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Reeder: State needs to get out of parenting business

SPRINGFIELD – The law isn’t always black and white – sometimes it’s a nice caramel shade of bronze.

Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation prohibiting anyone younger than 18 from visiting a tanning salon – even with their parents’ permission.

Has anyone thought about leaving it up to parents to decide whether their kids get a tan?

It seems when big government isn’t trying to parent us, it’s trying to parent our kids.

I love my kids and think I can make wise decisions for them without interference from Springfield.

And, hey, it’s not like a child can covertly go out and get a tan. It would be pretty evident when he gets home on some January afternoon that, yes, junior has been under the tanning lights.

Current law in Illinois allows minors to access tanning beds with parental or guardian consent.

But that law is destined to fade away when the new law goes into effect Jan. 1.

According to the Melanoma Foundations, two leading causes of skin cancer are using tanning beds or being in the sun without sunscreen.

What’s next? Banning kids from going outside without sunscreen?

At some point, personal responsibility has to come into play.

We can’t be a society that wraps its citizens in government bubble wrap, protecting them from any potential mistake.

Another nanny state bill signed by Quinn this month is a measure prohibiting handheld held cellphones from being used while driving.

Are there times, when you’re driving when it is not a good idea to use a cellphone? You bet.

But rather than leave it up to the discretion of individual drivers to determine when they can safely drive and talk, government has taken a one-size-fits-all approach and prohibited it for everyone.

It is just one more erosion of individual freedom at the hands of big government.

Along those lines, Quinn last week signed a measure called the “Puppy Lemon Law.”

The legislation would allow people who buy a cat or dog to get a replacement or a refund if the animal needs veterinary care for some illnesses or conditions within 20 days of purchase. The buyer also could seek damages for the cost of veterinary care.

I have four dogs, two cats and a pair of parakeets living under my roof. (These things happen when you marry a veterinarian.)

When buying an animal, I’ve learned to question the owner about the animal’s health and potential genetic problems.

I usually will ask for a guarantee that will enable me to return the pet if a serious health problem is detected after purchase. If the seller doesn’t agree, I have the option of shopping elsewhere.

That’s the way free enterprise works.

But now our governor has signed a solution in search of problem.

After Jan. 1, pet owners suffering from buyer remorse under some conditions can just return the pet for a full refund.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a lemon law for the politicians we elect?

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at

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