Morgan Liddick

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May 21, 2012
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Liddick: Regulatory hits and misses

This about regulation, the good and the bad. We'll leave the ugly for November.

Recently, a small outbreak of common sense descended on Washington, D.C., a town that seems to partake more of Wonderland than wisdom.

A popular outburst among farm folk and those who represent them has apparently derailed - for the moment, at least - a really bone-headed rule from the Labor Department concerning child farm labor.

While the term "child labor" invokes images of toddlers tending power looms, that's not what's involved here. The proposed restrictions would have prevented children from doing almost any farm work, save on "family farms," defined as a farm owned by mom or dad, or both. As an aside, this is a little confusing: A group that has no problem with Heather having two mommies doesn't think Uncle Bob should be considered family. In farm country, that's a real problem.

I grew up on a family farm. We raised hay, grapes, horses and cattle. My grandparents had a vegetable garden that, to an 8-year-old charged with weeding, seemed to stretch from the banks of the Columbia River to Cleveland, Ohio. Or at least, Boise.

When I was 12, I took command of a 1958-vintage two-cylinder John Deere tractor. I towed rotary discs, ditchers, harrows, an antique hay-baler and when the time came, a trailer for baled hay or 40-pound boxes of grapes. Friends helped; sometimes, we spelled each other driving and hoisting. Was it potentially dangerous? Yes. But we respected the equipment, understood the downside, and came away unscathed, as the vast majority of farm kids did, and do.

None of this would have been possible under the proposed regulations. Instead, we would have had to hire help; the extra cost would have forced us out of the farming business in short order. Perhaps that's what the Department of Labor had in mind, small businesses being so pesky to regulate and all.

Maybe they were misguided. No widespread hearings preceded the draft regulations, apparently drawn up by folks who think meat comes from a supermarket. Perhaps it was about control: If you make child agricultural labor illegal, you give yourself the right to enter farms and ask just about any question you want, or else. It's a professional snoop's dream. Possibly, they were just inept.

Whatever the reason, I - and a lot of others - am glad that foolishness has been laid to rest. I just wish that Colorado's Sen. Michael Bennet, who has a seat on the Senate Agricultural Committee, would have at least been visible in the process.

So, is all regulation misguided or wicked? No. Some degree of it is necessary to civilized society, as the Founders recognized. Case in point is Colorado Initiative 84, whose goal unites me with the Colorado Progressive Coalition: if a bank wants to repossess your home for failure to pay your mortgage, they should at a minimum be required to show they have a right to do so.

You read that right: Colorado is the only state in the union which allows a bank to repossess a home solely on the say-so of an attorney, who may or may not be familiar with a property's "chain of title" - that paper trail showing who has the legal right to foreclose. Initiative 84 would demand that lenders prove standing, usually through documentation registered with the clerk of the county in which the property is located.

I have some quibbles with the initiative. It makes the registration requirement a constitutional provision rather than law, but since the legislators - Democrat and Republican both - have been unwilling to act, well ... That's what initiatives are for.

The Colorado Bankers' Association argues Initiative 84 will be so expensive that the secondary mortgage market will "grind to a halt." Nonsense. If I can afford the fee to register my original deed of trust when I make the mortgage, the lender can jolly well afford it when it's sold to another institution. This is the way things worked before the relevant law was changed in 2006, and there's no evidence it won't work now.

The CBA also argues that the Initiative will drastically reduce the number of mortgages funded, and would "stifle borrow-lender communication" on foreclosures. Oh, please. Banks didn't have any trouble making mortgages before 2006, and if anyone has recently tried to "communicate" with their lender about an impending foreclosure, they'll recognize the latter objection as laughable. The current situation is what is untenable.

So, a commonsense conservative position on regulation: a pox on that which creates more problems than it solves, but full marks when actual problems are addressed. Common sense will tell us which is which - if we bother to pay attention.

Hello... Senator Bennet?

Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at mcliddick@hotmail.com.


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The Summit Daily Updated May 21, 2012 02:10PM Published May 21, 2012 02:09PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.