Do we need more laws? We must; the Georgia Legislature keeps making more of them. Today marks the 152nd time that august body has convened to invent new taxes.
I will always remember the day the bill requiring all Georgia restaurants to serve sweet tea died a pitiful death. It was 2003 and I thought Rep. John Noel (D-Atlanta) looked like presidential material.
Some would say making it illegal to not serve sweet tea is stupid. But they were probably raised on “pop” or “soda” instead of “Coke,” which can be used for any soft drink.
Contrary to what you may have read on the Internet, Georgia hasn’t passed any stupid laws. One common rumor promulgated online is that it is against the law to keep your donkey in a bathtub.
That’s not true, say researchers at the Georgia Archives, who struggled mightily last January to find such a thing.
It is, however, according to my non-lawyerly reading of Georgia Code 16-12-100, potentially illegal to take a photo of a crying clown in handcuffs and e-mail it to a juvenile. And funeral directors shouldn’t use profane or obscene language near a corpse, they could lose their license. (Georgia Code 43-18-46)
My Crossover Day goal, as lawmakers toil, was to poke fun at the many goofy laws on the books. Unfortunately for comedy, and my career, many of the silliest laws alleged on the Internet aren’t true.
Despite a $173-a-day per diem, legislators are “a pretty sober group,” said a Georgia Archives worker. “The laws are not really stupid.”
That quote pretty much killed this column, but I soldiered on.
The following are also NOT true, according to the Attorney General’s office, who responded to an email query last year.
** Members of the state assembly cannot be ticketed for speeding while the state assembly is in session. (They are however, exempt from arrest for a civil suit while in session.)
** Signs are required to be written in English. (Just road signs.)
** You have the right to commit simple battery if provoked by “fighting” words. (You can admit evidence that you were provoked, but it’s up to the judge to determine if that saves your bacon.)
** No one may carry an ice cream cone in their back pocket if it is Sunday. (Simply not true, says the Attorney General’s office. And I’ve looked too, the words ice and cream do not appear in the Georgia Code anywhere near the word Sunday or sundae.)
Among the first laws passed in Georgia history was a 1777 ban on gambling, according to the ace staff manning the Georgia Archives. As any HOPE scholar will tell you, nothing good can come from gambling.
Since the days of the American Revolution, things have gotten a little wackier, perhaps best illustrated by this picture, wherein lawmaker Denmark Groover, in 1964, tried to STOP TIME. (See photo)
Yes, we should be thankful for their efforts. Many have earned their $17,341.68 annual salary.
If not for former Sen. Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville), who led the 2010 effort to make it illegal to plant microchips in human brains, I might be a robot by now, which would probably please my supervisor, who deleted my “Georgians, there’s no need to get your ass out of the tub” lead.
Note: This article was originally published in 2011, but has been updated to make it appear like I’ve been productive.