John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Grab tight your freedoms, America: The country's collective legislatures are unleashing a torrent of new regulations.
Grab tight your freedoms, America: The country's collective legislatures are unleashing a torrent of new bans. Hundreds of laws going into effect in 2013 will regulate everything from how many cats a person can own to whether employers can ask for Facebook access. Forthwith, find some of the more unusual bans of the year at the city and state levels. Readers desiring non-U.S. banning news will have to suffice with Israel outlawing anorexic models and the U.K.'s infamous "Beer Monster."
KENTUCKY HAS BANNED...
Releasing of hogs into the wild. This is a big issue in the state, which is being consumed from the inside by ravenous feral pigs. Regarding the state measure outlawing the wanton dispersal of oinkers, Rohn Robbins writes in the Vail Daily: "If you've been sorely tempted to do so, well you should have had your fun in good ol' 2012."
Confederate pensions. Yes, for the past several decades Kentucky's had a provision in its constitution relating to how much Confederate soldiers should be paid. As of 2013, it's no longer there.
CALIFORNIA HAS BANNED...
Sex with inmates. Everyone knows that prison guards aren't allowed to go into the cells to have sex with the inmates. But when transporting them to and from court appearances, it's a whole different ball game. Or it used to be: The state legislature has deemed such highway hookups (which some might call "rapes") to be illegal beginning... now.
Job interviews asking to see your Facebook and Twitter. The much-maligned practice of employers requiring interviewees to hand over their social-media accounts for inspection turned out to be a non-trend. But don't tell that to politicians in California, who (along with their brethren in Illinois) passed laws forbidding such privacy-shredding requests.
Conversion therapy for minors. The highly dubious practice of trying to "convert" gay youths into straight people has finally found its proper place: the garbage can. However, the ban has not gone into effect yet, thanks to pending First Amendment lawsuits filed on behalf of conversion therapists.
Swaggering with long guns. Gun lovers can no longer display rifles and shotguns in public. Unless they are hunters, of course, or have a special license. So actually, it looks like lots of folks can still openly flaunt their heat.
ILLINOIS HAS BANNED...
Pedo-Santas. Thanks to SB-3579, child sex offenders are no longer allowed to wander into holiday gatherings dressed like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. The bill also specifies that they cannot give candy to kids on Halloween.
Necrophilia. Seems like a no-brainer, but up until the present day Illinois had no law prohibiting sex with corpses. It was prosecuted under property damage, instead. "The death of a loved one is bad enough, but it should be much more than criminal damaged property," said Illinois Rep. Daniel Beiser, who sponsored the new law. "This is a completely inappropriate charge."
WELLINGTON, KANSAS, HAS BANNED...
Excessive cat ownership. Sort of like with Kentucky's Hogmageddon, the town of Wellington is up to its britches in wild animals, this time felines. But no more: The local government has mandated that one person can own no more than four cats. Explained Wellington Police Chief Tracy Heath: "We were picking up, compared to years past, a couple hundred cats per year. We're hoping that this new ordinance may lower that number."
CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS, HAS BANNED...
Plastic water bottles. In a planet-friendly move that should be replicated cities the world over, Concord's pols banned single-serving water bottles from store shelves. However, there's some indication that plastics manufacturers could short-circuit such laws by making their bottles bigger.
SNOHOMISH HAS BANNED...
Delicious horse meat. There will be no slaughtering of ponies to satiate the appetites of gourmands in Snohomish County, Washington. The local council banned horse meat for human consumption to prevent a possible upsurge in the mane-sashimi business, which theoretically could happen under a federal policy change in 2011. Interestingly, the Pacific Northwest has a historical interest in eating horses, if Wikipedia can be believed (and it always can):
In 1951, Time magazine reported from Portland, OR: "Horsemeat, hitherto eaten as a stunt or only as a last resort, was becoming an important item on Portland tables. Now there were three times as many horse butchers, selling three times as much meat." Noting that "people who used to pretend it was for the dog now came right out and said it was going on the table," and providing tips for cooking pot roast of horse and equine fillets.