Vote NO on #2 (Massachusetts)

Question #2 this year would replace the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties.

I understand and appreciate the arguments in favor of it, but I think the arguments against it are more compelling. An ounce of marijuana is actually a good amount (56 individual sales according to the District Attorneys Association), first-time offenders get probation and don’t get a publicly-available criminal record, and it’s just not a good public image for the government to say that “minor” drug use is “okay”, and we’ll just charge you a $100 tax when you get caught. I don’t believe that it will save $30 million in police costs, and I think that it’s a good use of police time to try to get drugs off the streets, and get the drug users into the probation and rehabilitation programs.

It will be interesting to see if this will pass. This state is sometimes socially liberal and sometimes socially conservative, in ways that seem contradictory at times. There have been non-binding questions in some areas of the state in years past, and I think that many of those passed. But I wouldn’t bet on the outcome of this question either way. I think it’ll be close.

Vote YES on #1 (Massachusetts)

I think I’ll do a blog series on my thoughts on the five ballot questions that I’ll be voting on this coming Tuesday. (If you want to see if your town has added questions to the three statewide ones, plug your address into the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Election Division Voting Info site.)

Question #1 is about repealing the state income tax. I’m wholeheartedly for voting for this question. I think the main goal of getting it to pass is to force the Legislature to take a hard look at its programs, and cut those that it really doesn’t need. I think that the 40% reduction in their budget is possible, but I’m expecting that they won’t actually reduce things that much. I mean, there was a ballot initiative that passed in 2000 to lower the income tax from 5.85% to 5.0%, and the Legislature basically ignored it, although they did eventually slowly lower it to the current 5.3%. (Although, you can still voluntarily pay 5.85% if you want. I always get a chuckle out of that check box on the state tax form.) So, it seems unlikely that they’ll actually just keep all other taxes the same and cut the 40% of the budget. But I bet they’ll cut some things, overall taxes will be somewhat lower than they are now, and it at least sends a message that we’re tired of paying for expensive government programs that don’t work. I hope that this will increase transparency of our state government, as they publicly demonstrate what is and isn’t important to them.

I’m really not sure what the question’s actual chance of passage is. In 2002, this was on the ballot and got 45% of the vote, which was more than I think most observers were expecting. We just need 5 more percentage points. But there’s been a lot more publicized opposition to it this time, especially from the teacher’s union. (Like the politicians are actually going to cut school funding? They’ll threaten it to get you to vote against it, but I don’t think they’ll actually do it.) So, I tend to doubt it will pass this time. But, I was pleasantly surprised last time when it got 45%, so I hope I’m pleasantly surprised this time and it’s higher than that. (And even if it doesn’t pass, if more than 45% of people vote for it, it will hopefully send some sort of message to the Legislature.)

Town Committees

As far as I can tell, Charlton doesn’t have an organized Town Republican Committee.

However, Southbridge now has two.

(Today’s T&G, Today’s Southbridge Evening News (PDF))

So, it sounds like it’d be easy to organize a Charlton Committee if people were interested in it. However, it’s probably too late for it to do any good for this year’s elections.

Random Life Update

  • Last Saturday’s PTQ was busy and a long day, with 154 players. But, it was fun and a good event.
  • Yesterday evening, Jessi found a black longhair cat by our house that seemed hungry and cold, but obviously belongs to somebody due to his collar and friendliness. Jessi let him inside and fed him. Animal Control gave us a collar with a message attached (presumably to call them if found) and told us to put him back out to see if he would go home. He was still on our porch this morning, though.

Keyboarding bliss

My Touchstream LP broke almost two years ago, and I’ve been quite unhappy with needing to type and mouse the traditional way that whole time. However, someone at work had one that had been broken for a while, but only needed to replace the ribbon cable between the halves. I bought the cable, it arrived this morning, and we managed to eventually install it. It’s shorter than the one that come with it, so it’s barely making contact and the halves are too close together. But, the keyboard works great. I’m suspecting I can make arrangements to buy the keyboard.

Now, I think the issue with my broken Touchstream isn’t just the cable, but I may try to confirm that to see if replacing the cable is all I need to do with mine as well.

Tip of the Day: Checking Credit Reports for Free

It’s handy to be able to check your credit report to ensure that the information companies are reporting about you is accurate. It’s especially important to check before you plan on applying for credit, but errors can sometimes take a while to resolve, so it’s a good plan to check regularly anyway. There are 3 credit reporting bureaus in the U.S.

Federal law (FCRA) allows you to get one report from each bureau for free every 12 months.
Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c.93, § 59(d)) allows you to get one report from each bureau for free within each calendar year. (Some other states have similar laws.)

Note that this combination means that MA residents can get a report of some sort 6 times a year, so they can check their credit for free every 2 months.

If you’re married, your spouse can check his or her credit in the alternating months, for a report of some sort on one of you every month.

For the report via federal law, visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll specify the bureau to get the report from on that site.

Getting the report via state law is trickier, as you need to do it on the individual credit bureau’s web site, and they tend to bury it pretty deep.
For Equifax: http://www.equifax.com/fcra/ and select the reason “Free State Credit File (not denied)”.
For TransUnion (Updated 11/1/2013): https://disclosure.transunion.com/dc/disclosure/disclosure.jsp?. Select “Your state offers a free or reduced price Personal Credit Report”.
For Experian: http://www.experian.com/freestate/

Be sure to read carefully and be vigilant to make sure that you’re only getting the free report, and not signing up for a credit score or monitoring service at the same time. The marketing departments of these companies are very pushy.

As a side note while speaking of credit reports, you may want to sign up at https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ to opt out of pre-approved credit offers.

Random Life Update

  • I’ll be head judging a PTQ this Saturday at TJ Collectibles.
  • There’s a group of people trying to stop the Access Road from Rte. 169 to the Southbridge Industrial Park, in the hopes of having the road go from Rte. 20 in Charlton (and through my land) instead. It seems that perhaps the effort to change the route is a bit late, since they’re trying to stop the Conservation Commission’s approval of the route, and they really should have tried to change the proposed route many years ago. So, I place the odds of the road eventually going through my land as rather slim, but there’s still hope.
  • Yesterday Hannah turned 5 months old. She’s still doing wonderful. She’s very much more seeing and interacting with people and objects, which is really nifty to see.

Quote of the Day

Charlton Conservation Commission
Public Hearing Notice

In accordance with General Law, Chapter
131, Section 40 of the Wetland Protection
Act, a public hearing will be held in regards to
work proposed by Andrew Pearsall, Verizon
Wireless.

Address where work will take place: 190
Berry Corner Road, Charlton, MA.

Proposed work: Notice of Intent for proposed
construction of a telecommunications facility
within the 200 riverfront area. Total disturbed
area approximately 3160 s.f.

Said hearing is to be held on Wednesday,
October 15, 2008 7:50 PM in the Charlton
Municipal Building, Conservation Office.

Thomas O’Malley, Chairman
Charlton Conservation Commission

October 8, 2008

— Legal Notice, today’s Southbridge Evening News

Money successfully transferred from one pocket to the other

My $2500 in coins arrived yesterday, and today I deposited all but a $25 roll into my high-interest checking account. The deposit went without any trouble, although I think they were rather confused, and they did ask me for ID. I think it’s the first time I’ve heard of needing ID in order to deposit money in an account.