More of the Bits and Pieces

Shortest testimony. From Frank O’Brien, lobbyist for Alliance of American Insurors, before the Insurance Committee last week. "Me too." We appreciate brevity. There’s a saying in the State House during hearings, when we tire of hearing many people say the same thing. "Everyone has already said everything, but I haven’t had my turn to say it." We also ask people not to read written testimony given to us. They read it anyway.

Cellphones. In 2000, in Massachusetts, there were 21,127 auto accidents that were investigated. Only one was directly attributable to cellphone use. According to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, there is a 6.4 chance in one million of being killed while using a cellphone in a car, and a 1.5 in a million chance of being killed by someone else using a cellphone in a car.

Dogs. The MSPCA isn’t happy with insurance companies that take dog ownership into consideration when issuing a policy. Some insurers claim that dogs–specifically Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and German Shepards–are likely to cause damage and thus are serious insurance risks. Males are more likely to bite than females; sexually intact dogs are more likely to bite than neutered dogs; chained dogs are more likely to bite than unchained dogs. Believe it or not, a Dog Bite Study Group has been formed to look into the issue.

Red Sox. Getting ready for opening day, Fenway workers hosed down all the seats. The job included getting rid of the snow that had accumulated.

We’re growing. Massachusetts now has 6,355,568 people, according to new census data. That’s a 5.5 percent increase in 10 years. Westfield, as you know by now, officially topped the 40,000 mark. (The mayor and I think it’s more like 42,000.) Every Representative will have more constituents--39,772. Senators will have 158,899 people to represent. New districts will be determined in time for the 2002 elections.

Seatbelts. Do you approve? There’s legislation pending that would allow law officers to stop your car if you’re not buckled up. Right now, they can cite you only if they stop you for another violation.

Gender. If political power were to be proportionally divided, half of our legislators would be women. We have only 25 percent in the House in Massachusetts. It’s not just the females who are unrepresented. We have just three Latino and five people of color as Representatives.

Scooters. All the rage at Christmas, those shiny silver scooters are being watched carefully by the Public Safety Committee. They may well extend mandatory helmet laws from just bikes to scooters, as well as inline skates and skateboards, and raise the mandatory age for helmets from 12 to 16.

Pigeons. Homing pigeons to be exact. They can fly 600 miles a day and be worth as much as $35,000 each. So there’s a bill before us to determine penalties if you maim, hunt, pursue, capture, wound, kill or disfigure one.

License Plates. Every year, legislators suggest new license plates for the Commonwealth to sell that would benefit a specific cause. The problem is, the plates first have to pay for themselves, and that means at least 2,500 of us have to buy them to make them viable. This year’s suggestions include youth hockey, organ donors, Masons, Lions, and veterans who participated in nuclear tests. Oh yes, Cat in the Hat, too. These special plates cost $40. So far, only two plates–Cape and the Islands, and Invest in Children–have made profits for charities.

Tax Holiday. There’s a move in Boston to give us all a sales tax free day just before school starts this fall. New York has done it to boost sales and we just might try it here.

Smoking. The no-smoking decree evidently hasn’t adversely affected our restaurants and bars. According to statistics released last week, following a study of meals taxes, sales increased.

Moo. The commonwealth has about 100,000 head of cattle. And another 100,000 animals that could get foot and mouth disease. The legislature is working to establish regulations to control the disease if it arrives here. Agricultural experts worry about imported products and the ability of federal agents to thoroughly inspect every plant and food item that crosses the border. If people think "mad cow" or foot and mouth disease are here, New England could well lose a lot of its tourism business.

And, Once More. Legislators are being asked to choose the official-almost-everything. This year, voters want us to name the following: Blue, green and cranberry the official colors; the Great Spangled Fritillary as butterfly; number 6 as the state’s number. Most of these are nominated by school classes when teachers want to demonstrate how laws are made. And, most kids are in fordeep disappointment when their suggestions fail.

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