Government is complicated

01Apr10

Also, the sky is blue.

So a friend of mine recently offered to sell me a coveted “euroswitch” for my ’03 Passat.  The stock light switch for the American market has three positions: off, on, and on + fog lights.  The euro switch, however, has: off, parking, parking + fog, on, and on+ fog.  Plus it has additional positions for turning on the rear fog light (which I would need to wire, but at least now I’ll have the switch for it).  My experience with cars made since at least the mid-90s is that you cannot operate the fog lights independent of the low beams.  If the fog lights are on, the low beams must also be on.  This switch removes that limitation, leading me to believe that the reason for said limitation is due to legislation.  Which brings us to the topic of this post: my friend and I sought to discover whether it was truly a legal issue by trying to consult the laws.

Of course, he took a reasonable course of action, starting at the Pennsylvania DMV website, locating the PA Vehicle Code (Title 75), and then proceeding to search through there.  I also looked, but just googled for the information, and landed at Transportation (Title 67) instead.  Both titles seemed to address lighting codes but contained different information.  And beyond that, the PA Code didn’t contain a Title 75, and in other places I found, Title 67 wasn’t Transportation at all!  After quite a bit of confusion, here’s what I learned (disclaimer: I AM NOT A LAWYER (IANAL), and this may still all be wrong):

The two sources of rules/regulations/laws are: The Pennsylvania Code (officially published by Fry Communications, available unofficially via their site, pacode.com) and Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (officially published by the PA Legislative Reference Bureau as the “Laws of Pennsylvania”, unofficially published by Westlaw as the “Purdon’s Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated“, available unofficially via their site, government.westlaw.com).  The Consolidated Statutes are the laws as passed by the legislature, signed by the Governor, and enacted.  The Pennsylvania Code is the rules and regulations as enacted by various agencies of the executive branch, as delegated to them by the language of the laws (thus the Code references its Authority from the PA C.S.).

So, if like me you’re asking “which of these apply when there seems to be a conflict,” the answer seems to be that they both do.  Although it probably seems like you could make a case that the Consolidated Statutes should trump the Code where they overlap, the reality is probably a complex legal situation in which lawyers would need to argue about the definition of the word “is.”

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