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Chuck Moss

Chuck Moss

Licensing Weatherguys?

April 21, 2017

How much do you hate your legislature? On one hand we have those who want to get rid of legislative term limits, and on the other, those who want to get rid of the Legislature—or support a part-time legislature, which is the same thing. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof called term limits a “failed social experiment” and said we can “do better.” Meanwhile Tea Party and other groups say everybody should be a legislator for 15 minutes.  Where lies the truth? You be the judge.

From the April 1, 2017 Ballenger Report: “A bi-partisan bill to license and regulate meteorologists and TV/radio weather forecasters was introduced in the House of Representatives Friday. The measure’s primary sponsor, State Rep. Sam Yeotis (D-Engadine), said he had secured 96 co-sponsors from both major political parties. ‘This was the worst storm in Michigan history by one standard. It was the biggest power outage ever, but an exhaustive study shows that not one single news outlet predicted it! More than a million people were without power for days, a falling tree murdered a couple of motorists in Clare County, and a wind-fanned arson fire killed five people in Detroit.”

So where do we begin? First off, full disclosure: I was myself term-limited out of the House, but without term limits, John Jamian would probably still be there, so I wouldn’t have had a chance. I also lost power for 3 days in the storm. Murderous falling trees ran amok in my neighborhood, but they missed me, my wife, and all three wiener dogs. Second: ‘broadcast meteorologist’ is the preferred nomenclature. I learned this from WDIV’s Paul Gross, when I wrote a DETROIT NEWS column alleging that “weatherguys” were just weird looking people doing stand-up comedy about clouds.”

So now we need a law to license broadcast meteorologists. Great! License with whom? The State of Michigan? Ummm…okay. Which agency? The Department of Environmental Quality? I mean, good weather is definitely part of a quality environment. But the state DEQ couldn’t predict that taking drinking water out of the Flint River meant a better than 50% chance of excremental precipitation.

And on what basis do we license them? You can require certification as a meteorologist, but broadcast? Anyone can become a broadcaster, you can trust me on this.  And once you are licensed as a broadcast meteorologist, then what? Rep. Yeotis asserts that no one predicted the windstorm. Does this mean that maintenance of one’s BV license will depend on being right? I mean, predicting the weather correctly a certain percentage of time? What percentage: 50%? 75%?  While we’re at it, why not license fortunetellers? I mean, we already license stockbrokers, but instead of Ouija boards and star charts, they use voodoo called ‘metrics.’

One unfortunate fact must be faced: weather forecasting accuracy has declined in recent years. The use of Doppler Radar and satellite tracking has led to a falloff in correct predictions. In the old days, a good Detroit area broadcast meteorologist made two phone calls before going on air: one to Ann Arbor and one to Chicago. Whatever the weather was in Chicago would be here tomorrow, and Ann Arbor’s in about 45 minutes. 

This addition of broadcast meteorologists to the rather lengthy list of regulated and licensed occupations is actually running counter to current thinking. In Tennessee, they’ve passed the “Right To Earn A Living Act” which rolls back occupational license requirements. In Michigan, Governor Snyder erased licensing requirements for several jobs, and we should look at more. Do we really need hundreds of hours of training to get a certified hair-braider?

“Tell me, said Yeotis. “Are you in more danger of having your ear sliced off by a barber, or by venturing out on overcast day when the so-called experts have failed to warn you that 70 mile-per-hour winds are headed your way?” Well, maybe in Engandine there are Yooper Sweeney Todds behind every barber chair, but down here if I get a bad haircut, I just go somewhere else next time. And my iPhone NOAA app told me there were high wind warnings.  Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing the proposed state government licensing regime that will require broadcast meteorologists to be right all the time.

But back to the original subject: term limits or part time legislature? A bill to regulate TV weatherguys and gals? You call that one!

Chuck Moss teaches Political Science at Oakland University and serves on the Board of the Regional Transportation Authority. He was elected to represent the 40th District in the Michigan House and was appointed Chairman of the all-important Appropriations Committee, responsible for the entire state budget. Prior to politics, Chuck was political columnist for the DETROIT NEWS, and has hosted talk shows for radio and television.

April 20, 2017 · Filed under Chuck Moss



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