Friday, July 29, 2011

Found: Half-eaten sandwich on whole wheat

At 1:25 p.m. on Friday, July 29, 2011, someone lost a half-eaten sandwich on whole wheat and a used napkin, both folded up inside a blue paper plate.

Please contact me through this blog and I’ll be happy to mail your sandwich and napkin to you.

P.S. Can anyone identify what kind of car is in this video?

video

Monday, July 25, 2011

An advocacy organization acting irresponsibly: Disability Policy Consortium

Here’s some inside baseball that reveals how desperate and conniving one advocacy group has become over an issue.

There is a legitimate issue over the use of electric shock therapy and other aversive treatments allegedly being used on children with disabilities in Canton, Massachusetts. A senate amendment to the FY2012 budget was offered by Senator Brian Joyce to make more stringent the regulations dealing with aversive treatments and the amendment passed unanimously in the senate.

The conference committee then hashed out the senate and house versions of the budget and the resulting compromise budget excluded the amendment.

Now the Disability Policy Consortium is conducting a campaign of extortion, threatening to release a survey that indicates all house members are for electric shock treatment of children and people with disabilities, unless legislators fill out their questionnaire and commit to vote on a separate bill by October 1, 2011.

For the record, I do not know enough about the issue to commit to a vote at this time. Most bills are not cut and dried; there are legitimate arguments for and against. I always do my due diligence and vote in an informed way and I will do the same if this bill reaches the floor of the house. Secondly, to commit to voting by October 1, 2011 is silly. I do not control the agenda. How could I make a statement that “I will vote for passage of this bill by October 1, 2011?”

My advice to the DPC? Do not publish a survey that declares that I am in favor of electric shock treatments of children and people with disabilities; that I am a supporter of torture. Are you kidding? There is absolutely no nexus between the conference committee’s decision not to include Joyce’s amendment in the FY2012 budget and accusing me of supporting torture. That is ludicrous and verges on defamation.

The issue should be managed in an appropriate way. We have a process. Not everyone likes the process, but to resort to character assassination to try and get your way is the epitome of irresponsibility. The Disability Policy Consortium’s board of directors had better nip this in the bud before the organization follows its executive director down a very precarious path.

On their most recently filed Form 990 (for calendar year 2009), the organization claims to have spent $1,266 dollars out of a total of $110,468 collected on “direct contact with legislators, their staffs, government officials, or a legislative body” (Schedule C, Page 3).

Their exempt purpose is stated on Part III, Line 28: “Foster understanding and support through education and advocacy by empowering people to represent themselves before executive and legislative, prepare a report on health care disparities and people with disabilities, work with deaf and hard of hearing people on communication access issues in health care, continue streetscapes work meeting regularly with City of Boston officials on curb cuts and street repairs.” Total expenditures for program services were $126,366. I assume that the organization will add direct lobbying of legislators to their 2011 Form 990 statement of exempt purpose.

Here are the emails that ignited this issue for me:

------------------------------
From: lizhardy@dpcma.org [lizhardy@dpcma.org]
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2011 12:48 PM
To: Nugent, Ben (HOU)
Subject: Adversive Treatments on People with Disabilities in MA

Bernard [that’s Ben, my legislative aide]: A letter was left and email was sent on Tuesday to Representative Hunt's office. This is a copy of the letter.  Please email or call us with any questions.  We look forward to his answers to the survey.

Thanks again, Liz Hardy-Jackson 
617-542-3822 or lizhardy@dpcma.org
Disability Policy Consortium
Dear Representative:

The FY12 budget conferees had an opportunity to address one of the most shameful facts of life in Massachusetts.  The Senate budget included language that would have authorized more stringent regulations on the use of aversive treatments on people with disabilities that occur in one place in the United StatesCanton, Massachusetts.

Senator Brian Joyce sponsored the amendment that passed the Senate unanimously.  The House Conferees representing you did not agree with the Senate amendment, so this opportunity died in Conference Committee.  We also know that advocates tried to convince House Members to support the Senate language. 

Each House Member is now on record as supporting the use of an unregulated treatment model that brought a conviction for the program director by the Attorney General and for a treatment modality that the United Nation has call “torture”.

The Disability Policy Consortium does not believe that you actually offer unmitigated support for the unregulated use of electronic shock on children and people with disabilities.  Unfortunately, the fact that the Leadership has never let this issue come to the House Floor for a vote leaves you in the unenviable position of being counted as a supporter of torture.

You have the opportunity to change this view of your position and that of the House in general.   The DPC is contacting all members of the House and asking them the following questions:

  1. Do you favor the use of  electric shock treatments on children and people with disabilities. 
Yes __√__  No _____

(At this point in time ALL House Members are recorded as being in favor).

  1. Rep. Tom Sannicando & Sen. Brian Joyce have sponsored bills (HB77, SB51) that would prohibit the use of “any procedure which causes obvious signs of physical pain”.

Will you vote for passage of this bill before October 1, 2011?
Yes ____  No _____

  1. The Department of Developmental Services is currently holding public hearing on new regulations that are similar to the language Senator Joyce’s budget amendment. (http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=eohhs2terminal&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Government&L2=Newsroom&L3=Open+Meeting+Notices&sid=Eeohhs2&b=terminalcontent&f=dmr_g_open_meeting_notice&csid=Eeohhs2)

Will you vote for passage of legislation that would codify these changes before October 1, 2011?
Yes ____  No _____

We are offering this opportunity for you to set the record straight on your record and to put the House of Representatives in a better moral position to lead the Commonwealth. 

The DPC will publish the results of this survey in our DPC Update and daily and weekly press throughout the Commonwealth.

The DPC will be calling to record your answers.  You may also respond directly to this email or by calling 617 542-3822. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

Bill Allan
Executive Director
Disability Policy Consortium
617 542-3822. 

------------------------------
From: Nugent, Ben (HOU)
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2011 12:41 PM
To: Hunt, Randy - Rep (HOU)
Subject: FW: Adversive Treatments on People with Disabilities in MA
You also may have received this, not sure if you responded.  I've a call into the Dep. of Developmental services to get some for info on this.  Quite frankly the letter is out of line, but probably should be responded to shortly.

I will let you know when I get some more background on this.

Ben

------------------------------

July 25, 2011

Ben, their email amounts to extortion. I won't play.

Here's how it works:

Unless you answer my questionnaire, I'm going to assume (and publish) that you molest children, torture animals, and want your grandmother's utilities cut off.

If this is Liz Hardy's idea, she should call me at 508-833-8511 ext 201 and explain to me how desperate she was to come up with this juvenile approach.

Randy


Randy Hunt, State Representative
5th Barnstable District
93 Route 6A
Sandwich, MA 02563
(508) 888-2158

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer 2011 legislative poll: Make your opinions known

It is important that I get a "read" from constituents regarding important legislation that is likely to come before us soon. The poll is now closed, but you can review the results and read a sampling of comments below.

Click here for the results.

Here are some comments received from survey respondents (most recent first):

Do you support casino gaming in Massachusetts?
If you do it start small. Do not go all in with new casinos and slots at the tracks. Let the track locations compete for 2 licenses to add slots and table games. Watch that and decide later if it should be expanded.


Oddly enough I have no strong opinion on this one. Just that whatever is decided on should have little constraints. Free market economy, personal responsibility and accountability for providers can often be applied.


I do not like to see MA money going to RI and CT, however I can't say I believe that the Wamponoag Tribe should have more of a right to open a casino than anyone else.


On general principles I object to gambling because of the inherent dangers of addiction; of spending money many cannot afford and the often increased criminal element coming into a community.


Those most likely to gamble are those who can least afford to.


Affects the people who can least afford it.


Our residents can easily gamble in neighboring states. We might as well gain the revenue being diverted to R.I. and Conn.


For the politicians to think that the monies spent out of state by MA residents is somehow money that is theirs is not good thinking. It belongs to the people who spend it and where they spend it is their business. My other fear is that the State would build a lackluster casino(s) and would have a hard time competing with the well established CT and RI casinos. They would also eat into the very successful MA State lottery. Is this consideration figured into the revenue estimates?


Further erodes "Public Virtue" as the Romans through Adams stipulated.


No additional slots at race tracks.
Limit to three total in the State.
Transparent bidding process for application process.



I don't gamble and don't really like it but it seems there is a lot of money leaving the state to other casinos that we could use here.


Yes- one facility. Although I wouldn't participate, it could help a city like New Bedford and ultimately the state's revenues. Focus on reducing state spending and eliminate programs. Don't keep expanding programs to give more taxpayer assets away to those who should be self sufficient. If they can't be self sufficient, make their family and church responsible- like it used to be in the "good old days". The liberal mind set on Beacon Hill is to be all things to all people- enough!


If well formulated, implemented, and monitored could be a good thing. Many MA residents gamble and go out of state to do so . . .why not in MA?


Most jobs in casinos are low paying positions.


I don't really want it but understand that we are a free country and if I don't want to support the industry it's my right to not go there. It's not my right to say they can't exist in our State. Much like the dog tracks in MA.


There is enough corruption, both political and personal (gangs, thieves, murderers, rapists in this state) so why bring in the "boys". Not just that they will bribe to benefit themselves, but also make our one-party leaders more corrupt.


While there is some social downfall from Legalized Casino gambling we as a State are losing way too much potential income to our surrounding states. You cannot regulate morality so let legalize it and make some cash!


As long as it isn't on the Cape.


Do you support the Right to Repair Bill?
Competition is good!


Knock off diagonistics already on the streets, can not stop the entreprenurial (sp??) spirit. Let the free market rule the day. Consumers are becoming too dependent upon Government to cover them for their (consumers) bad decisions. Personal responsibility must be demanded.


I just cannot make up my mind on this one! There are so many pro's and con's. I will toss it to you, O WIse One, and trust that you will make the best choice.


Of course...are forgetting free enterprise and the right to compete?


I support the concept, but there have been a lot of contradictory statements in the press.


It will give the local mechanics a chance to compete with the dealerships. My wife just got through fighting with GM over a recall. It took six months and dealing with a person named "Leo" who was located in Canada to straighten it out. Whether parts are made in the USA or imported isn't relevent to this bill.


I don't think the real issue is diagnostic equipment, but parts. Should manufacturers be forced to sell current model parts outside of their dealer network? It seems that with current models, the manufacturer has the right to control access to parts, particularly when the manufacturer is still obligated to cover warrantee issues. I'd compare it to a pharma company being forced to make their drugs available to generic manufacturers right off the bat.


My local garage should be able to acquire any part or info.


Freedom of choice.


Yes, if the repair shops pay a fee to the manufacturer for the information.


It is not the right/role of the state to dictate where an owner of a car should bring his/her car for repairs.


Codes could be tied into warranty dates or mileage limits. Shades of monopoly.


Not necessary. Repair garages can get a hold of the info they need now. They just want it for free.


I share your concern over the loss of proprietary information but have always prided myself on working on my own vehicles. I can no longer change my oil without a computer. I can't replace my brakes without special tools. I would prefer my mechanic to do these tasks instead of going to see Mr. Goodwrench for twice as much.


Do you support the Expanded Bottle Bill?
Never supported the original bill, just another fee/tax. (Government scoops unclaimed deposits.)


I do a lot of travelling. I can always tell what states have a good bottle bill. In MA it is so obvious that water and other drink bottles don't have a deposit. They are all over the streets, parks, and other recreation areas. I have written letters about this issue to various authorities in the past. The BOD of the Mashpee Environmental Coalition have discussed this issue many times. It is about time, hopefully, that something will be done about it this year. NY is the state to emulate.


Kind of fed up with the overreach of the 'greenies.' As for the government, 'never ignore a tax you can add.'


Most are recycled already...just another way of raising taxes.


It's just a way for the politicians to raise more money. Another tax coming in under the radar. The original reason for the bottle bill was to stop people from throwing bottles onto the side of the road, and that has happened. Success. This additional cost would be overkill.


Just another tax We'll end up paying higher prices while Beacon Hill gets the extra $$ to spend until the bottles are redeemed. By the way, how big is that slush fund of unredeemed deposits? Besides, if the "Cape Cod Daily Worker" is for it, I am usually automatically against it!


This is a revenue bill. That not returned goes to the state.


The law needs to be reformed, not expanded. If all bottles/containers are going to be covered, then the amount charged should be based on the weight of the container. That would allow consumers to "crush" the containers to limit storage space and permit return based on weight. This would reduce the cost to the retailers, as they would not need as much space or as many people to operate the program and eliminate one of the biggest reason consumers do not return containers (space).


Yes but you need to include NIPS in the bill. I participate in community clean ups every year and find more nip bottles along the roads than anything else.


Gov't needs to participate in every fraud available to support itself. Bottled water is one of the greatest frauds of our time.


Right now there is a glut of recycleables, the price per ton has taken a nose-dive because there is so much. Most of the bottles returned are ground up and buried anyway.


I believe it would encourage recycling.


I already recycle. This is nothing more than a money grab by the State because less folks are drinking soda so there are less purchases than before. Also, folks are watching carefully where their money is being spent so I believe people are being more attentive to making sure they take that can/bottle back for the refund.


No, it would just allow the folks in Hyannis where I bring my empties to forget to count even more of my bottles.


I know this is a measure with good intentions to make Massachusetts more 'green' but it amounts to little more than a hidden tax. You can't legislate behavior.


Do you support legislation to reform health care delivery in Massachusetts?
I'm frightened of a single payer, gov't run system. Even so, my Dad in the UK has been thru a lot and has no complaints. Truth is, I just don't know enough about alternatives to have a valid opinion.


Whatever system provides competition amongst providers resulting in options for consumers and thereby lower premiums. No penalty for choosing no coverage. Free market and supply and demand should rule the day.


I'm not well versed on this subject. However, I know there are many problems such as billing, that is confusing and a duplication of resources.


I would personally LOVE to see RomneyCare repealed - along with ObamaCare. I know too many physicians who are contemplating leaving MA and at least one who is planning to set up practice in Costa Rica if ObamaCare actually takes effect. That said - there are also many people (frail elderly, the very poor, handicapped with physical and/or mental incapabilities) who remain in dire need of health care. These are the people we should concentrate on helping - NOT a one-size-fits-all government plan.


The State had to reimburse hospital emergency rooms $36 million last year. Why isn't the personal mandate to carry insurance being enforced? People who use emergency rooms should be chased down to make them pay their bills. The state needs a method to identify and track those who are using emergency rooms and aren't carrying medical insurance. A simple photo and finger printing device at the emergency rooms should be in place if they don't have insurance. It wouldn't cost that much.


I want to go to the Doctor and hospital of my choice,able to get test's that are needed without government interference. Free choice vs government control.


Too complex for me to understand, but let's not forget the concept of "unintentional consequences"..every time we enact a major piece of legislation! I'm in favor of baby steps, i.e. change the current system on a step by step basis. We are not smart enough to understand the consequences when make major changes.


Health Insurance should be for two things - wellness and to cover catastrophic illnesses. In between should be the individual's responsibility basically with high deductibles and a reasonable co-pay.


If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Vermont is a communist state anyway.


I don't think any of these choices are what I would want, but perhaps that's because my preference is not going to happen: we should repeal Romneycare, and the individual mandate. We should also reduce treatment mandates to decrease the cost of health care and encourage catastrophic plans for those who can't afford the more expensive and extensive plans.


There should be more options available to those who fall into the middle area - not poor enough for state help, but self-employed and not able to get an insurance plan through work. There still are not good enough and reasonable choices out there.


None of the above! I strongly oppose any government "mandated" health insurance program. Put the healthcare spending decision back in the hands of the consumer. No single payor. No mandated "acceptable coverage" requirement. Eliminate restrictions on purchase of insurance across state lines. Expand the use of Medical Savings Accounts. And last but not least, Tort reform!


I am self employed. Just me. "they" want over $1,000.00 a month to meet the state requirment. This is already way out of control.


Frankly, I'm at a loss to know what we should do next. I feel that there is real damage being done when we continue to change the existing programs, so this need to be done carefully and with expectations that the plan will last long enough for the providers to establish programs and budgets that they can depend on.


Not clear to me what really is the long term best system given all the opinions floating out there. Perhaps the national election will shed more light on the best system we should commit to. However, without serious tort reform linked to health care, there will not be significant improvement.


I could have answered with both 1st & 3rd answers.;however, the Romney care should not have been implemented as it stands now! The state or the government should not DICTATE/MANDATE health care in a way that is not enforceable, that is punitive, covers ILLEGALS, NOT COST EFFECTIVE, FRAUD AND ABUSE etc. etc. Repeal if possible and formulate a better one; cut the abuse and strictly monitor.


ACO's are able to provide better health care at more competitive pricing while lowering costs. Key to this is the Health Information Exchange (HIE) which provides a better undestanding of costs and patient need.


There is not a good choice above. Health care is a retail service. Where are my TV repair stamps?


Deja vu indeed (ACOs versus HMOs). Been there, done that, enjoyed it's ups and stressed over it's downs. Overall, it was better than what we have now. Design a plan that's basic to good life - we all experience childbirth, some kind of illness, injury during a lifetime; we should all get vaccinations and preventive care. People who want plans that cover excessive/exotic elective procedures, weekly chiropractic, invitro fertilization etc should pay more for it, or out of pocket.


The entire MA mandatory healthcare system should be JUNKED!


Multiple billing for reading the same test is a single point I have witnessed.I am sure there must be similiar situations that could be corrected.


My choice isn't up there... Repeal Romneycare and implement tort reform.


I am not an expert on this one, but the Insurance companies are a big part of the problem. A lot of the time it's cheaper to pay cash.


It's time start over. Romneycare is a nightmare. Obamacare is insane. Let the consumer and the doctor figure out what works best, not the lawyers and bureaucrats.


I believe the current system should be changed to require mandatory public disclosure of health care prices each provider charges.


Do you support allowing illegal immigrants who have attended a Massachusetts high school for at least three years to receive the in-state tuition rate at state universities?
What part of illegal don't the law makers understand!!! ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL!


Goodness knows the public school system is already overburdened. Teaching youth to obey the laws may be a good lesson. Perhaps the schools would provide a good way to flesh out illegals?


Allowing this will just encourage more of the same from all over. We all struggle to pay or help our children pay for their tuition. This is just the nose under the tent to a much more difficult issue - Drivers licenses = Voters for the Democrats forever (by non-legal folks)!


Is this question for real???? The only thing I would support for illegal aliens is to be instantly deported upon identification of their illegal status. Please send them home in the most cost effective manner.


This shouldn't even be up for consideration. If the parents are illegal, so are the children (PASS THAT AS A BILL). Get legal. That's the only way. I'm totally against any of them getting ANY benefits, except a trip home. I'm willing to pay for that!! They are going to destroy this country. Put AMERICANS to work.


ABSOLUTELY NOT - we'll end up paying for scholarships and dormitory etc as well !! Typical Gov. Patrick liberal give-away ( to buy more votes ) since he has never paid for anything in his life!


NO ! I am sympathetic toward these young people who are here, not of their own accord, but because of the illegal status of their parents. The more I read the more I discover that illegals are getting low cost housing, social security benefits, food stamps, free education and health care! Subsidizing their children's higher education is just too much! Illegals already cost us too much.


Absolutely not... When does illegal mean you get what out of state H.S. students who are legal citizens do not get and have to pay more tuition than illegals at state university.


What part of illegal don't you understand They should not even be in this country.


If they are in the country illegally then they should be prosecuted for violating the law.


Illegal means Illegal and should not be given citizen status.


You have to be kidding!


Absolutely not!


The bill will say "attended a Massachusetts High School, OR THE EQUIVALENT" That last phrase is open for interpretation and a reason to kill the bill. It would open the flood gates. And aren't we a country of laws? Why reward people who are here illegally? The state college system is full of state employees. As the number of legal citicens reaching college are is shrinking they are looking for additional students to fill the seats so there won't have to be cuts in staff.


ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!!! Close the borders and then we'll discuss it. Let's get rid of the criminals who are here illegally. We see their names in the news every day.


The rule of law is in bad shape here, and is necessary for a stable republic. An end result is Lawrence.


How many times do we have to say " no" to this idiotic idea?


Sure, what the hell, how about a new car too.


We can not reward illegals. That simply encourages the problem.


Although I am not sure. It seems there are some good arguments on both sides.


Illegal immigrants should become legal to receive any money form the State. They are illegal!!! What would other countries do with illegals?


No, nor do I support them attending our public schools to begin with. I do; however, support an aggressive program to return all illegals to their home country as soon as they are discovered.


HELL NO!!! They are in MY COUNTRY illegally;They are not entitled to benefits that should only be available to a USA's citizen. Again, you are here illegally. I refuse to have my taxes used for their benefits. A few suggestions: 1) Be
grateful for not being sent back to your native country. 2) Thank my country,my state and the people along the way who helped YOU at zero cost. 3) BECOME a USA's citizen. 4) ASSIMILATE & OBEY MY COUNTRY'S LAWS. NO DEMANDS OR BENEFITS UNTIL YOU COMPLY!!!



Bad idea.


As long as they have no criminal record. Throw in some public service requirement that altogether leads to citizenship. This is a stupid issue that brings out the worst in people over-endowed with middle child syndrome (he's getting something for nuthin. I earned it, he didn't; he DESERVES less than me) and entitlement issues. You can't control where you're born/where your parents bring you, just what you do when you get here. That's when you earn whatever. Hasn't that always been the American way?


NO NO and NO!! MA doesn't allow citizens who live in neighboring states and work and pay taxes in MA to have THEIR children attend at in-state rates, so why on earth should people who are in our country ILLEGALLY be allowed these benefits!


Illegal is Illegal and should be treated as such.


What part of illegal does one not understand. There are many years prior to college years that citizenship can be worked towards. When veterans from other states are not offered in state tuition should they decide on a MA educational institute - then absolutely NOT! Illegals seem to get a pass in way too many areas that us legals would be in court now and I am tired of picking up the tab.


It makes me angry that every time Beacon Hill thinks we're not paying attention they try and sneak this in. I'm tired of constantly calling my Senator/Representative about this. What part of illegal does Beacon Hill not understand?!


I feel that it is not the fault of the children involved that they were born here. I do think that their parents should be sent back. I disagree with the attorney general who says that illegal immigrants are not illegal (go figure). I heard her say it. Does that mean that illegal crimes are not illegal?


If we allow illegal immigrants to go to our high schools, why not? I would think when the child shows up at high school someone would know he was illegal and this could have been fixed: become a citizen or not?


The reduced rate is for our own citizens. If a person is illegal they should not be provided better access to our system than say a student from RI.


I support sending them home and giving them the oppurtunity to walk in the front door, the right way-like millions more before them. An illegal alien is not a citizen, therefore he is not eligible for in-state tuition.

Veterans' and service members' benefits guide released

The Massachusetts attorney general released an updated Resource Guide for Veterans and Service Members. Download it by clicking here. Areas covered include:

I. Financial Guidance & Assistance

II. Housing Resources

III. Medical Care & Death

IV. Service-Related Information

V. Education Benefits & Scholarships

VI. Motor Vehicle-Related Information

VII. Legal Assistance

VIII. Discrimination Against Veterans

IX. Employment Rights

X. Information & Resources for Family Members

XI. Support Groups & Services

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Massachusetts debate on alimony reform

Tomorrow, the Massachusetts House of Representatives will debate Senate Bill 665, An Act to Reform and Improve Alimony. The bill was heard by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in May and reported out favorably in June.

I have received many emails supporting the changes spelled out in this bill and very few against. The key components of S665 are:

  • General Term Alimony – Duration limited by formula based on years married:
    • 5 years or less: 50% of the duration of the marriage
    • 5-10 years: 60% of the duration of the marriage
    • 10-15 years: 70% of the duration of the marriage
    • 15-20 years: 80% of the duration of the marriage
    • 20 years or greater: Discretion of the court

  • Adjustments to alimony will be triggered by:
    • Remarriage of the recipient
    • Death of either spouse
    • Cohabitation by recipient (conditions apply)
    • Payer reaching Social Security full retirement age (payments cease)

Other categories of alimony payments are spelled out by the bill, including Rehabilitative, Reimbursement, and Transitional.

If you’re already subject to an alimony agreement, you will have to wait at least a year, and as many as 3½ years, before you can file for a modification.

The law as written would only affect cases over which the courts still have jurisdiction, known as “merged” cases. An amendment being offered by Reps. Harrington and Winslow would allow judges to adjust or stop alimony in all cases where the recipient is cohabitating.

Anonymously yours

Why do I allow anonymous postings on this blog? It’s a question that comes up from time to time.

1)      If I “allowed” only posts from people who identify themselves, it would be nearly impossible to ensure that the identities are genuine. So, from a practical standpoint, it’s not doable and, besides, it would put a chokehold on the number of blog participants.

2)      Anonymous posters often bring information to a discussion that would otherwise never see the light of day.

The tone of the conversations does get more aggressive when people post anonymously. No question about that. Just keep in mind that it’s a two-way street. As an anonymous poster, one tends to go after other posters and public personalities in a no-holds-barred way. That’s fine, but if I respond to you in an equally aggressive manner, don’t act like you’re insulted, embarrassed, or that you have your feelings hurt. What’s good for the goose…

I also am criticized from time to time about even running a blog as an elected official. I’m told that, as a state rep, I should never inject myself into local issues (pay-as-you-throw is a perfect example). I might make someone mad and lose a vote. Two points come to mind when I hear these arguments:

1)      I am intensely interested in local issues, whether or not they are linked to my service as a state representative. As a former selectman, am I supposed to turn away from the issues that drew me into the political arena in the first place? For better or worse, you’ll see me continuing to comment on local issues, offer advice to our local boards, attend town meetings, and hold signs for candidates who I believe in.

2)      It is key for me to stay connected with people in my district. This blog is a part of that. Can the blog be used by a potential opponent to dig up things that might help them in a race against me? Sure. But, for me, the position of state rep does not define who I am. I work very hard at the job. I love handling constituent issues. At the same time, I see myself as a husband, dad, accountant, small business owner, musician, amateur humorist—not as a Beacon Hill politician. Whether or not my approach to being a state rep is a good one will be borne out at the polls on the first Tuesday in November next year.

So now I invite all of the anonymous posters to take me on, but don’t get your dander fluffed up when I come right back at you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pay-As-You-Throw bags quickly take 2nd place to $10 disposal fee

I provided an overview of the Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) system back in December (click here for the article), a video demonstration of recycling containers in February (click here for the article), a jab at the bag selling scheme in May (click here for the article), and my prediction of the biggest spring cleaning ever in June (click here for the article).

The spring cleaning rush was spurred by the $10 fee for disposing of non-metallic items and appliances with gases (refrigerators, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, propane tanks, etc.)

This fee is now the main issue for the majority of transfer station users in Sandwich. It seems that everyone has their own interpretation of what is assessed a $10 fee and what isn’t.

I received a simple explanation last week: All the stuff that is disposed of on the right side of the transfer station requires a $10 fee except for the five-cent deposit bottles, clothing, and metal pile.

What happens when I arrive with my plastic table and chairs from my cheap backyard set (which, by the way, has the recycle “triangle” embossed on each piece)? Do I attempt to load this stuff into the glass/cans/plastic compactor? If not, then I suppose I must go to the household item pile. Can I dump it for free since the plastic is recyclable? Do I pay $10 to dispose of the table and four chairs? Or $50—$10 for each piece? Did I mention that I only paid $69.99 for the set from Wal-Mart?

What about my metal patio set? The table is metal with a glass top. The chairs are metal-framed with vinyl seats. Does this go in the metal pile? Do I have to pay $10 for the glass top? What if I break it into a bunch of small glass shards? Can I put those in the compactor? Do I have to rip the vinyl material off the chairs? Where does that go? Is there a $10 charge for each wad of vinyl? Is vinyl recyclable?

My experience with the PAYT bags has been pretty straight forward, other than the fact that they’re easier to tear than any plastic garbage bag I’ve purchased in the last 25 years. The concept, however, is easy to grasp and implement. This $10 fee, on the other hand, is as clear as mud.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Driving for Charity: June 2011 - Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation

I made a campaign promise, at the urging of Matt Pitta, WXTK Radio news director, to pass through my state representative travel per diem to a local charity each month. Unlike most of us who do not get paid to commute, legislators receive payments based on the distance they drive to the Statehouse. My per diem is $45. Click here to see “Who gets paid to drive to work?”

June’s per diem payment of $315 represents seven trips to the Statehouse and I am honored to donate that amount to help a three-year-old girl who suffers with Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation (CDG). This disorder includes numerous outward symptoms including difficulty in feeding, slow weight gain, and persistent vomiting. It is fatal in 20% of infants and produces serious, life-long effects for those who survive infancy.

Managing this situation has been arduous, to say the least, for her parents. Their pediatrician has recommended purchasing an iPad and a specialized program to help their little girl learn at a better pace, but the cost of an iPad and the software will run close to $800. That adds just one more financial challenge to the already long list of expenses not covered by their health insurance plan.

A contribution directly to a person-in-need is not tax deductible as a charitable donation, but if anyone who reads my blog is interested in making a small contribution to help, I will be happy to collect those checks and forward the total amount to the parents. Make your check payable to Randy Hunt CPA PC and put "iPad for CDG child" on the memo line. Mail to:

Randy Hunt CPA PC
297 Quaker Meeting House Road
East Sandwich, MA 02537

Saturday, July 2, 2011

State’s fiscal year 2012 budget clears house and senate

Only two representatives and four senators voted against the state’s FY2012 budget. The two state reps objected because the budget did not go far enough to meet their conservative standards. The four state senators objected because the budget went too far to suit their liberal standards.

One might conclude from this that there is something good in this budget for everyone. And there is.

The two biggest positives, in my opinion, are the restoration of $65 million in local aid cuts (even if it is only for one year) and municipal health insurance reforms that shift control of deductibles and copayments to towns and cities, removing those two elements from collective bargaining. As an alternative, a local or county government can join the state’s health insurance plan.

Here is the press release that Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo issued yesterday:

House and Senate Pass Balanced FY12 Budget 
The Massachusetts legislature passed a $30.59 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2012 aimed at increasing government efficiency, cutting costs and shielding essential services. The budget reduces the state’s FY12 Stabilization Fund draw by $15 million and closes a $1.9 billion budget gap with funding reductions, ongoing revenue initiatives and one-time revenues.
“Faced with a sizeable budget gap and limited resources, we have produced a balanced budget that improves government efficiency and preserves essential services,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “Through needed reforms, this responsible budget protects our neediest residents and brings cost savings to state government.”
“We have completed a difficult, but responsible budget that reflects the priorities of the Commonwealth and includes unfortunate, but necessary savings,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “Our economy is no longer in freefall but we are still challenged to do more with less at all levels of state government and this budget is realistic for our current fiscal situation. We faced some important policy issues this year and I am proud of the hard work and collaboration that went into producing a final budget for the 2012 fiscal year.” 
“Lacking federal resources to trim the budget gap, this compromise budget efficiently provides necessary services to folks across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways & Means. “Through the implementation of innovative reforms, the budget cuts costs while maintaining services that our residents rely on.” 
“Although we are seeing a rise in monthly revenue numbers and a decrease in the Massachusetts unemployment rate, we are not out of the woods yet. This compromise spending plan provides assistance to some of our neediest residents while implementing cost saving measures. Members of both branches have worked painstakingly hard to come up with a smart and efficient spending plan,” said Senator Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre), who chairs the Senate Committees on Ways and Means. 
The budget increases Chapter 70 funding by $140 million and SPED Circuit Breaker funding by $80 million over their FY11 appropriations. 
The budget includes a plan to reform municipal health insurance that provides savings for cities and towns while ensuring that employees and retirees have a strong voice without a veto. The conference report allows municipalities to alter co-payments, deductibles and other plan design features so long as such features are no greater in dollar amount that those offered by the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) plan with the largest subscriber enrollment. The GIC provides health insurance to state workers and legislators. 
The municipal employee health reform plan does not alter collective bargaining rights associated with premium splits. Furthermore, as a local option proposal, cities and towns will not be required to implement plan design changes for employees. Rather, municipalities will have the option to implement or abstain from plan design changes. 
The spending plan also includes no new taxes while preserving services for some of the neediest residents of the Commonwealth by focusing limited resources for the Department of Mental Health, early intervention services and public safety initiatives.

Selected highlights of the budget agreement include:
--$213 million for special education circuit breaker funding, an increase of $80 million over FY11;

--Full funding for the state’s inpatient mental health beds, club houses and mental health community services;

--Full funding for the Early Intervention program that addresses developmental delays in children ages 0-3;

--A $4.5 million increase in funding from FY11 for District Attorneys; 
--Increased funding for the State’s Veteran Outreach Centers and Veterans homeless shelters by 10% at $1.91 million and $2.29 million, respectively;

--Regional School Transportation was funded at $43.52 million, an increase of $3 million from FY11, allowing school districts to receive a reimbursement rate of 61%; 
--$2 million in funding for a new State Police Class;

--$525 million to the Department of Correction, which will prevent any facility closures;

--$6 million in funding for Regional Tourism Councils;

Policy Initiatives included in the report include:
--A municipal health care proposal that provides strong incentives for municipalities and employees to come to a mutually agreed upon solution on health care benefits. The language builds on the plan adopted by the House of Representatives by adding protections to ensure the integrity of the negotiation process while protecting retirees, specifying that any cost-savings proposal from a municipality must also include a plan to mitigate or cap the impact of changes on subscribers, specifically retirees, low-wage workers, and heavy users of health care; 
--A requirement that 25% of indigent defense be provided by public defenders by the end of FY11. The substantial increase in the number of public defenders will help control costs, while maintaining the quality of the existing indigent defense system; 
--The establishment of a new Office of Commonwealth Performance, Accountability and Transparency that will evaluate programs, coordinate grant activity and allow greater transparency. The office will also have a specific focus on projecting caseloads for a number of state programs; 
--Includes three new initiatives that will provide state agencies with resources necessary to aggressively pursue and recoup unnecessary expenditure of funds and instances of fraud or overpayment. A new auditing and program integrity grant program for state agencies; a line item to support MassHealth auditing and recoveries; and a new unit within the Operational Services Division to conduct vendor audits. The investments will generate revenue and protect government resources; 
--The Conference Committee Report also includes a provision that would return up to $65 million in FY11 Budgetary Reversions for use as onetime, non-recurring local aid payments to close the gap left by painful but necessary cuts; 
House and Senate negotiators assigned to resolving differences between the branches’ versions of the budget were faced with the most difficult budget since the economy collapsed in 2008. Moving forward without the aid of $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds that has provided relief in past years, legislators relied on funding reductions, ongoing revenue initiatives and one-time revenues to find a balanced approach of cuts and revenues. This balanced approach preserved services for the neediest citizens and targeted programs aimed to provide financial assistance to education initiatives, municipalities and families. 
The Conference Report ends the year with a stabilization fund balance that exceeds $800 million, an amount greater than the stabilization fund balance entering FY11. The budget plan also marks the smallest year to year spending increase in the past decade, creating a spending plan based on transparency, accountability, and performance.