Summer Doldrums Hit State House

Frankly we’re all waiting for our vacations to start.

With little action on the floor, and almost no committee work, the State House is fairly quiet–except for the tourists. Thousands of them.

I’ve filled several garbage cans; I’ve found room in the file cabinet for the budget stuff; I’ve cleared the desk; the piles are off the floor.

What was this stuff anyway? Things people delivered and mailed.

· I learned that 1,660, or 22.4 percent of the 7,424 state legislators are women. In 32 years, the number of women serving in state legislatures has increased more than five fold, from 301 or 4 percent in 1969. Washington state has the most (38.8 percent) and Alabama the least (7.9 percent). Massachusetts has 11 female Democratic senators and one Republican; 30 Democrats in the House and 7 Republicans. That’s 49 out of 200, or almost 25 percent.

· Iowa wants politicians to always tell the truth–or end up behind bars. The House approved a bill that would make it a crime for a politician to say things about a rival if the candidate knows his words are "untrue, deceptive or misleading." Caught lying and it’s a $1,500 fine or a year in jail.

· Massachusetts was the first state to enact compulsory automobile liability insurance. In 1925.

· More than $750-million in lottery funds were distributed to Massachusetts cities and towns last year. That’s an increase of $44-million over 1999, so our state’s lottery continues to be profitable. The money isn’t earmarked–cities and towns can spend the money however they like. Westfield got $5.8-million. Montgomery, $82,323. Some 7,500 lottery agents sell the tickets. Bottom line. State takes in $3.7-million in lottery money. Some 2.5-million go to prizes. Another million to operating costs.

Most popular, in dollars, are the instant games, which took in $2.4-million. Keno, second in gross, took in $572,442. Third, Mass Cash at $376,952.

· Once again the Insurance Committee has decided to exclude acupuncture from mandated health insurance coverage even though it’s been endorsed by the National Institutes of Health for treating pain, addiction, asthma and stroke. Cele predicts that acupuncture treatments will eventually be paid for by your insurer. It will just take time, as did chiropractic coverage.

· The Women Legislators’ Lobby (WILL) says 1.5-million women are raped or physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year in the U.S. Women who were physically assaulted averaged 7 assaults by the same partner. One in three women is assaulted by a partner during adulthood. Half of all homeless women and children are fleeing domestic abuse.

· Massachusetts gets a grade of F in the National Report on State Fiscal Policy when it comes to general fund expenditures as a share of state personal income. We spend more than 8 percent of your income, an indication of a lack of fiscal discipline according to the report. Other states with F include Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, New Mexico. Alaska is worst at 13.5 percent.

Further, according the report, high spending doesn’t indicate a better quality of life, or any better government services. It specifically cited New Hampshire (an A for 2.8 percent spending) and Massachusetts (8.8 percent), saying that both states have similar scores in leading economic

indicators like per capita personal income, unemployment rate and productivity, but the quality of life enjoyed by average citizens is not demonstrably different.

· Good news. Massachusetts ranks in the top ten nationally in terms of per capita income. And New England is highest of all the regions in the country at $34,264.

· During the past 100 years, average global surface temperatures have increased by approximately one degree Fahrenheit. Physicians for Social Responsibility say these changes could impact human health in Massachusetts, with the possibility of increased heat-related illness, more severe weather, more deaths from heart attacks, asthma, illnesses from Lyme disease and West Nile virus, water borne illnesses like giardiasis, contaminated foods. Their goal? To reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

· Some 61 bald eagles have been counted in the state with 18 on the Connecticut River, the highest number since the survey began in 1979.

· Quote from a Boston Globe editorial. "MCAS is not the enemy. That distinction still belongs to low expectations."

· One in seven Massachusetts high school students reports the use of inhalants. That’s intentional breathing of vapors to get high. More than a thousand common household and industrial products can be abused. Over time they can cause severe and permanent damage to the body, especially the brain, or, sudden death from heart arrhythmia, asphyxiation, suffocation and choking. Signs of inhaled abuse include facial rash, blisters or sores around nose and mouth, frequent sniffing or funny nose, unusual harsh smelling breath, vomiting, hallucinations, irritability and anger.

· Potato chip lovers are successful, high achievers, who enjoy the rewards of their success. They’re most compatible with pretzel people who often lose interest in the mundane and live by the saying "carpe diem" or "seize the day". Prefer crackers? You’re contemplative and thoughtful, logical rather than emotional. People who choose meat snacks are gregarious and social, loyal and true friends. Tortilla chip people are perfectionists, humanitarians, impulsive yet careful. From personality tests and snacks given to 800 people.

· Massachusetts is one of 12 states that requires localities to license adult entertainment establishments. Only Alabama and North Carolina have expressly authorized the prohibition of nude dancing.

· Each day, 1,500 people die of cancer. Massachusetts is one of five states that received four-year grants worth $1.7-million to come up with cancer control plans. Programs can include everything from colorectal screening to attempts to increase early detection for breast cancer.

Now, why do I need to know all that? And why do people, officials, organizations and other groups feel compelled to tell me? So I can tell you, I guess. And, I did.

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