blunt essays with sharp points
Sep 1, 2009 7:00 AM–Some media outlets have published misleading news stories about the new Texas school zone cell phone law. Some reported that communities might not post signs at a school, which would let drivers off the hook.
The cause of the the misleading stories is that Texas law is written in legalese---a language very similar to, but not to be confused with, English.
The new law reads,
A municipality, county, or other political subdivision that enforces this section shall post a sign at the entrance to each school crossing zone in the municipality, county, or other political subdivision
This says that the local authority that is responsible for enforcing this law at the school is also obliged to put up a sign at the entrance to each school crossing zone.
A municipality, county, or other political subdivision that enforces this section means
the local authority that is responsible for enforcing this law.
Shall post a sign means
is obliged to put up a sign.
So it is a fact that the local authority is obligated to post signs. That is why local authorities all over the state are posting signs.
It has also been reported that the local authority cannot enforce the law where a sign is not posted, and that the sign must notify the driver that there is a fine for disobeying, and that existing local laws are preempted by the state law. Those are true facts.
To sum up, there is now a uniform Texas school zone cell phone law. The local authority must post signs, and the driver must obey the signs unless they are missing.
Sample stories that got it right:
- State School Zone Cell Phone Law Causing Problems---cbs11tv.com
- Cell phone ban on hold---Killeen Daily Herald
- Cell Phone Free School Zone: Local officials taking time to study new law in effect today---Temple Daily Telegram
Sample stories that got it wrong:
September 03, 2009 7:15 PM–Laws (in the US) are written in English. The existence of legalese is a fiction perpetrated by lawyers in an attempt to both enhance their monopoly and to obscure the facts. The sentence as quoted is ambiguous. Unless it is further constrained by surrounding language it does in fact give entities the option to choose not to enforce the law.
September 04, 2009 6:06 PM–Thank you for responding. I love knowing someone is actually reading my stuff. My answer turned out to be too long to relegate to a comment, so look for my followup article.
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