By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
Each federal legislative session, representatives and senators descend on the U.S. Capitol to promote freedom, repeal onerous regulations and relieve Americans of the heavy burden of an overbearing government.
Truth be told, lawmakers infest Washington, D.C., each year to create more loopholes in the law and tax code, serve as errand-runners for various special interest groups and complicate the lives of Americans with each and every law passed.
Watchdog.org reviewed bills introduced in the recently concluded 112th Congress to search out the zaniest, weirdest and most-statist of them all.
In all, lawmakers pitched more than 10,000 bills last year, ranging from regulating tax code to providing fairness for polar bears. Some of the bills served legitimate purposes — like the dozens of proposals by Republicans to repeal Obamacare — while others mocked the battlefield of ideas in the Capitol.
Here are 10 of the weirdest bills — plus an honorable mention — pitched by your lawmakers:
1. Simplifying The Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act of 2011 – Rep. Lorretta Sanchez, D-Calif.
Want to earn a couple bucks? If you correctly guess exactly this bill’s purpose, you might earn a handsome reward.
Congress is notorious for creating fancy acronyms for bills and some are really, really bad. Sanchez’s bill falls into that category. The law might be noble, but without knowing the acronym, you might never understand the legislation’s purpose.
So here it is: The STALKER Act. The bill, in short, provides tougher penalties for people who engage in stalking.
2. War on Debt Act of 2011 – Rep. William Owens, D-N.Y.
Owens wants to serve as the general in America’s battle to cut the national debt. He plans a large-scale operation, utilizing tanks, drones and foot soldiers to defeat the new red menace.
Actually, no. Owens’ bill only required the U.S. Treasury issue “War on Debt” bonds to facilitate payment of America’s foreign-held debt. No tanks, planes or troops will be needed for this conflict.
This bill, like the Sanchez legislation, lands on this list because of its silly moniker. Americans are tired of wars on anything and everything, notably the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, the War on Terror, the War on Science, the War on Painkillers, the War on Kids and the War on Women.
And, ya know, the actual war in Afghanistan.
3. Noose Hate Crime Act of 2011 – Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas
Let’s throw this out there before delving into this bill: Employing a noose to display your displeasure is in very, very bad taste.
Unfortunately for Jackson Lee, it’s also a constitutionally protected right. Her bill, which died in committee, would have punished with hate crimes those people who use a noose to intimidate or harass minorities.
As Friends of Justice summed it up, “Hate crimes legislation, though admirable at first glance, raises serious First Amendment issues. In practice, it will be difficult to prove that a specific noose hanger was motivated by a desire to ‘harass or intimidate.’”
Jackson Lee has introduced this bill four years in a row and it’s never passed the U.S. House.
4. Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act of 2011 – Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif.
“You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads!”
Lungren probably pitched this bill with a very serious eye to airline safety, but one can’t help but read this bill and think of Dr. Evil’s request for laser-toting sharks.
This bill would penalize with jail time up to five year anyone who transmits a “frickin” laser beam into the cockpit of an aircraft or its flight path.
How would Lungren punish a shark that transmits a laser beam into a cockpit or flight path?
This bill passed the House, but the Senate never addressed it.
5. H.R. 595 – Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y.
This bill would express the “sense of Congress” that when Taps is sounded at a funeral or wreath-laying, a single bugler should perform it when possible.
Taps is a beautiful refrain commemorating the lives of those who’ve moved on to the next life, and Congress is only trying to maintain the song’s spirit, but don’t lawmakers have other things to do?
When Reed introduced this bill in early 2011, unemployment was above 8 percent. Surely Congress can focus on issues other than how certain songs are played at funerals, right?
6. Baggage Fee Fairness Act of 2011 – Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass.
Everyone hates airline-baggage fees, but no one detests them as much as Capuano. This bill, which never passed the House, would require airlines that cannot return a customer’s lost luggage in 30 days or less to refund the baggage fees charged for that flight.
Perhaps Capuano experienced some baggage turbulence between Massachusetts and D.C., hence the need for the bill.
While many Americans might admire the spirit of Capuano’s efforts, this bill serves only to advance statism. Americans freely choose their air carriers and likely wouldn’t patronize again an airline that provides awful service, including losing luggage.
7. Department of Peace Act of 2011 – Rep. Dennis Kucinich – D-Ohio
Could this bill sound any more Orwellian?
In George Orwell’s “1984,” Oceania had the Ministries of Truth, Love, Plenty and, of course, Peace.
None lived up to its namesake.
Vociferous anti-war lawmaker Dennis Kucinich brought this bill in early 2011 to create a new cabinet-level government department, establish a National Peace Day and “give voice to the latest research and expertise on peaceful efforts in many areas.”
Sure, American’s foreign policy often represents a muddled mess of interventionism, but more government isn’t the answer. Maybe Congress should reverse course and restrain government’s involvement in world affairs and see how that plays out.
Kucinich, of course, lost his re-election bid.
8. Green Taxis Act of 2011- Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Nadler really loves the color green. He wants to paint all American taxis in a gentle shade of lime to improve the aesthetics of the country’s city streets.
Actually, this legislation aims to allow states to create regulations promoting fuel efficiency in taxi-cabs. It’s another feel-good bill for environmentalists worrying about global warming.
Nadler’s measure skews the market, imposing more regulations on small and large businesses alike. Here’s a pro tip for Nadler and other greenies: If you seek use of a fuel-efficient cab, use one.
Legislating how taxis operates only drives costs higher for the rest of us.
9. Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act – Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.
Judging by Congress’ 6-percent approval rating, millions of Americans think federal lawmakers are pretty crappy. Towns’ bill proves it.
While the nation suffered through that stubborn 8-percent unemployment rate, Towns introduced legislation ensuring that all new federal building feature equal numbers of toilets for men and women – because equality.
10. Reduction in Federal Advertising Budgets Act of 2012 – Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
At first glance, this seems like an admirable effort. After all, who wants to watch the government spend billions promoting itself in the media or advertisements and wasting taxpayers’ cash along the way?
The irony rests in this legislation’s backstory. Tester introduced this bill during a tough re-election contest this past fall. He wanted to appear as a small government advocate, a lawmaker willing to slash and burn wasteful spending.
His own public relations staff, though, completely failed their boss on this one. The same day Tester announced the bill’s introduction, Montana residents statewide receive a glossy four-page brochure, funded with taxpayers’ money, touting the senator’s achievements.
Honorable Mention: 2013 H.R. Res 15 – Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y.
Think the bad bills won’t extend themselves to the newly minted 113th Congress? Think again. Serrano introduced this bill just days ago, starting the annual terrible legislation derby.
What does Serrano seek? Only repeal of the22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits presidents to two terms in office. Advocates for this measure believe the amendment place arbitrary limits on who can serve in the White House.
Here’s one question for Serrano and other backers: You might support this while President Barack Obama inhabits the White House, but would you mind another term for President George W. Bush?
You can get back to us on that one.
Contact Dustin Hurst at [email protected] or @DustinHurst via Twitter.