Is a road kill bill in our future?

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005

It’s hard to control your elected representatives. If they head off to Richmond or Washington determined to line their pockets or those of their campaign contributors, generally pray at the altar of special interests or make fools of themselves, there’s really little we can do about it.

And most of us have come to accept that as one of the pitfalls of living in the greatest, freest nation the world has ever known.

Be that as it may, is it too much to ask for our state legislators not to make laughing stocks out of us?

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Apparently so. Seven or eight years ago I was the managing editor of a mid-sized daily newspaper in West Virginia. Our legislature passed a bill making it legal to scoop up road kill to take home for private consumption, or some such nonsense. No joke.

I wrote a column about other bills they were considering like those levying a luxury tax on shoes, clearing up the relationship confusion caused when siblings marry (yes, they remain brother and sister),

and the one codifying the definition of a full set of teeth as 32 West Virginia women standing around together.

I was being satirical and sarcastic, of course, but I didn’t think my suggestions would be any more embarrassing for a state struggling to overcome an apparently fully justifiable &uot;hillbilly&uot; image than that proposed by our esteemed legislators.

That &uot;ignorance is bliss&uot; mindset that was so prevalent was among the chief reasons I decided to leave West Virginia. Don’t get me wrong, I love West Virginia and am proud of my home state and alma mater, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that it really is as backward as it is often portrayed by comedians and the media.

In fact, that’s where I was last week attending to some family matters when our illustrious House of Delegates passed the now infamous underwear bill.

With one vote, they set the image of our great state back half-a-century in the eyes of the world. From London to New York to California, columnists and commentators had a field day with the ridiculous effort to legislate young people’s fashions. What’s next? Public bonfires to burn hip hop CDs? Prohibiting dancing at school functions? Burning witches at the stake?

Mercifully, our more responsible Senate saw the folly in the measure and saved us from further ridicule. This bill was just the type of thing the founders had in mind when they created our system of checks and balances.

Most of us dressed a little weird when we were young. For me, it was bell bottoms and long hair, for an earlier generation it was ducktails and leather jackets; and for a later generation, mullets and Members Only jackets.

Stupid? Perhaps. Embarras-sing? Certainly. But nonetheless harmless attempts at self-expression, non-conformity and rebellion. It’s no different with those who were targets of the House’s ignorance and intolerance.

Eventually though, we reached adulthood, had our spirits crushed by the real world, conceded defeat and bought Dockers. The same will happen to the droopy drawers crowd and we need to let them have their fun while it lasts because it doesn’t last long.

In fact, it’s not unlike state politics. When members of the House of Delegates reach adulthood and gain some wisdom and experience, they put their foolishness behind them and join the Senate.

Fortunately, the General Assembly session is drawing to a close and there’s little time left for the delegates to do too much damage. I’m going to keep my eye out, though. They could still try to pass a road kill bill.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or via e-mail at