Santa Fails to Meet State Standards

Santa had it a lot easier when I was a kid.

He simply took off in his sleigh, landed on roofs, delivered presents, picked up the cookies and milk for himself and the carrots for the reindeer, and went home to the North Pole to have a cup of hot chocolate with Mrs. Claus.

No one thought it strange that he lived with a few dozen elves, and a herd of reindeer, and was basically unemployed for most of the year.

Today he has to answer a lot of questions and meet the standards of a few dozen state agencies before he can bring our presents.

He won't, despite all those idle weeks, qualify for welfare from the Department of Transitional Assistance, I'm afraid. It's two years of benefits and you're out. And the homeless shelters don't take reindeer. Or elves. So he's stuck at the North Pole, which must be substandard housing by now.

And, he has to travel a little heavier tonight, with the modern day equipment needed to make the flight. Just to keep track of all the gifts and kids and houses he has to, at the very least, have a Palm and a huge computer system. Probably a cellphone as well. And a GPS--Global Positioning System. There's also the whole Y2K problem.

He has to have the Registry approve his sleigh under the new emissions standards, after paying his excise taxes, and he probably spent a little extra for a vanity plate.

The Division of Insurance has to be certain he insured the sleigh, and the reindeer team, plus bought some pretty good liability insurance in case of an accident. Some attorney about to retire would like to go out in a blaze of headlines by suing Santa for damages of some sort.

The FAA as well as the Department of Transportation, Massport, the Turnpike Authority and Mass Highway all have to meet to decide how to handle the takeoffs, landings and land travel of the old man. Sleigh runway neighbors have to approve the sound level. Travel and Tourism will probably want to attend as well.

Since Santa is over retirement age, Social Security, as well as Medicaid, Medicare and the Senior Pharmacy program will have to complete a lot of paperwork to be sure he's covered, or not covered, by whatever he needs to have, or not have, do or not do, to meet all their regulations. And the Executive Office of Elder Affairs might be able to help get him some benefits that he doesn't even know about.

If his smoke is still encircling his head like a wreath, the state's tobacco control people will want to talk to him while he's here, so he'll have to schedule an extra stop.

Ethics Commission will get involved to make sure those carrots, and cookies and milk, don't exceed the legal limits for politicians, and I think Santa must be one, since he wants to get along with everyone and have everyone like him.

Half of his reindeer, however, will have to be female, half male. So someone has to go explain the job loss to the Donder, Blitzen, Comet, and Cupid. Who would all have to not only meet the new emissions standards, but would probably need the protection of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Environmental Management.

The Audubon Society and Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will probably get involved as well, because questions have been raised about making them pull the sleigh, toys AND Santa, and if keeping them at the North Pole year around is a good idea. Even the State Racing Commission has to sign off on their trip, after making sure they wouldn't be competing with the greyhounds or the ponies.

The elves? Department of Social Services might take an interest, as would the labor unions, I'm sure. In fact, the elves have to organize, so Santa can deliver toys from a union shop, using prevailing wage.

He also has to pay unemployment insurance, and workers comp, for each elf, unless he can classify them as "seasonal employees." Health insurance premiums have to be paid, as well, before they can load the sleigh. And if they take the maternity or paternity leave, vacation, sick time, coffee breaks and comp time after the late nights this month, Santa will have to hire additional elves. And elves are hard to find.

Retailers, worried about competition, have asked Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations to investigate, to be sure he's providing a legitimate service.

With a "nose like a cherry," Santa might be imbibing, so ABCC requires a check of his identification, which will be invalid, since it's from out of state. I can't even imagine what the fire and police departments, state Department of Public Safety, or the State Police might demand if they find out he's been tipping a little. Even Massachusetts Municipal Association will get involved in deciding which cities and towns get visited first.

And, Santa has to worry about funding for his whole adventure. If up to the legislature, funding will be late, the Governor will veto it, and Mr. Claus will to wait a long time for the money to actually arrive. If he privatizes, it might be easier.

Santa...Merry Christmas. And I'll see what I can do to make things easier in the next century.

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