Opinion: Parting Shot

PARODY: Lawmakers consider clown licensing

Carolina Journal found two creepy clowns on the edge of some woods near a Raleigh elementary school, and they agreed to demonstrate the proposed clown-licensing system. The clown on the left would be breaking the law, under the proposed legislation, but the clown on the right, wearing a clearly visible clown license, would be completely legal. (CJ spoof photo)
Carolina Journal found two creepy clowns on the edge of some woods near a Raleigh elementary school, and they agreed to demonstrate the proposed clown-licensing system. The clown on the left would be breaking the law, under the proposed legislation, but the clown on the right, wearing a clearly visible clown license, would be completely legal. (CJ spoof photo)

Responding to the nationwide rise of creepy clown sightings, state lawmakers soon will consider licensing clowns.

The proposed law would require county sheriffs to accept applications, perform background checks, and issue clown licenses. Under the program, which would go into effect March 31, licensees would be issued a certified clown badge that must be visible anytime they’re in clown garb.

Clowns in costume or makeup not displaying badges and engaging in creepy or threatening behavior could be arrested at the discretion of local law enforcement officers.

The first reported sightings of clowns attempting to scare motorists or pedestrians took place in late August in Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C. Then in early September, clown sightings spread, with incidents occurring in Winston-Salem.

Creepy clowns sometimes may be hard to distinguish from regular clowns, clown safety expert Ron M. Donald told Carolina Journal. Behavior identifying creepy clowns may include: lurking in wooded areas; lurking in urban areas; wearing scary makeup; or expressing generic creepiness, he said.

The new law was developed and drafted during the Oct. 4 meeting of the Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee, the legislative panel that has jurisdiction over the state’s 58 occupational licensing boards. It has been studying and considering the potential centralization and stronger legislative monitoring of those boards.

The committee’s co-chairman, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, told CJ that the creepy clown epidemic was totally unexpected. “Proposing a new occupational licensing board to deal with a crisis situation is within the discretion of my committee,” he said.

Hartsell, 69, the longest-serving current member of the North Carolina Senate, announced late last year that he would not seek re-election in 2016. After that announcement, he was charged in state and federal court with crimes related to spending political campaign funds for personal use.

“As you know, I no longer will be in public service in the General Assembly after November. I see this legislation as one last important project I can accomplish,” he said.

Clown safety advocates say lawmakers should not wait until the General Assembly convenes Jan. 11 to pass a bill and they are urging Gov. Pat McCrory to call a special session in November.

North Carolina Clown Association spokesman Paul Yatchee said his organization has opposed government occupational licensing of professional or amateur clowns, including any mandate for clown schools to be accredited by a state agency.

“Everybody knows where the local clown college is,” he told CJ, while consuming a strand of several dozen knotted handkerchiefs. “You don’t need the government to point that out.”

He also criticized the clown badge proposal. “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. We don’t have to show you any stinking badges.”

Hartsell said the legislation calls for the appointment of a nine-member Clown Licensing Board, with five appointees made by the governor and four by legislative leaders. The board will oversee a staff with an initial budget of $1 million per year and develop uniform guidelines for each county sheriff to follow, including rules on special license plates for clown cars and maximum occupancy limits for those vehicles.

Parting Shot is a parody based on recent events in the news. This parody appeared in the November 2016 print edition of Carolina Journal.