Friday, July 01, 2005

Stump the Law Librarian

Q: I'm very interested in weather. I watch the Weather Channel all the time. Are there any interesting developments on the topic of law and the weather?

A: Here are a couple developments you might like to take note of:
1) The National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, a bill introduced in April by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) could dramatically change the function of the National Weather Service. The bill's key provision (Section 2b) states that the National Weather Service cannot provide "a product or service...that is or could be provided by the private sector", with the exception of severe weather forecasts and warnings needed to protect life and property. The Secretary of Commerce is given sole authority on how to interpret what NWS products and services should be restricted. This bill has a lot of criticism and support. Supporters say the bill is necessary to bring about private sector innovation, but critics argue that it is unnecessary because NWS isn't hurting private weather vendors' bottom line.

2) Vehicular Hyperthermia: In summer, there's always a turn to look at safety on hot days, especially with regard to pets and children left in hot vehicles. Right now, it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle in 9 states, while another 11 states have proposed legislation to make it a criminal act. In two other states, it's only a crime if the child is injured or dies. The remaining 28 states have no restrictions. Unlike other weather-related fatalities, every one of these types of cases can be prevented. This is an area of development in many states and something to watch. (Stats from Weatherwise magazine, July/August 2005 issue)