The Associated Press reported on Tuesdayon a letter the Michigan Department of Human Services sent to suburban mom Lisa Snyder, warning her to stop watching her neighbors’ children while they waited in the mornings for the school bus. Apparently Snyder was kind enough to do this as a favor for a few of her friends who are working moms.
Initial reports do not indicate whether the warning letter is backed by possible criminal penalties.
What is certain, however, is that this is yet another example of overbroad laws that bureaucrats and prosecutors use against Americans who are doing nothing that should be considered illegal, much less criminal.
Small-time entrepreneur and inventor Krister Evertson was arrested at gunpoint in Wasilla, Alaska, by SWAT-clad FBI agents. He had not known that he had to put a federally mandated sticker on his otherwise lawful UPS package.
A few years back, sixty-three year-old grandmother Kay Leibrand was arrested by police at her California home of 30 years for failing to meet some Palo Alto bureaucrat’s view of how high her hedges should be. (This is not a joke.)
George Norris, who was 66 years old at the time, had his house ransacked by agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (!) carrying firearms. A retiree, Norris’s home-based business was cultivating, importing, and selling orchids. He ended up serving almost two years in prison, finally getting free from federal supervision last December – at the age of 71 – for what amounts to paperwork violations.
Both Krister Evertson and George Norris’s wife Kathy testified at a bipartisan hearing held by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Ranking Member Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) in July.
To her credit, Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm has quickly called for amendments to the law that her Department of Human Services used to threaten Lisa Snyder for not having registered as a daycare with the state. Hopefully this law will soon be changed.
In the meantime, this overbroad Michigan law illustrates the thousands and thousands of state and federal laws that can be used to turn an average American’s normal, law-abiding existence into a Kafkaesque nightmare.
In addition to their work passing laws that are actually needed, lawmakers at all levels need to diligently engage in the long, unglamorous work of eliminating bad laws – and making sure that the new laws they create are carefully drafted and cannot easily be used against the innocent.