We mere mortals owe much to members of the New Jersey legislature in their never ending quest to protect us from ourselves.

Who better to lead that charge than the esteemed long time Senator from West Orange, former Acting Governor and former Senate President Richard Codey.

Truly a man of the people.

Why it was just recently that the good Senator compared talking on a hand held cellphone as well as texting while driving to drunk driving.

(I will admit to the latter, but the former is a stretch.)

It’s very trendy these days to compare the use of a hand held cell phone while driving to being drunk behind the wheel. A flawed study or two and everyone seems to grab it and run with it like a football after the whistle has blown.

The latest is State Senator Dick Codey. Yesterday, the State Senate approved legislation he co-sponsored that doubles the fines for cell phone offenses while driving and even calls for license suspensions upon 3rd offense.

Codey says,
“We know by statistics that a driver who is talking on their cell phone or texting while driving is more dangerous than people who are drunk. These people are the new drunk drivers.”

The Senator has also championed the plight of the homeless and the mentally ill; once having spent a night at the Greystone Mental Health facility bringing along pizza and a gaggle of reporters.

Same with his visit to a homeless shelter in Newark dressed as a homeless person, again with a Star Leger reporter in tow.

I believe that got front page coverage in the Leger (shocker!).

There are other instances where the Senator has made public his persona as “everyman” that are a matter of public record; and they seem to have worked well for him.

His recognition factor has gone up, and because of that, is probably one of the more personable legislators under the gold dome.

He’s even had bobble-head dolls made in his likeness. (I know because I have one signed by the man himself on my desk somewhere!)

Just ask current Senate President Steve Sweeney!

But he's also one of the biggest proponents of the “nanny state.”
To wit his proposal to raise the to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21.

State Sen. Richard Codey said today he plans to introduce legislation that would raise the legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products in New Jersey to 21.

Codey (D-Essex) said he planned to announce his plan to introduce legislation at a news conference at City Hall in New York with Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker and mayoral candidate, who is seeking passage of a similar measure legislation in New York City.

In 2005 Codey -- who was governor at the time -- succeeded in raising the legal age for tobacco products to 19 from 18. He also signed the Smoke-Free Air Act, which banned smoking indoors.

“In the long run, this will prevent young adults from starting at a younger age ," Codey said of the bill he plans to introduce on Monday. "And as they mature, make a wiser decision in terms of what affect smoking has on them and people around them.”

Under current law, it is not illegal for those under 19 to possess tobacco or attempt to purchase it — only for stores to sell it.

As written, Codey said his bill would not change that. But he said he would discuss changing that part of the law with other lawmakers.

Laudable you say? Perhaps.

But then again, while we all know the dangers of smoking cigarettes, who’s to say that will prevent those under the age of 18 from having their first cigarette anyway.

And then there’s the argument that if at 18 they’re allowed to vote and serve in the military, then why not allow them to buy cigarettes…or alcohol for that matter.

He’s already gone on record as opposing lowering the legal drinking age from 21 to 18.

I recall having had that conversation on air with him a few years back.

So he never tires of his quest to watch out for those of us, who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to think for ourselves.

Senator Dick Codey, a tireless advocate for “everyman”.

Truly a man of the people.