Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NTSB says "No" to cell phone use; DHHS budget hearing in Augusta; New source for news

By December's usual standards, our weather remains rather nice.  At least it will be like that through today, but some precipitation is possible in most parts of the state tonight into Thursday. Actually rain or snow is expected to arrive sometime before dawn tomorrow and stay with us through most of the day.  Even the Portland area could see some very light snow on the ground during tomorrow morning's commute.  But the storm should pass us to the west so we'll have mostly rain.

December is supposed to give us snow, not rain.  A White Christmas is looking less probable with each passing day.

The National Transportation Safety Board has apparently read enough reports about traffic accidents by people using their cell phones while driving.  The kicker was a report from the Missouri folk about an accident caused by a teenager, who had sent 11 texts in 11 minutes while driving, who plowed into the back of a truck.  A school bus then whacked him followed by a second school bus into the first.  At least two were killed and several injured.

As a result of that crash and others about which it had been informed, the NTSB is now recommending a total ban on all cell phone use, including hands free usage, surfing the web, checking email, and texting and other uses.  Using a phone in a non-emergency is just too dangerous to allow to continue.

Some states have already acted, most of which with only limited restrictions.  But most states have no restrictions.  Maine's restriction is for texting.  The final word on accepting the recommendation of the NTSB is up to the states and their legislative bodies.  But it is a powerful recommendation.

I've told you my story several times and won't repeat it here, but there's not a time when I'm out in my car or riding with Gator Wife that I haven't seen countless other drivers with a phone up to an ear.  We don't see teens as often with the phone around the head, but they do glance down a lot so it is easy to conclude they are texting.

Maine also has a distracted driving law.  I won't say it isn't enforced, but I only read about drivers getting cited for breaking that law after an accident has occurred.

From my own experiences and observations, I can join in urging Maine's Legislature to adopt the NTSB recommendations.

Last week Gov. Paul LePage called for a massive change in Maine's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  Among other things, he is recommending that eligibility for MaineCare, the state's version Medicaid, but cut way back to bring it to national averages.  Maine has 35% more usage of MaineCare than the Medicaid national average.

That change is one of several being considered this week by the Legislature's Appropriations Committee as the state needs to find 220-billion dollars to make up for a DHHS budgetary shortfall in the next year.  Past practices of the Democrat controlled Legislature and Executive Branch of using budgetary tricks and relying of Federal funds which are no longer available, to cover the rising costs of MaineCare. 

Gov. LePage has proposed courageous steps to get Maine's spending under control.  The Democrats have, not unexpectedly, blasted his proposals as irresponsible.  That's no surprise as the Dems simply have to try to justify their outrageous spending for the past ten years.

Hearings begin today in Augusta and continue through Friday.  You will hear some of the most outlandish claims and many just plain lies about the consequences of not getting the budget into line with the state's income.  In fact, they've already begun.  So far, the only alternative the Dems have offered is to raise taxes which most of us can't afford to pay or take the money from other departments, like education, public works, police, etc., to pay for the huge gap they've created in the DHHS.

If you can attend a session or two, they are being held in the State Capitol by the Appropriations Committee in room 228.  The hearings begin at 9 AM.  You don't have to speak unless you wish, but your presence will give encouragement for support of the Governor and his recommendations to make life easier for us in Maine.

Finally today, if you'd like a slightly different slant of the news, we have a suggestion for you.  The Maine Heritage Policy Center has launched a new news offering, The Maine Wire.  Its first effort was released to the public yesterday and has some interesting potential.  It's all explained in the first publication.  Because it's a publication of the MHPC, I'd guess you might be right if you think it leans just a wee bit right and has a slight conservative slant, but Lance Dutson, the CEO of MHPC, has said that it will strive to bring honest, balanced news stories and in depth reports of events in the State House and Executive Office in Augusta that you won't find in the main stream media.  A rather impressive group of reporters, columnists, and guest writers has been gathered for the publication.

If you'd like to see for yourself, you can see the first edition of The Maine Wire right here.  To learn more about the Maine Heritage Policy Center, click here.


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