The flood of new mandates that went into effect this month across
the nation prompted one California assemblyman to declare the
arrival of a "nanny government" - legislation that replaces the
responsibility of parents and common sense to protect the well-
being of citizens.
Drivers in New Jersey can no longer talk on cellphones. Dangerous
dogs in Colorado must wear microchips at their owner's expense.
California junior high students have to wait until after they leave
school grounds if they want to drink soda.
But political analysts say that taken en masse, the new laws are
a revealing reflection of the day-to-day concerns of Americans
trying to cope with the kaleidoscopic permutations of life in the
"If you look down this list, you see that state legislatures are
trying to tackle the key issues that citizens are struggling with in
their lives," says Tim Storey, senior fellow at the National
Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). "It's part of the whole
grand notion that the states are laboratories of democracy."
Not every new law is about restrictions. New Georgia laws allow
the sale of certain beers with alcohol exceeding 6 percent. Ohio
joins more than 50 percent of states allowing liquor sales on
Sunday. And New Jersey has expanded states rights for gay couples
with a domestic partnership law giving such couples the right to
file joint tax returns and make medical choices for each other.
Likewise, several new laws are intended to ratchet up voters'
trust in the political system. South Dakota has created a
Constitutional Revision Commission to scrutinize the balance of
power at the capital. A new Connecticut law bans the use of campaign
funds for personal benefit. In Florida, political candidates and
their supporters must clearly delineate who has created and paid for
ads - including bumper stickers, fliers, and yard signs.
California made history last week with the nation's first family
leave law. Workers can take up to six weeks of paid leave in a 12-
month period to care for newborn children or seriously ill
relatives. Pay, ranging from $50 to $728 per week, is to be funded
by the state's disability insurance fund.
"California's new family leave act is one of the nation's most-
watched laws kicking in," says Jack Pitney, political scientist at
Claremont McKenna University.
But the state chamber of commerce has already expressed concerns
that the fund could go broke in the first 12 months. …