This year's summer took a while to get here, but toward the end it's turning out to be pretty decent - at least weather-wise.
The same cannot be said about the political climate. Our Republican Governor held his promise and did not raise any taxes. Instead, he increased fees on almost everything from getting a marriage license to services for the blind. A recent survey by the National Conference of State Legislators found that Massachusetts raised fees more than any other state this year. No, we're not Tax-achusetts anymore - now we are Fee-achusetts!
To be fair, Governor Romney did veto some of the legislators' attempts to squeeze out more money. For instance, he didn't approve the increases in registration fees for child molesters, but he let most of the anti-driver provisions of the budget stand...
Most notable are the new $20 fee to contest a ticket in front of a judge and another $25 surcharge for speeding tickets for a new $100 minimum.
By the way, the surcharge is currently creating quite a stir. Until the new Uniform Traffic Citation forms are printed, law enforcement officers are instructed to cross out the old $25 for "head injury surcharge," and change it to $50. But half of the money (about $5 million a year) won't go to the "head-injured" at all. It's going to go into the general fund - just like taxes would. "I feel, all of a sudden, that we're being used," said a consultant for the Massachusetts Brain Injury Association.
Welcome to the club...
The speed limit reduction bill passed a second reading in the House last month. If it gets approved, municipalities will be allowed to reduce unposted 30 mph speed limits to 25 mph.
So, if a town decides to lower their unposted speed limits one day on a road between two towns, the INVISIBLE speed limit will drop at an invisible line... Do you want to take a guess where the cops will be hanging out?
Your thanks for this brilliant way of generating revenue without raising taxes should go to those people who are constantly whining about "the speeders on my street."
In June, the primary enforcement of seat belt laws failed again.
Not that it really mattered. Tens of thousands of Massachusetts drivers have been ticketed and fined solely for not buckling up anyway. Police and state officials said officers were sparing drivers heavy fines and costlier insurance, but we say police appear to be circumventing the law by stopping motorists solely for not wearing a seat belt.
Natick, Massachusetts was selected as one of the four communities nationwide to participate in a "new study designed to make speed limits more realistic." The idea was to restore credibility in them by finding limits that would be obeyed by the majority of drivers and then ticket those who are truly dangerous.
In Natick, they put a group of bureaucrats in charge that used to hand out radar guns to citizens and encouraged them to squeal on each other. The results are predictable.
These bureaucrats did identify six streets where the speed limit was 30 mph and where everybody averaged up to 40. But the residents found out the speed limits were about to change and the bureaucrats caved in.
Rather than use the part of the $300,000 federal grant meant to educate the residents about the proven negligible effects of speed limit changes on actual travel speeds, they posted only ADVISORY speed limit signs and then gave the money to Natick police for enforcement.
Not only is the credibility of speed limits not being restored (how can an advisory sign that has a number larger than what the legal speed limit is do that?), but more people are now ticketed for driving the same speeds on the same roads.
So until the money runs out this Fall, watch yourselves on Hartford, Pine, Cottage, Union, South Main and Walnut streets in Natick. And take your tickets to court.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity (which is generally defined as at least 30 to 40 pounds overweight) kills 300,000 Americans each year, about ten times the "carnage on our roads..."
If you must eat, please be careful. At least you won't be fined for it... yet.
MA State Chapter Coordinator
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