Jonathan Kraut | We Need Rules, but Which Would You Change?

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Rules and boundaries create order, enhance safety, clarify permissible behavior, and establish conformity. Rules and boundaries also restrict personal freedom, prevent taking smart actions, impinge on creativity, and inconvenience us all.

Imagine if there were no stop signs or street lights. Death and destruction would be everywhere for those still willing to drive.

Consider if some select drivers refused to stop at a stop sign or heed a red light because this interfered with their right to exercise free will and violated their civil rights.

Obviously, the point is that rules and regulations, while restricting some freedoms, keep us safer and establish an orderly process. All societies have traded some freedom for the sake of safety.

When our nation’s founders decided to grant some general powers to a federation while also empowering 13 free and separate states, the idea was to allow each state broad choices on internal rules and laws within a federal umbrella of national regulations.

Providing rights to this federation of states is why we use the electoral college system, where presidential candidates earn votes by state rather than by popular vote. A minor rule change like eliminating the electoral college would invoke popularism, depress state value, and alter the winner of many presidential elections. 

Whether unintended or by design, rules create behavior and divert outcomes. That is why it is important to pay attention to “little rule changes.” 

The Santa Clarita City Council has decided to scrap Robert’s Rules of Orders, the traditional, cumbersome, and outdated set of guidelines defining who can speak and on what can be voted in a meeting or official gathering. Rosenberg’s Rules of Order has in its place been adopted. This alternate system is more efficient and a more logical set of guidelines defining how our City Council conducts public meetings.

It is nice to see the abandonment of a mechanism codified in 1876 for a system whose architect, Yolo County’s Judge David Rosenberg, is still alive today.

I would like to see other minor adjustments to the laws by which we are required to follow.

1) Right now in California it takes at least 90 days, thousands in attorneys’ fees, and personally served subpoenas to remove a squatter in a home or apartment. Even if this person does not pay rent, may have broken in to set up residence, or has no lease agreement, it is difficult to evict. I would remove the clause that states that if someone receives mail at the place they have established “residence” in favor for being “within the terms of their lease agreement.” I would also like an eviction court set up for a hearing within 10 days of a filing and then an eviction within three days of an order issued.

2) EBT cards (a credit card that replaced food stamps) would no longer be issued. Currently drug addicts sell these cards for cash to buy drugs, meaning taxpayer money is directly funding addiction. I would have markets using a fingerprint to identify those getting assistance and periodically require drug testing for these recipients.

3) Forbid local jails and state prison from having the option to reduce a sentence issued by a judge. A person sentenced to 10 years by a judge should serve 10 years, not five or six because of “overcrowding.” 

4) Hopeful immigrants must apply for and wait outside the U.S. to see if asylum would be granted. 

5) No longer should a “non-violent crime” be excused as not important or not hurting anyone.

6) Remove pensions and retirement from any former or current government employee caught using his or her position to commit fraud, embezzlement, misuse of authority or taxpayer funds, or for being found guilty of any felony (even after retirement). 

7) Equal the sentence of physical injury that is on the books for assaulting or murdering a stranger, for harming a loved one or family member. Instead of harsher punishments, abusers may currently only receive 52 weeks of anger management class instead of 15 years of prison.

8) Hold phone carriers responsible for stopping robocalls and internet providers for stopping online scams.

9) Outlaw opiate pain killers and hold pharmaceutical companies liable for the accidental overdoses and death their drugs created.

10) Convict those who falsely report an incident of child abuse to authorities of a felony. Family and Child Services agents estimate 90 percent of child abuse complaints are revenge-based, where one parent is trying to punish the other with a false claim. 

Tell The Signal what laws you would change.

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations firm, is the CFO private security firm, is the COO of an Acting Conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among several local Democrats.

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