Is the Law Really the Place for This?
ABUSE OF THE LAW CODE ISN’T A CRIME, BUT MAYBE IT OUGHT TO BE
Two thousand fifteen was the first year of a two-year session. That means all the bills that weren’t actually voted down this year will start where they left off when January rolls around. Among these is a boring little insignificant bill numbered H.3430.
It’s boring and largely insignificant, but there’s an important point to be learned from it. H.3430 would make it illegal to sell “unsafe” re-treaded tires. “Unsafe” tires are those with “damage exposing the reinforcing plies of the tire, including cuts, cracks, bulges, punctures, or scrapes.”
Now, everybody will agree that it’s a bad thing for a company to sell re-treaded tires that haven’t been properly re-treaded as if they have been properly re-treated. Depending on the circumstances, it could be a form of fraud. It’s also a bad thing to sell cars with moribund transmissions as if they were new, and bad to sell leaky basketballs and kites that don’t fly.
The question is, What to do about it? The wiser course would be to leave the definitions of what constitutes a good or bad transmission or basketball or re-treaded tire to a private certifying body. Such a body would not have the power to arrest people or stop companies from selling their wares – such power is too easily abused – but could give its seal of approval to those companies that exhibit a record of honest dealings and quality merchandise.
South Carolina lawmakers are taking a different course. They would rather use the law code to specify exactly what an “unsafe” tire is. An unsafe tire is one that reveals “tread depth [that’s] worn to two thirty seconds of an inch or less on any area of the tire”; “damage exposing the reinforcing plies of the tire, including cuts, cracks, bulges, punctures, or scrapes”; “an improper repair that includes any repair to the tire in the tread shoulder or belt edge area”; and so on.
If the bill passes, you could be forgiven for wondering: Is this a tire re-treading manual, or the South Carolina code of law?
You might also wonder: Are the bill’s twenty co-sponsors really this concerned about the dangers of improperly re-treaded tires? Do they have any clue what it means to say a tire’s tread depth is “worn to two thirty seconds of an inch”? Or did all this highly technical language come from one of the state’s tire manufacturers? And if so, is that really something we should be using the long arm of the law to enforce?
We don’t know the answer to these questions. But we do know what the law code is for, and it’s not for fine-tuned definitions of damaged tires – definitions that will quickly become obsolete as technology advances.
This is hardly a unique example, either. There are many similar instances in this year’s regulatory bills, and many, unfortunately, already in the law code. Let’s use the law code for law, not favors.
H.3430 has already passed the House, and passed the Senate on second reading.