- Associated Press - Friday, April 20, 2018

Editorials from around New England:

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CONNECTICUT

The Hartford Courant

April 20



The House of Representatives shouldn’t hesitate to pass a bill that would allow many undocumented immigrants at Connecticut public colleges and universities access to financial aid.

This is long overdue. The Senate has passed similar legislation repeatedly in recent years, only to see it stymied. Fortunately, after the Senate resoundingly passed the bill on Wednesday, House leadership expressed optimism that their chamber would support it as well. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he would sign it into law.

Undocumented residents who pay tuition at Connecticut public colleges and universities already contribute to the $150 million pool. There’s no reason they shouldn’t have access to it.

The bill requires applicants to have lived in the country continuously since they were 16, to be residents of Connecticut, to have attended at least two years of high school in Connecticut, and to sign an affidavit affirming that they have either applied to become legal immigrants or will apply as soon as they are eligible, among other requirements.

That leaves very little to object to.

The bill limits eligibility to those who have shown a clear intention to become citizens, who want to have a college education. These are the people Connecticut needs. Restricting their access to financial aid only puts them at a disadvantage.

Nor does giving them accessibility to the pool of funds unfairly take money away from citizens. Since the aid pool comes out of everyone’s pockets - including the undocumented - they should have access to it. If anyone’s being treated unfairly, it’s the undocumented students who essentially are paying to give a financial boost to others.

The only reason not to pass this bill would be to deprive these people of opportunity, and that’s not an American value. If anyone wants to make a contribution to society and the workforce, they should have every opportunity.

For many undocumented immigrants, the real obstacle to citizenship is the bureaucratic maze of immigration, to say nothing of senseless xenophobia. If there were a clear path to citizenship - especially for young people whose parents brought them here - this wouldn’t even be an issue.

It was reassuring to hear the Senate leaders, Republican Len Fasano of North Haven and Democrat Martin M. Looney of New Haven, support the bill together. It’s to their credit that this hasn’t become a partisan issue.

Representatives, pass this bill without delay.

Online: https://cour.at/2vvH1X9

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MASSACHUSETTS

The Boston Globe

April 20

Here’s some good news for the mothers and students who have been working the State House halls and phones - and indeed, for anyone who cares about effective gun laws. A key legislative committee recently gave its stamp of approval to legislation to allow guns to be taken temporarily from owners deemed at risk of harming themselves or others.

Under the proposed law, local police or a family member could petition a court to order the removal of someone’s guns. If a judge decided there was a real risk the gun owner might hurt himself or others with those weapons, he or she could issue a temporary extreme-risk protection order directing that the firearms be surrendered.

Within two weeks, however, the court would have to hold a formal hearing at which the gun owner would be present; if the judge then decreed that that person posed “a significant danger” of hurting himself or others with the firearms, the order would be extended for up to a year.

Massachusetts gun laws are widely recognized as among the best and most effective in the nation, but this proposal would nevertheless strengthen them. Although police chiefs have the authority to remove someone’s guns, there is no uniform process by which that action is initiated.

That’s one of the reasons why the Major City Police Chiefs Association, which represents three dozen chiefs around the state, has weighed in with House Speaker Robert DeLeo to support the bill introduced by state Representative Marjorie Decker, Democrat of Cambridge.

“While all police chiefs in the Commonwealth have legal discretion in issuing and revoking firearms licenses, some chiefs nonetheless would feel more comfortable if they had prior legal authority before removing firearms,” wrote association president Brian Kyes. “A court ordered removal, which would be provided by an extreme-risk protective order, would provide that prior certainty.” Noting that some are reluctant to share information with the police, Kyes added that this legislation “gives folks an important independent avenue to obtain that critical protective order to keep their loved ones and the community safe.”

The Gun Owners’ Action League, the local NRA affiliate, opposes this legislation; its alternative, according to the State House News Service, is to establish a hotline to report people at risk of committing suicide and to let judges confine someone to a mental institution if they deem him an extreme public safety risk. As far as civil liberties are concerned, though, it’s obviously far less intrusive to take away someone’s guns than to take the person himself away. Which is to say, GOAL’s approach really isn’t realistic.

Still, the fact that Decker’s legislation got an overwhelming endorsement from the Joint Committee on Public Safety - 16 yes votes from the 19-member panel - despite GOAL’s opposition, speaks well for its chance. More good news: One House source says the expectation is that DeLeo will take the measure up. The legislature should make its passage a priority for the three months left in this formal session.

But mothers and students, keep up your activism. It’s been important. Take it from Decker. “They have played a critical role in not letting any of us forget what this is really all about,” she says, “and that is saving lives.”

Online: https://bit.ly/2K3zlyr

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RHODE ISLAND

The Providence Journal

April 18

Only two women have been the wife and mother of a U.S. president. The first was Abigail Adams (John Adams and John Quincy Adams), and the second was Barbara Bush, who died at 92 on Tuesday.

Born Barbara Pierce in June 1925 in New York City, she was raised in the suburb of Rye, New York. Her ancestry, which dates back to the colonies, includes distant links to former president Franklin Pierce and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Her father was president of McCall Corporation, which published two prominent women’s magazines, Redbook and McCall’s.

She met George H.W. Bush when she was 16 years old at a dance while on Christmas vacation. They had a whirlwind 18-month romance, and were engaged when he became a torpedo bomb pilot during World War II. When he returned (on leave), she dropped out of Massachusetts’s Smith College and got married on Jan. 6, 1945.

The Bushes were together for 73 years, the longest presidential marriage in history. They had six children: George W., Robin (who died from leukemia at age 3), Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy.

Mrs. Bush was often viewed as the rock of her family, and with good reason.

She faithfully supported her husband during his time in the oil industry, and in his roles as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, envoy to China and director of Central Intelligence (1976-1977), among others. She was also there during his political endeavors: Texas congressman, failed Senate candidate, vice president under Ronald Reagan, and as president from January 1989 to January 1993.

This reportedly led to 29 moves for the Bush family. Mrs. Bush seemingly handled it with grace, strength, charm and a great deal of wit.

Nevertheless, she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

Mrs. Bush fiercely supported civil rights before most Americans climbed aboard. She strongly believed in literacy, and founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy to help Americans learn how to read. She was a champion of compassion for AIDS victims.

With respect to her fashion sense, she once quipped, “There is a myth around I don’t dress well. I dress very well - I just don’t look so good.” She told an audience at the Church of the Immaculate Conception elementary school, “You may think the president is all powerful, but he is not. He needs a lot of guidance from the Lord.” When some Wellesley College students objected to her 1990 commencement address, she defused the tension by saying it was “no big deal. Even I was 20 once.”

To be sure, Mrs. Bush’s acid tongue occasionally landed her in hot water.

She was criticized in 2013 for saying her son, Jeb, shouldn’t run for president because “there are other people out there that are very qualified and we’ve had enough Bushes.” There was also her famous description of Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in 1984: “I can’t say it, but it rhymes with ‘rich.’” (She apologized, claiming the word she was thinking of was “witch.”)

Through it all, she cared deeply about her husband (theirs was a long-term love affair), children and grandchildren. When her health began to fail, it was announced on Sunday that she had refused further treatment in favor of “comfort care.” She died peacefully two days later surrounded by family - and her husband, who had reportedly held her hand the entire day.

In demonstrating the importance of family, faith, service and, yes, a sense of humor, she earned the admiration of people around the world.

Online: https://bit.ly/2HgQ2sI

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VERMONT

The Burlington Free Press

April 17

The Vermont Republican Party’s decision to send out a fundraising email that invokes President Trump’s campaign slogan is a puzzling move for a party seeking to find a message that will connect with more Vermonters.

The state GOP email with the subject line, “MAKE VERMONT GREAT AGAIN!” and signed “Team VTGOP” went out at about 10 a.m. on April 11, just hours before Republican Gov. Phil Scott was due to sign new gun legislation.

The message was timed - intentionally or not - to capture the anger sparked by the governor’s support for the new restrictions on guns, a reversal on his previous stance that Vermont needed no new gun laws.

The email text read, in part, “In recent years, our state has been co-opted by the liberal elite. Out-of-touch politicians have been hell bent on stripping away every right and freedom that Vermonters hold dear.

“Friends, now is not the time to surrender. We must continue to fight!”

At the bill signing on the steps of the Statehouse, there were plenty of loud, angry voices directed against the governor, with protesters wearing blaze orange shouting “traitor” and “liar” at Scott.

Those sentiments were echoed at a Montpelier rally on April 14.

Robert Kaplan, a Burlington lawyer spearheading a legal challenge to the new gun laws, as the Free Press reports, “called on the Vermont Republican Party to denounce Scott, referring to him as a ‘Trojan horse governor.’”

Vermont Republican Party Chairwoman Deb Billado, also speaking at the Saturday rally, offered support for gun-rights advocates running as Republicans, but said nothing to defend Scott, the head of her party. The Republican messaging is likely to fuel existing divisions within the GOP that could undermine the governor, who should be the party’s standard bearer, as he seeks a second term in November.

The messaging also goes against the flow of Vermont politics.

A February 2013 Castleton Poll showed 75 percent of Vermonters favored closing the gun show loophole in background checks. An October 2016 Vermont Public Radio poll showed support for universal background checks had grown to 84 percent.

In the 2016 November election, Trump won 30.3 percent of the Vermont votes. And a Gallup poll released in January showed Vermonters gave the president the lowest job approval rating of any state in the nation for 2017 - 26 percent.

The numbers show that neither opposition to gun control nor adopting a Trumpian catchphrase is a sure path to broadening the GOP’s appeal in Vermont.

Which makes the Republican leadership’s attacks over the gun bill signing all the more mystifying.

Online: https://bfpne.ws/2K2lsRo

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

The Concord Monitor

April 19

The latest major study on the health effects of drinking alcohol is, well, sobering: For men and women alike, consuming more than one drink a day shortens your life - perhaps as much as smoking does. That’s not very good news here in New Hampshire, which had record-setting liquor sales of nearly $700 million last year. More than $155 million of that ended up in the state’s general fund.

The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, involved nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 high-income nations who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease. What researchers found is that weekly consumption of more than 100 grams of alcohol - about five drinks - increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm. Excessive drinking does appear to reduce the risk of nonfatal heart attacks, but that benefit is more than wiped out by the more serious consequences.

In an interview with the Guardian, University of Cambridge professor David Spiegelhalter assessed the risk of drinking, as presented in the Lancet study, this way: “The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines (the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night) has roughly two years’ lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life. This works out at about an hour per day. So it’s as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette.”

Spiegelhalter adds, “Of course, it’s up to individuals whether they think this is worthwhile.”

And that’s an important point. There are a lot of things that are not very good for humans that add pleasure to life: bacon, sunbathing, a perfectly cooked steak, soda, sweets, (did we already mention bacon?), cold beer on a summer day, a couple of glasses of wine in the evening - everybody has their weaknesses. The question people must answer for themselves regarding their not-so-healthy choices is, “How important is this to my overall happiness?” With alcohol especially, that can be a complicated question.

For people who feel as though they have a healthy relationship with alcohol and are content with how much they drink, the warnings contained in the study will not carry much weight - and maybe they shouldn’t. Every person on the planet will meet the same fate, so why not do the things you enjoy while you can? But for those who were questioning their consumption even before they found out that it could be shaving years off their life, this may be just the kick in the pants they needed to change their lifestyle.

Heavy drinkers who are considering quitting should begin their journey with their primary care physicians to discuss treatment options. For more casual drinkers who want to better understand their relationship with alcohol, we recommend a visit to Annie Grace’s blog, “This Naked Mind” (thisnakedmind.com/blog). Grace, the author of This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life, focuses on the science behind why people drink and how to reprogram the unconscious mind to break their drinking patterns.

We don’t expect that the Lancet study will change the behavior of most or even many drinkers in New Hampshire, but it may have a big impact on another group: those who have not started drinking. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting they would be better off if they never take that first sip, and with drinking among American teenagers and college students on the decline, the message seems to be getting through.

The state’s lawmakers would be wise to start preparing for a future decline in alcohol revenue.

Online: https://bit.ly/2qOfZV9

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MAINE

The Bangor Daily News

April 13

In 2016, Maine voters approved legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. Since then, lawmakers have failed to enact the rules needed to turn the referendum vote into reality.

This year appears to be different. Earlier this week, both the Maine House and Senate strongly endorsed a set of new rules for the coming marijuana market. While the rules aren’t perfect - the tax scheme, for example, is convoluted and doesn’t allow for municipal taxes - they are a good compromise. More important, they are needed so the state doesn’t revert to much weaker standards and regulations that accompanied the 2016 referendum question.

It is unclear if Gov. Paul LePage will sign the legislation. He vetoed a similar bill last year and lawmakers failed to override that veto. With stronger legislative support this year, it appears lawmakers could override a veto this year, unless numerous legislators changed their votes.

The regulations are the work of an unusual coalition - including the Christian Civic League and Legalize Maine - that came together to write a set of proposed regulations. They offered lawmakers a solid blueprint for moving forward with the regulations needed to ensure a safe marijuana market that also raises sufficient revenue for the state.

Earlier this year, Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League, said that his group does not agree with the decision Maine voters made to legalize marijuana, but that the league is realistic. Like the end of Prohibition, marijuana use will happen, he said. So, the league decided it was better to join in the crafting of rules around legalization.

This is a pragmatic approach that many lawmakers were wise to follow as well. Many in the State House, including Gov. Paul LePage, opposed the legalization referendum. The Bangor Daily News editorial board did as well. But, voters passed it and it is time to move forward with regulations for retail sales, which are currently happened in the shadows.

The group that drafted the bill built on the work of a legislative committee that spent the better part of a year drafting a set of regulations that were ultimately rejected by lawmakers after a veto from LePage. The proposed regulations focused on four priorities, which are reflected in the amended bill approved by lawmakers this week.

The first was ensuring that Maine’s market was safe and grew incrementally. To accomplish this, the compromise plan sought to write clear and precise definitions around what products can be sold and how they must be labeled and it outlawed marijuana social clubs.

The group suggested that the recreational sales market build upon Maine’s medical marijuana system, allowing licensed medical marijuana providers first access to the new Maine recreational marijuana market. This made sense but was rejected by lawmakers, who instead, limited early participation to Maine residents and businesses.

Ensuring the safety of Maine children and communities was a related priority, which is addressed with limits on retail marijuana facilities near schools, daycares and churches, and a ban on social clubs.

A third priority - empowering communities - is addressed by allowing municipalities to set standards for licensing marijuana retail facilities and to limit the number of facilities in their community.

The fourth priority is to maximize state revenue. The tax rate in LD 1719 - about 20 percent - is below what is charged in western states, but is similar to Massachusetts’ levy. A straight percent excise tax would be more straightforward than the wholesale tax per pound and per trim that lawmakers agreed to. Still, this is the highest tax rate lawmakers have considered, so this is an improvement in terms of ensuring that Maine benefits from the coming retail market.

This isn’t perfect. But, the fact that both backers and opponents of marijuana legalization support the regulations is a stamp of approval that carries substantial weight.

Online: https://bit.ly/2HFqll2

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