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Alabama ... a nanny state?

I fully accept that government has a role. Government is designed to provide essential services needed for quality of life — things like roads and bridges, military service, law enforcement, and other first responders. Our founding documents specify it. The Bible contemplates it with Jesus himself saying to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

But government is not infallible. Problems often arise since government is steered by people who are fallible.

We sometimes jokingly refer to a kakistocracy: a government run by the least competent of its citizens. Not always, but hey … look around.

Cautionary tales abound of a bloated and overreaching government, consumed with feeding itself and justifying its own existence. When government tentacles reach into everything it sees, and some that it imagines, we find a “nanny state.”

Nanny state is a term first coined in Great Britain, making the circulation of speeches and editorials in the 1960s. It refers to a government so big that it becomes the caretaker for all our needs and ensures that we are protected from ourselves. No longer content to provide just essential services, a nanny state believes it knows best and will help us in our feeble attempts to get by in life.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned against the nanny state saying, “We should not expect the state to appear in the guise of an extravagant good fairy at christening, a loquacious companion at every stage of life’s journey and the unknown mourner at every funeral.” Fancy words, to say that government isn’t supposed to become our be-all-end-all granting every wish.

President Ronald Reagan followed suit saying, “Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” Whether by elected officials or just bureaucrats trying to exercise their authority, the nanny state government gets all up in our business and begins defining the government’s version of daily life.

You may recall when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg grew a bit antsy about constituents imbibing far too many sugary soft drinks. In 2012, Bloomberg decided that no one should be allowed to get the biggie-size soft drink because, well, that’s just too dangerous. Bloomberg planned to ban the sale of sugary soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces unless they were 70% fruit juice or 50% milk. All anyone had to do was buy two 16-ounce sugary beverages … but hey, Bloomberg was there for ya!

Then in 2017, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was facing a crime epidemic. Local businesses began erecting bulletproof plexiglass barriers to protect cashiers. One local official indignantly claimed that the issue was not one of government failing to provide adequate essential policing; rather, it was the businesses who dared create the “indignity” of serving patrons through a plexiglass shield, which she believed was only done in “certain neighborhoods.” Being the small government icon that she was, Philadelphia Councilwoman Cindy Bass (D), sponsored local legislation banning plexiglass. She gets high marks for trying to be a nanny. This nanny trend continues as Philadelphia recently banned ski masks to stop crime. Never mind actual policing, just require faces and take the bullet!

Lest you think that the nanny state only exists in the bluest of blue governments, think again. One of the nanniest examples of nanny state actions just arose right here in the good ol’ red state of Alabama.

I admit that distracted driving is a bad thing. But I defy someone to tell me how Huntsville law enforcement is going to effectively enforce a new ban.

The recently passed state law says that if law enforcement observes otherwise reckless driving, they can add the lesser offense of distracted driving. Basically, state troopers will not pull you over if you drive by with something looking like a phone in your hand. The phone would be a lesser offense added on if in fact, you are driving in a reckless or illegal manner. Nannyish, but still…

But not Huntsville. Oh no, the Huntsville City Council just went full-on on nanny mode, passing a total ban on driving while touching your phone. Effective Jan. 1, 2024, the Huntsville City Council has approved a plan foisted upon us by Councilman David Little that far exceeds state law. Police will issue citations if you are seen with a phone in your hand while driving. The holding of the phone can be the primary offense, meaning that you can drive the speed limit, use your blinker, stop at all stop signs, and still be pulled over because you were on the phone telling the wife that you are picking up dinner.

The first conviction is a $50 fine, the second can be up to $100, while a third within 24 months is a $150 fine and up to 10 days in jail … but if your cellphone rap sheet keeps going you could face up to 30 days in jail!

Don’t worry, you can hold a coffee cup or a book, surf the playlist on your dash, and turn your music up so loud you can’t hear the traffic, but by God, don’t touch that phone as you cross over the invisible line from Madison to Huntsville!

The Huntsville government, in its wisdom, has presumed guilt by virtue of touching a phone. Never mind that you were driving well at the time.

Watch out for the city limits signs in the Huntsville area. The nanny state just came to Alabama. I feel certain that we’re about to have to take down our plexiglass and stop buying big soft drinks.

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