Friday, May 15, 2009

FF and Mrs. FF are on their way home

A possibility of some showers this weekend is the only blot on our weather for the next several days. In fact, with temperatures possibly in the 70s, today will be a rather nice one. At least it’s a good day for the irrigation company to turn on and tweak my system for the season.

I like today. My Fearless Friend and his wife will be heading north before this day is done. They’ve been in Florida since late February following his cataract surgery. They aren’t coming directly home as they’ve got two very important stops scheduled along the way. The first is in Jacksonville, just a few hours from his Central Florida home, where he’ll spend part of the weekend attending the wedding of his nephew.

That should put him just about a day’s ride to his second stop in Virginia to spend a couple days with his sister and her family. I expect FF will get back to Maine probably in mid-week. It’ll be several days while he unloads his van, gets food stuffs in, other necessary errands and chores completed and spends some time with his daughter and son, both of whom live right here in Maine, before I’ll get to sit with him and solve all the world’s problems.

It’s going to be really good seeing him again. Thanks to the internet and e-mail we’ve been in regular touch since he left and we really don’t have too much of the personal stuff to catch up on, but I’d bet he’ll have some stories about his stay that’ll bring out a laugh or two, perhaps even a groan.

Meanwhile, right here in the state our legislature continues on its merry way. The Appropriations Committee continues to seek ways to solve the state’s nearly $800-million revenue shortfall. Governor Baldacci has told the legislature he will not support any broad based tax increases and has asked the group to find ways to reduce spending.

The committee approved an across the board 5% pay cut for all state employees except in the Judiciary division. The Committee members felt that the across the board cut would be the fairest rather than having to pick and choose a pecking order. They also thought the cut would be easier on the employees than forcing unpaid holidays or a monthly one day state shutdown. That sounds like the fairest way to do it.

The cuts, if ultimately approved by the full legislature, would take effect Oct. 1st. The head of workers’ union says the cuts will create hardships on the employees.

Also being considered by the Committee is a proposal for the employees to pay for part of the health insurance cost. Currently state employees get the insurance as a benefit.

Many years ago I was an officer in a union. I think we would have taken a dim view of a one-sided change in our contract without any benefit of negotiation. I think we probably would have at the very least challenged the legality of unilateral changes to a contract. It did appear, however, that the union leadership was willing to accept the change for the short term. This change, however, may not have finished its journey.

The legislature continues to tinker with education. A proposal to track student progress by Social Security number is now up for consideration. Lawmakers were assured student data would be secure and parents could withhold their children’s SS number. If a tracking number is needed, I think it would be just as easy to develop a unique number for each student using a format similar to the SS number. Perhaps something like the year of expected graduation, a number designating a county or school district, and one for a birth day, something like 09-331-041691-xx where the xx would designate a unique number, would work.

That might be a little cumbersome, but it’s a suggestion. I’m not sure as a parent I’d want my kids SS number in yet another place to be tracked. I came up with my suggestion in a minute. With just a little work, I think the state could be more efficient. The tracking system is required if the state wants to get education stimulus money from the federal government.

Here’s one from the Feds that will get you all excited. Thanks in part to our Sen. Susan Collins, today is one for celebration. It’s the national Endangered Species Day. The hope is to raise awareness about threats to various species. Tell me that isn’t something special.

Finally, the season is over for the Boston Bruins. They were eliminated from the NHL divisional playoffs last night by Carolina. Actually, I think they were eliminated in a win the other night when they played the third quarter only trying to hold on to a lead for a win. They did succeed, but lost any fire they had had earlier and that fire didn’t return last night. The Boston Celtics continue for one more game after a loss last night tied their best of seven series with Orlando at three. And the Red Sox lost. One statement I really hate to make is it may be time to re-evaluate Big Papi.


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