Oregon’s New Bounty Hunter Corp

Oregon’s Democrats need more money to spend. In a newsletter posted by Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) and apparently repeated by any number of his Democrat colleagues, Democrats are urging that Oregon adopt a sales tax, repeal the “kicker”, increase the income tax, eliminate the constitutional limitations on property tax increases, and demand a federal bailout to fill the gap as Democrats continue to spend in excess of current revenues.

With tongue slightly in cheek, I have a suggestion that will both increase revenue and provide independent employment for those willing to accept the challenge.

The Oregon legislature is notorious for passing laws that sound good but which they have no intention of enforcing. The legislature even provides pretty hefty fines for violations. These laws with a lack of any real enforcement remind me of the definition of a liberal as someone who throws both ends of a one hundred foot rope to man drowning seventy-five feet offshore, and then races off to do another good deed.

Undoubtedly there is a laundry list of these “feel good” laws if one were to scour the Oregon Revised Codes, but lets just start with three highly visible ones – littering, handicap parking and handheld cellphones while driving.

In Oregon, littering is a Class A misdemeanor with fines not exceeding $6,250 or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.

Improper use of a handicap parking space including parking without a disabled placard or plates AND using a disabled placard of plate when not transporting a disabled person is punishable by fines up to $500.

Texting or talking on a handheld cellphone by a driver is punishable by a fine of up to $90.

Despite these laws, the litter along Oregon highways is atrocious and gets materially worse as you approach any urban area. On any given day you can sit in the parking lot of any big box retailer and watch the twenty-something sprites in their aerobics outfits bound from three-quarter ton SUVs piled high with bicycles, ATVs, and/or jet skis and parked in the assigned handicap spots. And Oregon’s highways are just as replete as ever with empty-headed yak-ers on hand held cellphones.

And if you feel good about Oregon having adopted laws prohibiting these activities, just think of how much better you would feel if they were actually openly enforced. And thus arises the new independent corp of misdemeanor bounty hunters.

By simply amending the existing laws to allow “bounty hunters” to recover one-half of the fines levied, Oregon could create a cadre of good citizens willing to enforce the very laws that Oregon’s policy makers have said are important to the beauty and safety of all Oregonians. (Of course, the fines for handicap parking violations probably ought to be increased to the same as littering and the fines for using a handheld cell phone ought to be increased to the same as driving while impaired – do I need to explain the logic for either or both of these.)

Virtually every cellphone in America now comes with a digital camera –many with digital camcorders – which can be set with a time/date signature on the image. A quick snap, followed by an e-mail to law enforcement and away you go.

Just think of the opportunities. You’re sitting in the parking lot at Target thinking about dinner and a movie but knowing that your budget is too tight. Bingo, there goes a guy in Gold’s Gym T-shirt, muscles bulging, and making the high-climb alone into an SUV parked in a handicap spot –sure he has a handicap sticker but there isn’t anyone with a handicap in the vehicle. Snap, Snap and you are $250 richer.

Or you’re driving down the road and some guy in Lincoln flicks his cigarette out the window. Snap, Snap and you are $3125 richer.

Or you’re sitting in the “gossip lane” with the other parents waiting for your school child and some ninny pulls away still yakking on the cellphone. Snap, Snap and you’ve made another $25 – maybe even a bonus if the children aren’t in their seat belts.

All in all this is a good deal. The government gets more revenue – and according to the Democrats they need every extra penny they can get their hands on. Oregonians feeling the pinch from the economic downturn have the opportunity to earn extra dollars. And most importantly, Oregon will actually enforce existing laws instead of passing new ones.