The 17th Amendment to the Constitution says, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each senator shall have one vote. “
Ted Sirois of Saco, who in a letter to this newspaper on Sept. 6 advocates this amendment’s repeal, would like us to think that the original wording of Art. 1, Sec. 3 — that senators from each state should be “chosen by the legislature thereof” — should be reinstated.
I say, bring it on. Let us harken back to the days when the conflicts between Democrats and Republicans prevented the election of any candidate due to the contentious battles within numerous state legislatures. Bring back the intimidation and bribery that marked some of the senatorial elections.
The 17th Amendment changed the method of choosing senators, moving the choice out of the state legislatures and giving it directly to the voters.
Left unchanged is the fundamental difference between the two federal houses. The House still represents the people, while the Senate continues to represent the states as incorporated. Each has an equal weight.
In 2002, there was a movement in Montana to repeal this amendment. Then again in 2004, Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller issued a call for its repeal. The anti-17th Amendment movement was the mainstay of the John Birch Society back in the 1960s. Today, presidential hopeful Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has signed on to this tea party cause.
Mr. Sirois believes that the direct election of our senators was a grievous error. Does he really believe that the state legislatures that ratified the 17th were just going along with a popular fad of the time?
Could it be that Mr. Sirois is but a state sovereignty advocate who believes that we are not a unified nation, but a confederation of quasi-independent jurisdictions?
GOP taking real steps for better business climate
On Aug. 16 in this newspaper, state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, complained that Gov. LePage and I are being negative about Maine’s poor business climate.
Mainers are smart. They know why too many of our young leave for better opportunities elsewhere. Telling the unvarnished truth is the first step to fixing our serious problems.
During the senator’s nearly five years in the Legislature, the pension debt for teachers and state employees ballooned to $4.1 billion. Working with the Legislature, the new LePage administration slowed the growth of the retirement benefits, which eliminated 41 percent of the debt, or $1.7 billion.
Now, Maine taxpayers will spend roughly $200 million less per year on these benefits. Businesses don’t have to worry as much about taxes going up to pay for this surging debt. That encourages job creation.
During Sen. Dill’s tenure, the cost of health care for Mainers has risen to among the highest in the nation. She supported Dirigo Health, the state-run system that once promised to lower costs, improve care and reduce the number of uninsured.
But that $183 million taxpayer-funded experiment failed miserably. Health insurance premiums are no longer affordable for many fellow citizens and small businesses. Our new leadership team is defunding Dirigo Health, allowing Mainers to buy coverage across state lines, and reinsuring high-risk individuals.
Over time, competition will return to our health insurance market. This will help drive down premium costs for our struggling families and help our businesses create more jobs.
Quality of life must include a paycheck. Maine shouldn’t be a place just for those who can afford it. We need everyone’s support, including that of Sen. Dill. Then, and only then, can we honestly and proudly proclaim Maine to be a great state in which to live, raise kids and start a business.
Treasurer, State of Maine
Keystone pipeline to bring U.S. more jobs and more oil
I support the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline project.
The proposed project is an approximately 1,661-mile, 36-inch crude oil pipeline that would begin at Hardisty, Alberta, and extend southeast through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma to a delivery point near existing terminals in Nederland, Texas, to serve the Port Arthur, Texas, marketplace.
An independent study finds that construction of the Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion Pipeline project should provide significant, positive contributions to U.S. energy security and the U.S. economy valued at over $20 billion.
The Perryman Group study states that the proposed pipeline project should improve U.S. energy security with the ongoing benefit to the U.S. economy of a more stable source of consistent energy supply over an extended period of time.
The $7 billion pipeline project is expected to directly create more than 20,000 high-wage manufacturing jobs and construction jobs in 2011-2012 across the U.S., stimulating significant additional economic activity.
Local economies within the route will benefit from increases in tax revenues and business activity associated with temporary construction work in the area, and local property taxes will be paid on a continuing basis.
Pipelines are the safest, most reliable, economical and environmentally favorable way to move oil and petroleum products, as well as other energy liquids.
In addition to demands for petroleum for transportation, petroleum hydrocarbons are used by many other industries to produce valuable materials, including drugs and pharmaceuticals, plastics, chemicals and construction materials. Pipelines are a vital part of our energy infrastructure and have been quietly serving us for decades. We need this project (which can be seen at www.transcanada.com/keystone.html) along with the oil and the jobs it will create.
Wind boosters’ claims fall far short of credibility
I write in response to Rep. Stacy Fitts’ letter of Sept. 4 on wind energy.
Expedited wind permitting is not sound. It is a result of a flawed system started by former Gov. John Baldacci, who formed a wind development task force. Between Baldacci presenting Maine as a leader in wind development to this group and appointing members whose livelihoods are windpower-related, we have expedited wind applications that many in Maine rightfully oppose.
Mainers appeal those applications because wind has been shoved down our throats. Fitts boasted about the $1 billion of investment that wind power has brought to Maine. Small hydropower projects statewide would bring a more widespread economic boost.
“As we tap our wind resource, Maine becomes more competitive. Unlike fossil fuels, wind is a local resource providing us stability. There is no cost for the wind that turns these turbines,” says Fitts. Wind power does not make Maine “more competitive” in regional tourism nor in the job field. Solar and hydro provide a stable economy and do not desecrate the mountains.
Fitts’ statement that “wind does not cost anything” is disingenuous. Wind is inconsistent, causing brown-outs requiring on-demand gas plants. On-demand gas backup is more costly than steady gas power production.
“Wind power is subsidized at much lower rates than fossil fuels,” he claims. In fiscal 2010, wind received $3.6 billion in direct federal expenditures, coal $37 million, and nuclear zero; natural gas and petroleum liquids got $1 million.
Percentage-wise, total subsidies and support for wind are 42 percent of their cost; coal gets 10 percent and natural gas 5.5 percent (U.S. Energy Information Administration).
Maine needs a wind moratorium to study all the aspects of wind power and to halt the advancement of this scourge upon our landscape. We need a chance to make hydropower, biomass and solar as available as wind.
Images of 9/11’s horror influence past and future
Moving on is hard to do. We can’t erase our memories of 9/11, but we can look for the healing of our terrible memories of that day through the acts of the brave, courageous men and women who have been sent into harm’s way to revenge the deeds of a few evil people.
I personally have seared into my brain the fateful minutes of 9/11 when the plane crashed into the Pentagon, emitting a huge fireball. I was on the 23rd floor of a high rise just a mile from the Pentagon, with Arlington National Cemetery in between me and the plane. I was not hurt in any way, except emotionally, as all of Washington and northern Virginia were quickly evacuated because the whereabouts of Flight 93 was not yet known. Each year on the 9/11 anniversary I have replayed those terrifying moments and then tucked them away for yet another year.
This year I have decided to move on, recognizing that so many have truly suffered loss and that thousands of Americans have willingly stepped forward to serve their country. Many have not returned, but others have returned with the injuries of war.
I have only some sad, scary memories of that day, but the wounded warriors have physical scars to cope with because of their commitment to serve their country.
I’m going to move forward so that on future 9/11 anniversaries I can celebrate the great country that I live in and the courage and commitment of our military to serve on our behalf.
What has occurred over the past 10 post-9/11 years is a disgraceful reflection of what we apparently accept as normal behavior of politicians, of media, of talking-head pundits, and unfortunately, of ourselves as citizens.
It’s the elephant in our living room making a mess that no one appears to notice. The day has been turned into the cookie jar that all too many people raid for attack, cover and enhanced reputation. In effect, 9/11 has been hijacked.
The event should have been coalescing, as it was in the first hours and days after it happened. What happened? Instead of unifying us and the world, 9/11 has been and is used as a wedge issue, as a means to point fingers, as a means to create bogus, self-important stars like Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush. Giuliani can’t speak two sentences without putting himself in the middle of ground zero and responsible for saving us all, and Bush rushed around to cash in on an event that happened on his watch, and about which he had been warned.
The attacks have also been shamefully used to 1) rationalize an unrelated war that folks on the right had been anxious to start for years, 2) give the bloviating Dick Cheney many opportunities to rail against Obama (“He’s too weak to protect us from another attack”) and to support failed Bush war and economic policies, 3) lend credence to torture, a war crime by most any reasonable measure, and 4) establish an internal surveillance and information-gathering system that violates our privacy rights as citizens.
The event has been hijacked, and the results of the past 10 years have cost us our blood, many lives, and the economic stability of our families and our country. We have witnessed the reprehensible hijacking of an atrocity.