The nanny state strikes again


    I oppose the nanny state.

    During May 2006, I wrote the following about a bill the governor signed into law that I voted against that forces parents to put their children under the age of eight in booster seats when they ride in motor vehicles.

    "With a stroke of his pen, the Governor expanded the nanny state in Wisconsin by creating an enforcement and logistic nightmare. Under previous Wisconsin law, parents could decide whether their children between the ages of four and eight should be placed in booster seats or seat belts. That was plain old common sense. Under the new law there are several changes. How are police supposed to enforce this? Will every officer and squad car now be equipped with a scale and a tape measure to determine whether Mom and Dad or Grandpa and Grandma are breaking the law? How are parents expected to know or remember the requirements? Will they have to keep a copy of the law in their glove compartment or tucked under the visor? What are large families to do? Baby seats and booster seats are rather bulky. Imagine trying to squeeze two, three, or four of them into one of the new smaller size cars or vans."

    I added the following in an August 2007 column:
    "The many separate requirements by weight and height for each age category are confusing. Burdens are placed upon large families and carpoolers. Booster seats can be expensive and so can the fines for law violators."

    As New York Yankee Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, "It’s déjà vu all over again."

    The state Senate has approved Senate Bill 162 (SB 162) that would require children 10 years and younger on boats to wear flotation devices. The bill originally proposed covering children 12 and under. However, an amendment approved by the state Senate lowered the age requirement to 10 and under.

    SB 162 stipulates that "a person may not operate a recreational boat that is less than 26 feet in length unless, during the time the boat is under way, every person on the boat who is 10 years old or younger is wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) or is in a cabin space or below the deck."

    What does "under way" mean? According to SB 162, "A recreational boat is under way if it is not aground, is not anchored or moored, and is not made fast to a structure or to the shore." In other words, just about any time a youngster is on a boat, a life preserver must be worn.

    There is more.

    The state Senate approved Senate Amendment 1 to the bill that the Wisconsin Legislative Council writes, "provides a specific penalty for a violation of this PFD requirement by the operator of the specified recreational boat. Any person violating this mandatory PFD provision must be issued a warning notice instead of a violation for the first offense. Any person subsequently violating the mandatory PFD provision must forfeit not more than $50 for the second offense and must forfeit not more $100 upon conviction of a third or subsequent offense."

    SB 162 expands current law that simply requires each boat have on it a personal flotation device for each person riding in or on the boat.

    Follow along to see if you have heard this song before. The government intervenes, assuming the role of big brother. New rules and regulations are established. Violators are subject to fines.

    Do you see a pattern? It’s called booster seats for boats or, the nanny state strikes again.
    Everyone supports child safety. However, the state once again takes on the role of thinking for people and the role of decision maker. The state should stay on the sidelines, in this case the shoreline, and allow parents to think for themselves and make common sense decisions about their children’s safety.

    State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents Wisconsin’s 28th Senate District.

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