You don’t have to be a proponent of lean government to sometimes wonder how much is enough when it comes to our elected lawmakers passing legislation.

   It’s a legitimate concern. So often our lawmakers operate in reactive and not proactive fashion. Something happens enough times or enough people complain about something, and they pass a law to regulate or otherwise legislate the particular “something” that’s under the microscope at that particular point in time.

    Which brings us to the “slowpoke bill” currently being proposed by a Minnesota Republican lawmaker.

    Bet you didn’t know that driving slow in the left lane is already a petty misdemeanor, punishable with a ticket. It is. But you probably don’t know anyone nor have you ever heard of anyone being cited for such an infraction.

    But, boy, wouldn’t we love it if, finally, those people who insist on driving slower than everyone else and yet refuse to budge from the left lane of, for example, Interstate 94 on the way to the Twin Cities...finally got busted?

    Or would we? Would we really want our mom or dad or grandpa or grandma being charged with an actual crime for being a slowpoke in the left lane? That’s what the proposed bill would make possible, although Rep. John Jasinski, the Faribault Republican authoring the bill, says that state troopers would have some discretion and wouldn’t be hell-bent on putting slow drivers in the left lane behind bars.

    But if that’s the case, why even bother with this additional legislation? We have all been trapped in the left lane behind a slowpoke, and most of us are probably guilty of saying mean things in our vehicles as a result, and maybe even wildly gesturing. But do we really want those offenders charged with a significant traffic offense that goes beyond a petty misdemeanor citation? Maybe what we need in actuality is more enforcement of the current law on the books.

    The thing is, law enforcement has to witness such behavior. A trooper can’t get a report of a slowpoke in the left lane and the slowpoke’s license plate number and simply mail a ticket to the driver that matches the plate. If you work at a place like the Times and have a law enforcement scanner nearby, you know that motorists, armed with cell phones, love to tattle on other motorists for all sorts of malfeasance, with being “all over the road” by far the most popular. Do we want left-lane slowpokes added to the list of most popular called-in traffic offenses?

    And another thing, this sounds like more of a metro problem than a rural Minnesota problem. Jasinski says his bill would be a “low-cost way to improve driving congestion.” With rush hour in the Twin Cities and suburbs, left lane slowpokes are probably enough to spur widespread road rage.

    Maybe pass a bill that only impacts the seven-county metro area, where most Minnesota’s residents live. Anything larger in scope than that looks like a solution in search of a problem.

– Mike Christopherson