Monday, October 31, 2011

"Bath salts" hearing slated for Thursday, November 3rd

To All Concerned Citizens:

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary will be hearing a number of bills on Thursday, November 3rd, beginning at 1pm in Hearing Room A-1 of the Statehouse, including H03739 An Act to Include Substituted Cathinones, aka "Bath Salts," in Class C Substances (printed below).

My understanding is that Lt. Steven Xiarhos from the Yarmouth Police Department will be there to testify. Any and all other interested persons who wish to testify are welcomed. Plan to be at the Statehouse about a half hour early to sign up to testify. First come, first to speak.



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

HOUSE  DOCKET, NO. 03953         FILED ON: 08/01/2011
HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 03739

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
George Ross and Elizabeth Poirier
To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
                Court assembled:
                The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the passage of the accompanying bill:
An Act to include substituted cathinones, also known as "bath salts," in class C substances.

George Ross
2nd Bristol
Elizabeth Poirier
14th Bristol
Bradley H. Jones, Jr.
20th Middlesex
George N. Peterson, Jr.
9th Worcester
Viriato Manuel deMacedo
1st Plymouth
Geoff Diehl
7th Plymouth
Donald Wong
9th Essex
Paul Adams
17th Essex
Donald F. Humason, Jr.
4th Hampden
James Lyons, Jr.
18th Essex
Angelo D'Emilia
8th Plymouth
Steven Howitt
4th Bristol
Peter Durant
6th Worcester
James E. Timilty
Bristol and Norfolk
Timothy J. Toomey, Jr.
26th Middlesex
Jennifer E. Benson
37th Middlesex
James J. Dwyer
30th Middlesex
Brian Ashe
2nd Hampden
Martin J. Walsh
13th Suffolk
Paul McMurtry
11th Norfolk
Kimberly Ferguson
1st Worcester
Aaron Michlewitz
3rd Suffolk
Todd M. Smola
1st Hampden
Shaunna O'Connell
3rd Bristol

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 03739
By Representatives Ross of Attleboro and Poirier of North Attleborough, a petition (subject to Joint Rule 12) of George Ross and others for legislation to categorize bath salts, so-called, as a class C substance.  The Judiciary.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the Year Two Thousand Eleven

An Act to include substituted cathinones, also known as "bath salts," in class C substances.
                Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
SECTION 1. Section 31 of chapter 94C, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding, after the words, “(16) 4-Bromo-2, 5-Dimethoxy-amphetamine”, in line 235,  the following:-
“(17) 3, 4 - methylenedioxymethcathinone, MDMC
(18) 3, 4 - methylenedioxypyrovalerone, MDPV
(19) 4 - methylmethcathinone, 4-MMC
(20) 4 - methoxymethcathinone, bk-PMMA, PMMC
(21) 3, 4 - fluoromethcathinone, FMC
(22) Napthylpyrovalerone, NRG-1
(23) Beta-keto-N-methylbenzodioxolylpropylamine
(24) 2-(methylamino)-propiophenone; OR alpha-(methylamino)propiophenone
(25) 3-methoxymethcathinone
(26) 4-methyl-alpha-pyrrolidinobutyrophenone
(27) 2-(methylamino)-1-phenylpropan-1-one
(28) 4-ethylmethcathinone
(29) 3,4-Dimethylmethcathinone
(30) alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone
(31) beta-Keto-Ethylbenzodioxolylbutanamine
(32) 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-ethylcathinone”.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Selectmen seeking members for substance abuse prevention task force

The newly formed Town of Sandwich Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force is still accepting letters of interest for two at large members.

If you are interested in serving on this Task Force please send a letter of interest to the Board of Selectmen at Sandwich Town Hall, 130 Main St., Sandwich 02563-2208 or email

The Task Force is meeting monthly during the formation stage. Meetings are generally during the late afternoon on weekdays. There are also sub-committees being formed to deal with development specifics such as outreach, strategy and grant writing.

The Task Force was formed by the Board of Selectmen. It is a coalition of municipal and school leadership as well as representation from the nonprofit world devoted to youth. The mission of the Task Force is to develop a comprehensive town wide approach to prevention of substance abuse.

The deadline for letters of interest is November 2nd.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Can we advertise our way out of declining enrollment?

Guest article by Carl Johansen

Without question the past several years have taken an emotional toll on the students and parents who have or would have attended Sandwich High School.

The recent suggestion by Mr. Catalini to do something about the loss of students--who are now attending other schools--by paying to promote our school district has some merit. Running promotional ads, no matter where, to sell our schools needs to be given some serious deliberation before we actually implement it.

No doubt that the Sandwich schools have some reasons to be proud, but is promoting that to the outside world the way to stop the increasing loss of Sandwich school children to other school districts?

The use of educational funding would take dollars away from our current students, so this investment must be justified. Because we do not know, other than through anecdotal evidence, the reasons for the enrollment decline, it makes me wonder if a conditional study could be performed to confirm the reasons for the flight to other districts.

If the study can provide the answers and they are related to the past several years of disruptions, I would be more inclined to support an advertising campaign for a short time to reeducate the general public, parents and children alike, on the good points we offer in the Sandwich School District. Until such data are forthcoming, however, I would be hesitant to support such an expenditure.

What say ye citizens of Sandwich?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why 9-9-9 is headed for the deep six

I watched analysts battle over the positives and negatives of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan this weekend. After hearing their arguments and using my own CPA noggin, I'm coming down on the side that it's a great slogan but falls down in two key ways.

So we're on the same page, here are the main points from Cain's website. The 9-9-9 plan would eject the current tax code and replace it with a 9% tax on personal income, a 9% tax on corporate income, and a 9% federal sales tax. The only deduction for personal income tax returns would be charitable donations. Deductions from gross income for businesses would be purchases from other U.S. located businesses, capital investments, and net exports. The federal sales tax would be on new goods, but I haven't been able to determine if services would be taxed. In fact, other than the vague bullet points on Cain's election website, I haven't been able to locate the actual 9-9-9 plan. Although a tax code that can be printed on a note card seems appealing, it's doubtful that one that short could actually be implemented.

Here's why 9-9-9 is destined for failure:

1) It scraps the long accepted graduated tax system for one that favors people with discretionary income. A person making $50,000 in wages and who has no charitable deductions would pay $4,500 (9%) in federal income tax. An additional 9% in federal sales tax would be assessed on expenditures. Because there's no actual 9-9-9 plan to read yet, I'm not sure if spending on car and house payments would be taxed or if services would be taxed. Are utilities considered new goods or services? Let's assume that this person spends $25,000 on federally taxable stuff. That would amount to an additional $2,250 for a total of $6,750, or 13.5% of the $50,000 wage.

Now let's consider someone who makes $1,000,000 in salary and spends $250,000 of it to support a nice lifestyle. Assume again that half of the $250,000 is spent on federally taxable items. Federal income tax would be $90,000; sales tax would be $11,250. That totals to $101,250, or 10.125% of the $1 million salary.

How does that compare to the current tax code? A single person earning $50,000 with no itemized deductions pays $6,350. A married couple earning $50,000, again with no itemized deductions, pays $3,061. A single person earning $1 million would certainly be able to itemize deductions, so it's not realistic to assume a standard deduction for such a person, but for laughs, let's do just that. A single person earning $1 million would pay $324,371. A married couple would pay $313,763.

Therein lies the political challenge for 9-9-9. Lower paid folks would pay a higher percentage of their earnings in taxes than people who earn more than they spend. Secondly, compared with the current system, 9-9-9 provides a significant reduction in actual dollars paid in federal income taxes for high earners, while the opposite is true for lower earners. Some people may like this idea, but it won't fly at the ballot box.

2) The introduction of a federal sales tax is just too tempting as a new revenue source for Congress. The Fair Tax Act, as formulated by Neal Boortz and John Linder, calls for a national sales tax but marries the idea with the repeal of the 16th Amendment, which would abolish the federal income tax.

Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan, according to his campaign website, is step one of a two-step process, with step two being adoption of the Fair Tax Act. The problem I see is that, in the unlikely event that Cain is elected and 9-9-9 becomes law, Congress would start dreaming about how great a 12-12-12 plan would be, or a 20-20-20 plan. Income taxes would remain on the table and the easy way to avoid spending cuts would be to crank up the national sales tax. More tools in the tax hike toolbox is a recipe for disaster.

Tax reform is needed, but I believe we will have to whittle away at the tax code we've got. Eliminating loopholes and tax preferences will result in a fairer tax system without cutting the safety net we have in place for our less fortunate citizens. Anyone who thinks they'll win the presidency on a tax policy that goes after lower wage earners to benefit high wage earners is just not tuning into the national debate.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Casino gaming bill will pass, but at what cost?

When I have an important decision to make, I jot down the plusses and minuses. It helps me visualize the issue.

For background, I will tell you that I don’t have particularly strong feelings about casinos one way or the other. I’ve been to Las Vegas and Foxwoods, spent a little bit on slot machines, and walked away having lost my money but having been entertained. Call it even. I play the lottery once in a while, usually when the prize breaks $100 million. I don’t have any favorite numbers, so I get a Quick Pick.
I don’t harbor any addictive behavior that I’m aware of other than for Diet Pepsi and the New England Patriots. Given my “neither here, neither there” attitude towards gambling, I am inclined to vote based on constituent input which, from a nonscientific sampling, is running slightly in favor of the casino bill.
This is where my plusses and minuses list comes in. On the plusses list:
Gaming will bring more economic activity to the state. I’m not sure how much of that will be generated from outside Massachusetts versus inside, but there’s no question that there will be jobs to build and operate the casinos.

I’m already running out of plusses. Some would add the projected $300 to $600 million in taxes to this list, but I’m not at all convinced that giving more money to government is a good thing. And I seriously doubt the accuracy of these revenue projections. With a budget gap each year of more than $1 billion, the $300 million (if it holds up) will be used to balance the budget, not generate spending on new programs. We could do the same by trimming the $30 billion state budget by one percent.

On the minuses list:
Class 3 gaming will add to the currently available legal gambling that has many people spending nondiscretionary income, going into debt, and getting caught up in destructive, addictive behavior.

The sheer expansion of the state government’s regulatory structure is enough to make us think twice. The gaming bill adds a commission of five people with all of the incumbent bureaucratic positions and support personnel. New jobs? Yes. But this commission will not supplant the lottery commission; only add to it.

Casinos always make money. In the big picture, the collective amount of money spent at casinos represents money not spent on more productive activities or not stashed in a savings account. The Libertarian in me says that I shouldn’t be concerned about other people’s decisions, but I’ve been in rooms filled with retirees playing slot machines in a robotic way, some of them sucking on cigarettes and some sucking on oxygen canisters; some on both. It’s not a pretty picture.

Another issue is timing. We are about to launch bidding on three resort casino licenses and a slot parlor license during the worst, most protracted recession since the Great Depression. This will ensure less competition and lower bid prices. I predict that, because the bill regionalizes the licenses, the western Massachusetts license will go unsold for a long period of time. The region is just too close to Twin Rivers in Rhode Island and the two Indian casinos in Connecticut. Don’t be surprised if we’re back in the chamber voting to lower the minimum bid prices next year.

Another minus for me is the way this bill has evolved. When Sal DiMasi was speaker, an ardent opposition voice to Class 3 gaming, the Democrats in the House of Representatives defeated the bill. A year later, with Bob DeLeo as speaker, many of the same Democrats had “seen the light” and voted for it. We all know what’s going on here.

After the embarrassing show of wills we witnessed in 2010 between the governor, speaker, and senate president (all of whom supported Class 3 gaming), a compromise was worked out this year between the three of them. Horses were traded and an acceptable version of the bill was crafted. All of this was done behind closed doors; closed to all but a select few.

Finally, I point to a quote printed in the Cape Cod Times on September 26th“This is a jobs bill; that’s the only reason we’re doing this,” Senate President Therese Murray said. “If we had a cooking economy, you wouldn’t see this happening.”

That statement gives me great pause. Should we embrace all manner of vices in tough economic times? Periods of recession and prosperity come and go. The decision to establish casinos is forever.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mixed message

Do you think the sign installer recognized the double entendre?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs, visionary

There are thousands of accounts of Steve Jobs’ life and accomplishments available on the Internet, so I will skip all of the stuff that you can read elsewhere.

The year was 1986 and I was working in New York City for Peat Marwick Mitchell (nka KPMG), an international accounting firm that had adopted the Apple Macintosh as its computer of choice for auditors in the field. During my two-year stint at KPMG’s head office, I spent one year on a team that revamped the interface of our audit software and one year on a two-man team that assisted and promoted KPMG’s consultants who installed small office computer networks and accounting software.

Part of my job involved traveling to computer trade shows and making presentations on the positives and negatives of various accounting software systems available on PC and Macintosh platforms. You might think that seminars involving such a dry subject would lack the glitziness and show-biz elements of a classic Steve Jobs product unveiling. And you’d be right.

But those seminars took me to places, like the 1985 Macworld Conference & Expo in Boston and the 1986 MacExpo at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, where I attended a panel presentation by several of Jobs’ Macintosh development team. It was shortly after John Sculley, the Pepsi guy who took over the reins at Apple, ran Jobs off.

Though Jobs was absent, the team still carried his vision for the computer industry; one in which software and hardware design would focus on users, not the druthers of programmers and engineers. This vision was shared by Jef Raskin, who headed up Apple’s effort to produce a low-cost computer with an intuitive interface.

Members of the development team also included Bill Atkinson, Burrell Smith, Chris Espinosa, Andy Herzfeld and Guy Kawasaki. There were others, but these are the people I remember seeing at the Expos.

One of the above, I don’t remember whom, said something that I’ll never forget. Though it wasn’t Steve Jobs intimating this vision that day, I’m absolutely sure that he believed in it because it has nearly come true.

In response to a comment from someone in the audience about how great the Macintosh is because of its portability, one of the panelists challenged that thought. His definition of “portable” was that you could carry something else at the same time. The Macintosh failed this definition, more appropriately falling into the category of “luggable.”

Let me take that a step further, he said, and hypothesized that computers wouldn’t truly be portable until they could be woven into the fabric of your clothing.

That statement, made in 1986—before iPods, Smart Phones, and Wii Jackets were a twinkle in any of our eyes—captured my imagination.

Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 and got to work remaking the company by bringing back the “fantastic” and “cool” that we had associated with Apple in its early days. And, sure enough, we started seeing products that integrated into our daily lives almost as seamlessly as a computer woven into a sweater.

Some people were on TV this week speculating that the era of computer innovation is over with Jobs’ passing. That’s no more true than declaring that innovation in song writing died with John Lennon’s assassination (although some may believe that too). People with genius move the creativity ball forward with incredible pace, but there is always someone who comes along to pick up the ball.

I’m just glad that I got to watch this amazing person and his team lead an entire industry from its infancy to what is now probably its toddler stage.

From Apple's Think Different ad campaign:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. 
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. 
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. 
Maybe they have to be crazy. 
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? 
We make tools for these kinds of people. 
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Copyright 2011 Randy Hunt

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fighting al-Qaida: Can Obama have it both ways?

Anwar al-Awlaki
The assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen this week via a Predator drone strike raises some interesting legal issues.

Most, including me, would agree that thwarting terrorists’ plans by arrest or other means is justified. This week’s action carries with it the unusual circumstance that two of the people killed were United States citizens. The other, Samir Kahn, published an online magazine called “Inspire,” aimed at pro-al-Qaida readers in western countries.

Neither person had been charged or indicted, which raises questions about the limits of power enjoyed by the President. Could anyone residing in the United States be declared an enemy of the state and assassinated without repudiation?

Apparently so, since President Bush signed an executive order on September 17, 2001 authorizing the CIA to hunt down terrorists worldwide. The order does not carve out U.S. citizens or any country in which these actions cannot occur.

Some argue that such actions blur the distinctions between “free” countries and those under the heavy handed rule of despots.

How can President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder demand that Guantanamo detainees be given due process in our court system and, at the same time, skip due process by taking out American citizens al-Awlaki and Kahn?

Many criticized Cheney and Rumsfeld for transporting captured terrorists to countries where they could be waterboarded. Will those same critics remain silent about bypassing waterboarding to move straight to assassination?