Dear Sun Spots: I would like to know how long Congress is in session in Washington and what their pay is for their time there? Also, what are their benefits.- No Name, Peru.

Answer: According to a USA Today article, the House of Representatives is on track this year to be in session for fewer days than the Congress Harry Truman labeled as “do-nothing” during his 1948 re-election campaign.

Members of Congress took off the entire week for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s the latest scheduling innovation to give members more time to meet with constituents. Through March 17, the House was in session for 19 days, compared with 33 for the Senate. If they stick to their current schedule – including two weeks off in April, a week in May and July, plus all of August – House members will spend 97 days in Washington this year.

The House was in session 108 days in 1948, according to the chamber’s archives, compared with 141 days last year.

For both chambers, workweeks have become short in recent years. Roll call votes are seldom scheduled for Mondays or Fridays. In the House, they are often postponed until late Tuesday. As a result, it’s difficult to schedule committee meetings. Some panels meet when Congress is not in session, but not often. Sun Spots located the following salaries at http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa031200a.htm.

You might like to note that from 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received a daily payment of $6 while in session. They began receiving an annual salary in 1815 when they were paid $1,500 per year. Leaders of the House and Senate are paid a higher salary than the rank-and-file members. The Senate Majority Leader earns $183,500, the Minority Leader $183,500. The Speaker of the House $212,100, the House Majority Leader $183,500 and the Minority Leader $183,500. Among the benefits members of Congress receive are retirement and health. Members elected since 1984 are covered by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System. Those prior to 1984 were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System. Members of Congress are not eligible for a pension until they reach 50, and only if they’ve completed 20 years of service. Members of Congress have to serve at least five years to even receive a pension.

Dear Sun Spots: I have an old photograph of my uncle in a baseball uniform, probably taken in the 1930s somewhere in Western Maine. “Mac’s All Stars” is printed on the shirt. I think he lived in the South Paris area then, and perhaps played in the Pine Tree League or some similar league. I would like to know who “Mac’s All Stars” were, and when and where they played. Thanks. – John Hodgkins, Temple.

Dear Sun Spots: Literacy Volunteers is looking for Scrabble teams for the eighth annual Letter for Literacy Scrabble Fest being held from 1 to 4 p.m. April 23 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 14 Great Falls Plaza, Auburn.

Getting involved is easy:

• Form a four-person team for the social, pro, child (ages 10 to 12) or teen (ages 13 to 17) categories.

• Collect a minimum of $40 per team in pledges.

• Register by April 17.

• Spend a spring afternoon meeting with friends, sharing your favorite board game and challenging your mind.

Top fundraising awards will include original watercolor paintings, restaurant certificates and other prizes. All proceeds help provide literacy services in Androscoggin County. Please phone 753-1772 to register. – Tahlia Hope, Auburn.

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