Nobody Ever Said I Was Average

Want to know what the new members of the Legislature look like?

There are 18 of them in the House of Representatives this year, and if you clump them altogether you come up with an average—male, democrat, 41 years old, and married with kids.

Most say that getting more money for their districts is their primary concern. Their other priorities are education, health care and transportation, according to the State House News Service.

The House, this session, has fewer women. Just under 25 percent of the 160 members. Eight women left the House last fall, and only three new members are women. That means 15 are men. There are 15 new Democrats and only 3 new Republicans. The House, this year, has just 24 Republicans.

Occupations of the new members? Purchasing agent, materials manager, consultant, manufacturing rep, teacher, assistant college admissions director, history professor, director of a nonprofit group, the interim president of a Junior Achievement group, local government liaison for the state auditor, and publisher of an advertising circular. Seven of them are attorneys.

Consider this, she said, changing the subject. Each month seven acres of Westfield land will be altered forever. If you want to know how, contact the Winding River Land Conservancy at P. O. Box 1836 in Westfield. They’re looking for supporters who want to help preserve the fields, forests, wetlands and farmlands in this community.

They say that, since 1950, Westfield’s population has grown by 80 percent; that seven acres of land in Westfield are lost to new development each month; and that 2,084 acres of land in Westfield were developed between 1971 and 1995.

The name “Winding River” came from the Algonquin Indian name “Woronoco,” which means winding about.

Lobbyists are hard at work in the State House, bombarding us with information, some of which is actually helpful, useful, or interesting.

For example, 4,416 teen parents were homeless in Massachusetts last year.

Or, nearly 42,000 lives are lost on our nation’s roads each year. In Massachusetts, in 1999, there were almost 400 fatal motor vehicle crashes. In addition to the personal toll, the crashes caused Americans to pay more than $150 million in property loss, medical and emergency bills and lost productivity.

One in four nursing homes in Massachusetts is in bankruptcy. Forty-six nursing homes in Massachusetts have closed in the past two years. And Massachusetts ranks near the top in operating expenses per patient per day (only DC, Hawaii, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York were higher)

Massachusetts ranks near the bottom (38 of 41 reporting states) in the number of days it takes nursing homes to be paid by the state for providing care. (Sixty days vs. an average of 44 days.)

Leading causes of death in the state? Heart disease, followed by cancer, then stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (like emphysema), injury, pneumonia and flu. Then, diabetes, suicide, kidney disease, and liver disease. Scientists now believe that nine of those have some genetic component. Which is why the legislature will be spending time this year debating privacy and genetic testing.

Speaking of lists, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs has released its list of the top ten consumer complaints. Used cars are the number one problem, followed by landlord/tenant issues, new cars, retail sales, home improvements, utilities, insurance, credit and lending, auto repairs and debt collection. Something new: complaints registered by e-mail were up 39 percent last year, while complaint calls to the office were down seven percent.

The last known record of the eastern mountain lion in Massachusetts was in 1858 in Hampshire County. Other sightings since them have generally turned out to be cats or dogs or bobcats or coyotes. The state’s wildlife experts say that if you do, indeed, spot a wild cat in Massachusetts it’s probably an escapee that people had as a pet (illegally in this state).

And, finally, the new Chair of House Ways and Means, Rep. John Rogers, says that there are five “storm clouds” on the horizon when it comes to this year’s state budget. They are: the unstable revenue stream since last September, with tax cuts phased in there is $750-million less coming in during the fiscal year, unavoidable growth in non-discretionary items like Medicaid, uncertainty about federal funds from the new administration, and “sacred cows” like education and health care whose full funding leaves little to no room for growth in other areas of our state budget.

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