Sunday, January 25, 2009

Be careful around squirrels? Minnesota has it’s share of odd laws

WINONA, Minn. — Minnesota law requires all bathtubs have feet.

It is also illegal to sleep naked, tease a skunk or cross state lines with a duck on your head.
They may sound absurd, but these are actual laws on the books in Minnesota. Well, mostly.

Strange laws like these are widely circulated around the Internet, said Michelle Timmons, state revisor of statutes, and each must be taken with a grain of salt. Especially the duck one.

“We researched and researched on that one,” Timmons said. “That must be an odd interpretation of (a law) on the books.”

Some antiquated laws claimed to have been found by people simply don’t exist, she said. Others are legitimate, including these from the Winona city code:

- Any cottonwood tree which “sheds its seeds profusely” is a public nuisance.

- It is illegal to trap, kill or molest squirrels in any way.

- No one shall allow the mating of cattle or horses within the city except in a properly enclosed building and out of the public view.

Most of the wackier laws aren’t enforced, of course. In fact, Timmons’ office is responsible for eradicating antiquated laws. The revisor’s office has the power to edit some laws out of existence that require minimal revision, but if a law needs to be repealed, it requires legislative approval, Timmons said. Every year a Revisor’s Bill of miscellaneous statute fixes is submitted to legislators in an omnibus bill.

Sometimes legislators try to repeal the laws. In 2003, Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, tried to eliminate a 1913 law requiring canvas manufacturers label the weights of their products, which were used as awnings, wagon covers and tents, according to the Feb. 7, 2003, edition of the House’s “Session Weekly” publication. The law was designed to protect consumers from dishonest salesmen.

“We have tried to find anyone opposed to (repealing) it and couldn’t,” Seifert was quoted as saying in “Session Weekly.” The House of Representatives voted 124-0 to expunge the law 11 days later.

Most antiquated laws had a purpose at one time, Timmons said, but changing societal standards and technology make some laws obsolete.

“Something important in 1858 and very commonplace just seems funny now,” she said.

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