The Portland Phoenix

Politics & Other Mistakes: Tweety and Sylvester go to Augusta

I don’t want to be drawn into the debate over whether domestic cats should be restricted from wandering around outside killing songbirds and unattended children. These same felines’ questionable activities are somewhat offset by the fact they’re also slaughtering mice, moles and squirrels.

Put me down as pro-bird, anti-mouse and neutral on free-range kids.

Where I do have a less ambiguous position is on the matter of inappropriate names. According to news reports, the sponsor of the bill before the Legislature to ban unrestrained kitties, Democratic state Rep. Victoria Doudera of Camden, claims she isn’t opposed to cats and shares her household with two of them named Tom and Jerry.

If my recollection from a misspent youth watching TV cartoons is correct, Tom was a cat, but Jerry was a mouse. Doudera naming one of her cats after a rodent is the equivalent of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky christening one of his kids Vladimir Putin.

As Maine faces crises over what to do with our PFAS-infested sludge, a massive shortage of health-care options in rural areas, a lack of affordable housing just about everywhere, too few workers in too many industries, rising heating costs and declining educational test scores, our lawmakers’ limited attention spans have been diverted to dealing with the natural instincts of pussycats.

I don’t mean to single out Doudera for wasting the Legislature’s (and the taxpayers’) time. The current session is awash in bills of merit ranging from dubious to nonexistent. An inordinate amount of verbiage has been spewed forth on a measure to require vehicle owners to clear snow and ice from their roofs. Another clunk-headed elected official wants to stop parents from allowing their 16- or 17-year-old offspring to get married. There was heated debate over a meaningless resolution supporting the war in Ukraine. Legislators want to protect you from higher insurance rates if you choose to adopt a pit bull. And recovery residences would be required to install sprinkler systems, which would promote fire safety by forcing most of them to close.

That’s scarcely all of it. There are proposed constitutional amendments up the wazoo. One would establish a “Right to Bodily Autonomy,” which I suppose precludes somebody trying to stick a constitutional amendment up your wazoo.

There’s another one granting everyone a “natural, inherent and unalienable right to housing,” which would take care of the aforementioned shortage by … um … magically creating a bunch of houses. Similarly, there’s a “Right to Be Free from Hunger,” which must automatically pay your grocery bill. And then there’s a “Right to a Healthy Environment,” which probably wouldn’t apply to birds being stalked by cats.

There’s also a “Right to Privacy,” which has nothing to do with covering your wazoo, but is focused on preventing snooping into your online activities. Although, depending on your proclivities, it might involve checking to see if you do Google searches for wazoos.

At this writing, only about half the 2,500 or so bills submitted this session have been printed, so there’s still plenty of opportunity for additional irrelevancies to appear in time to bog down the process before the House and Senate can begin debating abortion, taxes or the state budget for the next two years.

In addition, there are “placeholder bills,” which have vague titles such as “An Act Concerning Water” or “An Act to Improve the Environment” or “An Act to Protect the Wazoo.” These measures contain no text to explain what they do, either because the sponsors don’t yet know what they want done, or, more often, because the sponsors don’t want anyone else to know what they’re up to in order to keep possible opposition from mobilizing.

Transparency in government — it’s a beautiful thing, unless it exposes your wazoo.

There are plenty of problems the Legislature could deal with — aiding asylum seekers, regulating mining operations, requiring railroads to disclose hazardous shipments — but there are also a host of issues that no number of laws are ever going to solve. And cats are right at the top of that list.

So, get your heads out of your wazoos, and get to work.

Send your comments to my litter, er, letter box by emailing

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