sentence:

“Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Constitution, the Legislature shall never approve nor the Governor sign into law any bill, resolve or expression of sentiment sponsored by clunkheads like Democratic state Rep. Alan Casavant of Biddeford.”

For many years, constitutional scholars debated the meaning of this passage, since neither Democrats nor Alan Casavant had been invented yet. The general consensus was that the authors of this great document had been engaging in a practice defined by the legal term “screwing off after having a few too many at Ye Olde Ale House.”

Only in the 21st century can we see the wisdom that resided beneath those powdered wigs and lice-riddled scalps. For in 2009, the aforementioned Casavant introduced a measure titled “An Act to Prohibit the Force-feeding of Birds.”

Until now, it had never occurred to me to force-feed a bird. But faced with the possible loss of my God-given right to do so, I raced into the yard, grabbed a handful of sunflower seeds and jammed them down the throat of the nearest sparrow.

It felt good to live in a free country.

More so for me than the sparrow, who showed a distinct lack of appreciation for such an unfettered display of liberty.

It was only later that I discovered Casavant’s bill is actually intended to prevent the production of foie gras, which is a gunk-like substance sold in expensive restaurants and served at the point in a meal where less refined diners normally open their second beer and a can of mixed nuts. Foie gras results from force-feeding geese, causing their internal organs to get all weird. You can’t make it using sparrows and sunflower seeds. Although engaging in forcing the latter into the former still might cause you to run afoul (or is that – heh heh – “a fowl”) of the law.

Nowhere in the proposed legislation does it explain why those who object to this practice (many of them, no doubt, geese) could not achieve their objective simply by refusing to purchase foie gras and boycotting establishments that sell it. This method has already proved effective in keeping menus in Maine free of roast tenderloin of dog or braised cat chops in a garlic-cream reduction.

The new Legislature will also have to confront a bill that conflicts with the constitutional provision found in Meat Locker 3, Compartment Y2K, Package X and which reads, “What is it with those people from Biddeford, anyway?” Democratic state Rep. Paulette Beaudoin of that city has introduced legislation titled “An Act to Amend the Laws Regarding Public Rest Rooms,” which prohibits the force-feeding of birds in bathrooms.

Oh, wait. I’m informed that practice had previously been banned in an attempt to halt the spread of avian flu. Beaudoin’s bill would require that public restrooms provide disposable seat covers. Wouldn’t it be simpler to make failing to clean up the splatter a felony?

Democratic state Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland (which isn’t that far from Biddeford) is the sponsor of “An Act to Prohibit Air Bag Fraud.” If this passes, politicians would be legally enjoined from making campaign promises. I like the idea, even if it, too, is a little questionable constitutionally.

Given the severity of the budget crisis the Legislature faces, it’s no surprise that several lawmakers have submitted rule changes that would limit the number of bills to be considered this session. One proposal would allow only legislation that “makes a lick of sense.” Another plan would ban “anything I don’t like.” A third reform rejects measures “deemed to have been dreamed up by boobs,” although that rule includes an exemption for bills submitted by the governor.

There’s little likelihood these efforts will succeed. Already, proposed statutes outlawing everything from cell-phone use in cars to smoking on beaches at state parks are making their ways to committees. But those hoping for a more focused session can take solace in knowing there’s one measure that won’t be clogging up the system.

Whatever else taxpayers have to endure, they won’t be subjected to a bill rescinding their legislators’ recent pay raise.

It’s still legal to e-mail me at [email protected] But for how long?


Facebook comments