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Taking a snapshot of stupidity

Scott Paulsen
| Friday, March 4, 2011

Last Monday, a state senator from Florida filed a bill that would make it a felony to photograph farms from the side of the road.

Jim Norman introduced Senate Bill 1246. If passed, photographing farmland without first obtaining written permission from the owner would be a first-degree felony.

The American system of government is the work of visionaries. The concepts understood and put into practice by 18th-century thinkers are still efficient and successful, when employed by intelligent, conscientious public servants.

Oops. He ain't that guy.

Few have authored legislation as blatantly idiotic and time wasting as Sen. Norman's SB 1246. Presented during this, the most financially crucial period in modern American history, it is a good example of bad government.

Well done, sir!

My wife and I have taken hundreds of photographs of farms: many shots of our own and scenes from roadside stops. Nearly every one was snapped without permission. My friend, Scott Manko, is a professional photographer who specializes in the very photos this bill would eliminate.

The three of us (along with other troublemakers) are soon to be felons if Sen. Norman has his way.

He won't, of course.

This bill, expertly judged unconstitutional, has no chance of seeing the light of day, and that is precisely what angers me most. It's another in a growing pile of legislation aimed at pleasing a small number of influential constituents, bearing no regard for common good. It has no hope of passage.

It is being reported that the reasoning behind the bill is not, in fact, amateur shutterbugs creating a nuisance for the farming community. Instead, some in the blogosphere report the senator is helping farm owners concerned that groups like PETA use undercover video of their facilities to depict animal cruelty.

Wilton Simpson, owner of Simpson Farms near Dade City, Fla., was quoted as saying the law would prevent people from "posing as farmworkers" so that they can "secretly film agricultural operations."

When asked, Mr. Simpson could give no actual, documented examples of his paranoid fantasy. This sort of opinion will be the source of an argument made on your time, paid for by your tax dollars.

We hold our current elected officials to a high standard. That's because there have been many who came before them who performed exemplary work, raising the bar high for those who chose to follow. When the followers fail to excel, they fail those who set that standard and, more importantly, fail us.

I know our system works. Given the right leadership -- smart people who manage time and watch the bottom line -- we can move forward while protecting the rights of citizens.

Unfortunately, the best and brightest are not often attracted to public service. Sometimes, those who rise to power waste our trust as they spend our money.

There are many trespassing laws on the books to protect our privacy.

Unfortunately, there is no law that prevents waste in public office.

There are, however, elections.

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