Last week, 11 Arizona state senators took the bold stance to show that they believe it is the inalienable right of all people to be potentially deadly assholes.
I'm sorry; I promised my wife I wouldn't cuss in my column, but I can't think of another word to describe people who would compose, type, send and/or receive text messages while operating a 3,000-pound automobile on a public road at a high (or any) rate of speed.
These texters aren't multitasking; they're not participating in some social network. They're trying to kill somebody, and they're too stupid and self-absorbed to realize it. But they should be happy to know that 11 state senators from Arizona have their backs. Yes, these senators want you texters to keep at it. (As a former teammate of mine used to misstate the Michael Jackson lyric, "Don't stop 'til you hit a cop.")
I've been around, and I know how things work. I understood the motivation back when cell-phone industry lobbyists used to fight any and all legislation that would have painted their product in a negative light or limited its use in any way. I also understood why certain legislators—especially those who resided deep between the butt cheeks of the aforementioned lobbyists—voted the way they did.
But the cell-phone lobbyists, fearful of huge lawsuits, have done a complete 180 on the issue, yet some legislators have been slow to catch up. Maybe they don't want to appear like flip-floppers. Maybe the lobbyists cut back on the campaign juice. Or (God help us!) maybe a couple of them even believe the nonsense they've been spewing.
After the bill failed in an 11-11 vote, the bill's sponsor, District 26 Republican Al Melvin, used a legislative maneuver to resurrect the bill. So it still has a chance despite the best efforts of 11 senators.
The most vocal opponent of Senate Bill 1334 is one Ron Gould, of Lake Havasu City. (You should go online and check out his picture. He looks like that guy D-Day from Animal House, the one who built the Deathmobile near the end of the movie.) He says that it's simply "feel-good legislation" and won't have any impact. He likened texting to drinking a Big Gulp or eating a burrito.
OK, Sen. Gould, how 'bout this? Let's say Snidely Whiplash (whom you will resemble when you get a bit older) has nabbed your three kids—Junior, Robbie and Rachael—and tied them down in the middle of three different roads. Each is being approached by a car driven at a uniform rate of speed. It's a clear day, and any driver with decent reflexes and a modicum of attention being paid would be able to stop in time.
The first driver is taking a sip out of a fountain drink. The second is taking a bite out of a burrito. The third is using both hands and both eyes to send a text message. Do you really believe that all three of your kids have the exact same expectation of getting out of that situation unscathed? If you do, then you're an idiot.
I do agree with Gould on one thing: The proposed $50 fine is a joke. It should be at least $500 for the first offense, and the confiscation of the car for a month or more for the second offense. Don't jack around.
I can hear the libertarians whining about revenue enhancements and using the fine as a regressive tax to punish the poor. Well, a tax isn't regressive or otherwise if it can be completely avoided. If I don't want to pay a luxury tax on the purchase of a yacht, I won't buy a yacht. If I don't want to pay a wallet-busting fine for texting while driving ... (I'm betting that even Sen. Gould could finish that sentence).
Russell Pearce of Mesa, who is afraid of every person with skin darker than Nicole Kidman's, also thinks it's OK to text while driving. Why else would he vote the way he did? He claims that the law would be "unenforceable." If that's a criterion, why are there laws against underage drinking? Or drunk driving? Or smoking crack? Or being Hispanic in Arizona? (Wait! That's not against the law ... yet.)
No law is completely enforceable. But some laws should be on the books just so parents can tell their knucklehead kids that something is against the law. Some should be on the books to show that legislators are looking out for the best interest of the people. Some should be on the books just so people won't feel a compulsion to take the law into their own hands.
Anyway, the 11 who don't give a damn about you at all are Republicans Pearce, Gould, Sylvia Allen, Linda Gray, Steve Pierce, Thayer Verschoor, David Braswell, Jack W. Harper, Bob Burns and Chuck Gray, along with Democrat Manny Alvarez.
Tucsonan Paula Aboud, who voted against the bill last time, improved her position by not showing up to vote at all this time.
The votes were taken in a legislative contrivance known as Committee of the Whole, meaning that the entire Senate votes on whether to pass the bill along for a vote by ... the entire Senate. Don't ask.
Among the Committee of the Whole is a sub-group of the aforementioned 11. They make up the Committee of the 'holes.