Government should steer clear of 'official' distractions
Published: Thursday, October 23rd, 2003
Drivers entering El Paso County on Interstate 25 are now greeted with signs informing them they are on the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway. The signs that went up a few weeks ago were the culmination of efforts by state Sen. Doug Lamborn to have the section of highway renamed to honor the two-term president. And as happens any time one political party does something to honor one of its own, members of the other party expressed reservations, noting that our 40th president boosted the national debt and members of his administration were involved in the Iran-Contra affair. That’s fine; political parties are supposed to have different opinions on any number of issues. What we take issue with is the time and effort in the legislature spent on such legislation. Legislatures across the country routinely pass resolutions and laws naming state fossils and other irrelevant notions. Kansas has an official amphibian (the Barred Tiger Salamander), New Mexico has an official pepper (chile), while Minnesota has voted the morel its official mushroom. The U.S. Congress is no different. In March, Congress passed legislation directing restaurants in the House of Representatives to strike French fries and French toast from their menus and replace them with “Freedom” fries and “Freedom” toast to protest French reluctance to join the coalition President Bush was assembling to invade Iraq. Last month, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas tried to get the Republican leadership in the House to change things back to the way they were. Her efforts were rebuffed. Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, who initiated the original change, said in his reply to Jackson that the French “... were noncooperative and arrogant then, and they are again noncooperative and arrogant.” Ney and other supporters of the original change say they’ll fight attempts to reinstate French fries to the menus. With the federal budget awash in red ink and the government becoming more bloated every day, there are more pressing issues lawmakers should be dealing with. Rather than quibble about names of menu items, which variety of grass should represent a particular state or whether a section of highway should be renamed to honor a former politician, our lawmakers should re-examine their duties to constituents. If they’re unsure what those duties are, we suggest they look to our state’s and nation’s founding documents and the writings of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and others of that era. Those men understood what limited government is all about and agreed that the government that governs least, governs best. We’ll admit there are worse things for government to stick its nose into than designating a state insect (the Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly), but there are more important things for our elected representatives to worry about. If they must legislate, they should stick to the few things for which governments are created.
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