Reading the mail, again.

Every once in awhile the mail seems full of rather interesting stuff. So, in no particular order, this is what I found in cleaning out the piles.

Casinos. A Council of State Governments survey shows that casino gambling has been a mixed blessing for states. Although the amount of money spent on gambling is growing, increased competition decreases the compensation each state is getting. And, state lotteries are being crowded out by the casinos. Folks who answered the survey also said they thought that gambling outlets will continue to increase in number, but the actual revenue increase is "as unpredictable as a roll of the dice." (So, I ask, if or when casinos come up for a vote again in Massachusetts, what should we do?)

Christmas. You won't get a handpainted, blown glass Christmas ornament shaped like the State House in Boston from me. And, I'm not buying one shaped like the USS Constitution or Faneuil Hall or an MBTA trolley, either. But, they are all available.

An honor. The Mass Medical Society's newsletter has arrived. Aptly named, Vital Signs. I like that. I also like the Legislator of the Month. She's your Rep. Thanks, doctors.

More honors. Did you know that six of the seven English majors from Westfield State who took the teacher certification exam passed. (And, the seventh was actually a post baccalaureate student who took only the ed requirements here. Insiders tell me that English program is a strong, no-nonsense program.)

Guns. When the legislature passed gun control legislation, there was a major error. Veterans were inadvertently prevented from carrying weapons in parades. We've rectified the situation, by voting to let them carry ceremonial guns. Unloaded.

Domestic Violence. When judges issue temporary or permanent custody orders, they now have to consider past and present spousal and child abuse. And abuse is considered a factor contrary to the best interest of the child. A dozen other states have joined us in passing similar legislation. In the 1970s the focus was on shelters. Laws in the 1980s emphasized treating domestic violence as a serious crime. Today, the focus is on legislation and policies to protect both mothers and their children.

Thank you. To the Massachusetts Airport Managers Association. For inviting me to their annual meeting and giving me an award for sponsoring changes in airplane sales and use tax. And for giving my husband, who patiently attends an endless calendar of events with me, the "Being There" award, plaque and clock.

Frost. The fourth Saturday in October is now, officially, annually and forever, Robert Frost Day in Massachusetts. If you didn't know, he was educated, and lived, in Lawrence.

Counting. Massachusetts is the only state where any citizen can introduce legislation. But, most still comes from the legislators. And many of us sponsor a lot of bills. Each session, we face about 8,000 pieces of legislation. Other states limit how many bills each member may introduce. Supporters say limits reduce the number of superfluous bills, allow more time to work on substantive legislation, give legislators more time to read and understand bills, and reduce costs for paper, staff and printing.

Others disagree. They say limits restrict members' rights to introduce legislation, and carry out their responsibilities, and further interfere with legislators' abilities to respond to changing times and emergencies. In California, for example, assemblymen may introduce up to only 30 bills in a two year period. North Carolina is 10, Florida is 8. In Montana, unused requests can be given to another member.

Buckle up. Every hour, someone in America dies simply because they didn't buckle up.

New words. Phytoremediation. Bioremediation. Natural processes to treat contaminated soils and water with plants and microbes. Translated, very simply, bacteria eats up the pollution.

Language. Some 15 percent of kids 5 to 17 here in the Northeast speak a language other than English at home.

Spelling. From the We All Make Mistakes" department. A recent memo to all legislators from the Department of Education talked about adequate "maiteaninence."

Happy Halloween. Last year, to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records, the residents of Keene displayed 13,432 jack-o-lanterns.

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