- - Monday, June 30, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Fourth of July is for celebrating the freedoms the Founding Fathers won for us, but sometimes July 1 is the day some of us want to give those freedoms back to government. In all but four states — Alabama, Michigan, New York and Texas — July 1 is the start of the fiscal year, when thousands of laws and hundreds of new taxes go into effect.

No issue is considered too picayune for state regulators to weigh their prissiness and greed against it. As of Tuesday, Minnesota smokers looking to kick the habit by turning to e-cigarettes will find their struggle more difficult. The legislature outlawed “vaping” in government buildings, state colleges and universities, day care centers and all health care facilities, even though there’s no evidence the odorless water vapor the devices produce pose harm. Florida, Iowa and Virginia are less extreme, imposing rules to make it more difficult to buy e-cigarettes.

Tennessee followed the lead of a number of other states in enacting a law that seems to assume that anyone purchasing common-cold medicines that contains pseudoephedrine — such as Sudafed, Actifed, Contac and Claritin-D — must be someone aspiring to deal meth. Under the new rules, anyone suffering from a cold or allergies will need a prescription to obtain more than 28.8 grams of pseudoephedrine within a year, with all purchases put in a government registry of residents with the sniffles.

Harassing shoppers by requiring them to buy their cold meds from a pharmacist won’t stop illicit drugmakers, but it encourages them to devise new recipes that require little, if any, pseudoephedrine.

Many states are raising taxes. Iowa and North Carolina boosted the levy on natural gas. New Hampshire increased the gasoline tax by 4.2 cents per gallon. Virginia is raising its sales tax on cars from 3 percent to 4.15 percent over the next three years. In Minnesota, state taxes on cigarettes are soaring from $1.60 to $2.83 a pack, with the increase earmarked to enable the billionaire owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings to buy a new stadium.

A few states are headed in a better direction. Businesses in Indiana and Rhode Island will get a little more breathing room this year, with a small cut of corporate tax rates. Gasoline will get a little less expensive in California, where the legislature lowered the per-gallon tax by 3.5 cents.

Drivers get a break in Georgia with higher, more rational speed limits. The limit is likely to rise in Idaho, pending an 11th-hour review by state transportation officials. South Dakota, however, went the extra mile by immunizing its residents from revenue cameras as used by other states. Neighboring Iowa is free to photograph automobiles with South Dakota plates all it wants, but South Dakota’s DMV is prohibited from giving the Iowa revenuers the driver’s mailing address where they can mail the ticket.

That’s the spirit the Founding Fathers would surely applaud. The rest of the states can learn a thing or two from South Dakota.

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