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Parrott's refrigerator bill a chilling first move

February 21, 2011

I understand that Maryland has laws that make no sense. I understand the state has a propensity for regulatory overkill. I understand that in all likelihood, Maryland has a law requiring you to throw the box of Arm & Hammer baking soda out of your fridge after it’s been in there for six months.

But if you’re a rookie lawmaker in Annapolis who campaigned on the issues of more jobs and less taxes — well, if your top priority is to change Maryland’s junk-refrigerator law, aren’t there some other topics you’ve missed?

I guess not. Among the first actions of newly elected Del. Neil Parrott, R-Maytag, was to file a bill that would decriminalize the act of abandoning an old refrigerator that cannot be opened from the inside. Instead of a 30-day jail term, which the crime now incurs, appliance scofflaws would be subject to a civil fine of as much as $5,000.

Frankly, as a habitual refrigerator abandoner, I would rather do the time and save the five grand. So I don’t know how this helps.

Parrott says there was no particular impetus to make rusty refrigerators a top legislative priority, he just felt it was an issue whose time has come. But I sense some repressed anger here. Makes you wonder if sometime in Parrott’s childhood his yogurt didn’t spoil.

Either way, you can’t be doing this. Not in your first month in office. It makes you look like a — what’s a kinder word than “lightweight?” Dude, there are chuckleheads like me all around this state who have nothing better to do all day than figure out which has a better ring to it, “Amana Neil” or “Whirlpool Parrott.” I mean, me? I’m willing to give you a mulligan. No harm, no foul.

But there are people out there who will not forget this, ever. Look what happened to Refrigerator Perry. It defined his career. At least LeRoy Myers waited around a couple of years before he revealed his anti-bull testicle agenda. I know, I know, no one has been aggrieved by Maryland’s junk-refrigerator policy more than I, but I think I might have kept my powder dry until Year 2. It just attracts less attention that way.

Oh well, no one ever listens to me. Now, Parrott is destined to go down with other legislative legends in Western Maryland lore, including Joe Bartlett’s bill to make failure to remove snow from your vehicle a crime.

Parrott assures us that this refrigerator bill is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and that he’s prepared to lead a crusade against abhorrent Maryland laws wherever he might find them.

I can’t wait. Who hasn’t been affected by Maryland’s egregious toaster-oven laws?

A friend pointed out that on the same day Parrott’s refrigerator story broke, Chamber of Commerce President Brien Poffenberger, the opponent Parrott defeated last November, was in Annapolis meeting with the Senate president and other power trusts, lobbying for jobs in Washington County.

This gave me a fabulous idea that might solve all of America’s problems. We need lawmakers like Parrott, who tell us what we want to hear, who stand for patriotism and the American Way and who can straddle tall refrigerators in a single step.

But, behind each of these, we need a shadow lawmaker to actually get things done. One guy makes the speeches, the other guy does the work. The people benefit on both counts, and everyone is happy.

It will never work, though. It makes too much sense.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant on www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable’s WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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