Friday, March 18, 2005

In The Name Of Research

On the way home from San Francisco for Christmas Break, I had the chance to interact with a friendly CHP officer in Monterey County. Nabbed for the first time for a moving violation (Phoblog advocates safe driving speeds at all times and I assure you I was not driving recklessly), I was given the option to take traffic school instead of acquiring a point on my record and giving a nice windfall to the friendly folks at State Farm.

First off, I had no idea this was such a long, drawn-out process. I waited a month and a half for instructions on payment and opting into traffic school. Then another 3 weeks or so on traffic school instructions. They arrived today.

Now for some background - part of which I've mentioned before. Last spring semester, I interned in the Capitol where one of my duties was monitoring the Assembly Transportation Committee for my boss. One of the many bills passing through the committee dealt with traffic schools. As you might - read: should - know, each county has it's own Superior Court which incorporates traffic courts and determines the juridictions rules for traffic schools, etc. That's 52 separate systems: some allow internet schools, some don't, and each county certifies which schools count and which don't. To oversimplify what was really a set of related bills, the controversy last spring was over whether to regulate - at the state level - whether and which internet schools would count. The issue wasn't resolved during my time there. But man was it one of the most annoying debates I've ever seen in state government.

On one side, the brick-and-motor (no, not a typo, and no, I didn't make that up) schools seeking to protect their take. On the other, emerging internet business. Scattered about - the public, many of whom (psst, right here) would love to have the internet option right about now, and who would hopefully benefit, cost-wise, from the right kind of regulation. Of course the physical schools are concerned - one would assume business will fall off dramatically should internet traffic school become a state-sanctioned option (it is in some counties, but not all, and not Monterey County, unfortunately).

Now, we're all for jobs for Californians - but I don't see much evidence of protectionist legislation saving blacksmith jobs so that horses can be properly shod, nor any number of old technologies that, rightly, have given way to The Next Thing.

At one point, I had a lobbyist for the brick-and-motors (in a Hawaiian shirt, no less) give me what could only be described as "a talking to" because some proposed amendments for a bill on the issue hadn't been run by him first. Um . . . . it took every fiber of my being not to ask him exactly which district had elected him to office again? Job-lover or not, it's hard to sympathize with the following traffic schools - all real, all included the official list sent to me by the Monterey County Superior Court - who supposedly exist to instruct drivers and improve general road saftey:
  • Pizza For You - Comedians 2
  • Great Comedy School
  • Comedy for Less Traffic School
  • Live N'Learn With Humor
  • Great Comedians Traffic School
  • Cheap School
  • Pizza 4U - Great Comedians
  • Saturday or Sunday Painless Schools

Riiiiight. Now, hey, learning should be fun - but the names alone kinda make a mockery of things, don't they?

There is, however, also an insert implying that Take Home Traffic School (available at your local Blockbuster for the low, low price of just $39.99) is okay too. And it does seem to have a computer component - at least judging by the cartoon on the flyer.

Sometimes, the forces working against public policy are so obvious, so amusing, and so greedy, these posts can just write themselves.

I hate unemployed comedians as much as the next blogger - but I'm not sure protecting their right to teach traffic school is ever an efficient use of lobbyist mojo or legislative time.

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