Editorial: The good and the bad of new laws

Next Wednesday marks the start of 2014, and with it new laws on a variety of subjects in Oregon. Some of the changes are good; others, not so much.

On the plus side:

Fines go up for talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. That’s a good thing, if higher fines actually reduce the number of people still willing to gamble that their reflexes are faster than a speeding car. Today fines for talking and texting range from $60 to $250. Next week they’ll jump to $142 to $500.

Oregon colleges, universities and employers will no longer be able to require students, job applicants and others to turn over access to social media accounts such as those with Facebook. Given how much we’ve come to accept the notion that all sorts of people are entitled to our private information, it’s nice to know that we won’t have to facilitate snooping by people and institutions that have control over us in some way.

Websites that post mug shots of criminals will be required to take the photos down if a subject can prove he or she is not guilty of the charges involved, if the charges were dropped or if the record of them is expunged. That’s only fair; such websites are viewed by millions of Americans, and the men and women whose photos don’t belong there should be able to have them removed.

Not so good:

Adults won’t be able to smoke in cars while children are present. Of course, tobacco smoke is bad. And it’s bad to stick kids in this situation. But this law seems close to unenforceable. It’s hard to imagine an effective enforcement strategy.

There’s also a ban on teen tanning and a requirement that businesses grant employees two weeks of paid bereavement leave. While we agree that tanning booths pose a risk to young skin — and to old skin, for that matter — and that good bosses allow their employees time to heal in the wake of a death, we don’t believe it’s up to the state to make such requirements law. Parents should have the final say on what their kids do or do not do. As for bereavement leave, employers, not the state of Oregon, should be left to decide when it is granted.