Paul Jacob

If I didn't live in Virginia, I would find its state legislature much more amusing.

Earlier this year, our experienced legislators passed a $1.3 billion dollar tax increase, which they knew the majority of their constituents opposed. And, accordingly, legislators refused to allow voters to have any say over the tax increase in a referendum.

Gloomy financial projections as well as fear-mongering about Virginia's bond rating were used to help sell legislators on the tax package. But the bill had barely been made law when those projections changed and now the state is putting surplus tax money into a rainy day fund.

Then the legislators left the Commonwealth with a little "going away" present: they mistakenly reactivated a law requiring employers to give employees Sunday off or to pay them triple the wages and be subject to still further fines. It's known as Virginia's "day of rest" law and was designed to protect workers from having to work weekends and, thus, from having to miss religious services.

However, times have changed and with so many stores open on Sundays, the old law is unworkable. Even Virginia's best-known religious figure, Jerry Falwell, called the old law "totally impractical."

And yet legislators have never repealed that arcane anachronism, that unworkable law. It's still on the books, hence the current problem. Over the years, exemptions to it have been tacked on again and again. And so it came to pass that this year these exemptions to the act were repealed along with specific tax exemptions the legislature actually meant to repeal.

The legislators managed this clever piece of destructive lawmaking by sheer accident. They didn't know what they were doing. Not a clue. Comforting, eh?

"Oops!" has now been added to our Commonwealth's official glossary of legislative terms. (Virginia is far from alone, of course. My free Common Sense e-letter chronicles the endless oops! of career politicians from coast to coast.)


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.