Happening Today

Drought updates

Gov. Charlie Baker joins Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton and other state and federal officials to outline continued actions to be taken by state agencies to address prolonged drought conditions, Smolak Farms, 315 S Bradford Street, North Andover, 3:30 p.m.

State job numbers

Preliminary July and revised June unemployment rates, labor force and job estimates for the state will be released today by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

Healey on the radio

Amid continuing controversy over her crackdown on assault weapons, Attorney General Maura Healey is scheduled to appear on her monthly “Ask the AG” segment on Boston Public Radio, WGBH-FM 89.7, 12:30 p.m.

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Today’s Stories

SJC blows a huge hole in Baker’s energy policy

The Baker administration’s energy policy suffered a major blow yesterday when the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled that residents can’t be forced to help pay for construction of natural gas pipelines through a surcharge on their electric bills, as the Baker administration had pushed, reports the Patriot Ledger’s Christian Schiavone at Wicked Local. A number of observations and thoughts on the major ruling:

— CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl is absolutely right to say that the “decision carries enormous financial and environmental implications for the state of Massachusetts and the region.” He explains why.

— And the Globe’s Jon Chesto is right to emphasize that the ruling will only make it harder for the state to lower electricity prices, which are among the highest in the nation, partly because of the state’s overreliance on natural gas to power electric generation plants. 

— But when the state’s Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rules that a funding mechanism to pay for natural-gas pipeline expansion is flawed, then you know it’s flawed. The administration’s pipeline funding plan was a clear case of regulatory overreach.

Milton officials go after Joyce on property taxes

Earlier this week, Sen. Brian Joyce, who’s already facing a federal corruption probe, tried to change the subject regarding the controversy over the value of his Milton home, telling the Patriot Ledger that building permits were indeed pulled to substantially remodel and expand his home that he’s now trying to sell for $1.7 million. But Milton officials aren’t biting on the building-permit argument, instead focusing on the simple mathematics that Joyce’s real estate agents are touting a home of 6,444 square feet in size, when town records show it’s only 3,854 square feet in size, reports the Globe’s Andrea Estes. If the larger number is accurate, that would mean Joyce’s property tax bill should have been double the $11,711 that’s he’s been paying.

There’s a simple way to resolve this dispute: Pull out the tape measure!

Boston Globe

Endangered species: Trump’s candidacy could pull down Republicans across New England

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine could be the lone Republican standing from the New England region if voter backlash against Donald Trump is strong enough in November, Billy House of the Herald reports. Republicans aren’t seen as competitive in any of the races for the 29 Congressional seats held by Democrats up for re-election, while N.H. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Representatives Frank Giunta of N.H. and Bruce Poliquin of Maine are seen at risk of losing their seats if the anti-Trump sentiment is strong enough.

Boston Herald

Baker: Sorry, Curt, but you’ll be on your own if you take on Liz

After once again stating he’s not a supporter of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, Gov. Charlie Baker gets down to what we really want to hear about: What does he think of former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling taking on U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018? “Like a lot of people in Massachusetts and New England, I admire the guy as a baseball player big time and as a pitcher, but it’s pretty early to be talking about 2018,” said Baker, reports MassLive’s Shannon Young. “And generally speaking, if Karyn Polito and I decide to run for re-election it’s going to be to focus of my time.”

Which brings us to Peter Ubert Accio’s thoughts over at WGBH, where he writes: “(Baker) is clearly gearing up for reelection and, like Bill Weld in 1994, he has no incentive to tie his reelection campaign to the hip of a Republican running for Senate. Republican Weld’s overwhelming gubernatorial victory in 1994 by a historic 42 points did little to help US Senate candidate Mitt Romney who lost to incumbent Democrat Ted Kennedy by 16 points.”

MassLive

Warren is tops on the U.S. Senate Bestsellers List, earning $625K last year

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts pulled in a cool $625,000 last year from book publisher Henry Holt & Co., ranking her No. 1 among U.S. senators earning cash from book sales in 2015, according to a UPI analysis, reports the Herald’s Chris Cassidy. Last year’s haul for Warren was in addition to the $1.15 million she got from Harper Collins in 2014 and $525,000 in 2013. Cassidy notes: “It’s unclear whether Warren’s 2015 advance was for her most recent book, ‘A Fighting Chance,’ which came out in 2014, or a different title.”

Boston Herald

Small businesses getting squeezed once again by rising health insurance costs

Health insurance premium rates for small businesses are expected to rise by an average 8.2 percent in the fourth quarter and by 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017, reports the Boston Business Journal’s Jessica Bartlett. These are crushing numbers any way you look at it. Keep in mind: The U.S. inflation rate is now running at 0.8 percent, so next quarter’s health insurance rates will be rising roughly ten times faster than inflation in general. The health care industry will rationalize this with a lot of mumbo-jumbo about prescription drug costs, the Affordable Care Act etc., and some of those claims will be true. But they don’t fully explain decade after decade of health care costs increases. The health care system, as we all know, exists within in its own weird and dysfunctional economic universe.

BBJ

Teacher unions get their way on charter schools: Creating a perception of Democratic unity amidst disunity

Even though many Democrats favor charter schools, including no less than President Obama, teacher unions within the state party flexed their muscles and got what they wanted Monday night, when the Massachusetts Democratic Party voted to oppose a November ballot question that would expand charter schools in Massachusetts, reports SHNS’s Andy Metzger at CommonWealth magazine. This is not going to cause a civil war in the party – unless teacher unions one day start using the party platform as a new litmus test to go after individual Dem lawmakers who favor charter schools.

CommonWealth

Environmental groups want to lift a different type of cap

Environmentalists are among those pushing for the state to expand a tax break for property owners who protect land from development, arguing there is a nearly three-year waiting list of projects seeking the credit, Christian Wade reports in the Salem News. The program is currently capped at $2 million annually—property owners can qualify for up to $75,000 each—and the Nature Conservancy and others have asked the state to boost the limit to $5 million.

Salem News

Whitey Bulger’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court: Fuhgeddaboutit

Whitey Bulger’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, based on his claim that he was granted immunity for his crimes by a now dead prosecutor, is going nowhere fast, experts tell the Herald’s Bob McGovern. “He has a very steep hill to climb,” said Brad Bailey, a defense attorney who has followed the case. In other words: Fuhgeddaboutit.

Btw: Here’s Donnie Brasco’s YouTube definition of fuhgeddaboutit, which actually has many meanings in the mob world, all of which apply to Whitey’s appeal.

Tribe says losing casino would be financially devastating

Losing the right to open the First Light casino in Taunton would be a “severe and debilitating” financial threat to the Masphee Wampanoags, the tribe argues in court filings seeking to make it part of any appeals of a recent decision against the project, George Brennan of the Cape Cod Times reports. The tribe wants the court to grant it standing in the case after a judge ruled the U.S. Department of Interior improperly paved the way for the tribe to take the Taunton land into trust. “Given the court’s order, it is now essential that the tribe intervene … to vindicate the tribe’s history and to protect the vital importance of all its sovereign territory.”

Cape Cod Times

Lowell eyes new panhandling approach

After earlier attempts to curtail panhandling ran into legal roadblocks, the city of Lowell is exploring a new approach that would encourage residents to donate to charities that help the homeless, Robert Mills of the Lowell Sun reports. A public education campaign would include signs at locations where panhandling is most prevalent and would seek to reduce the practice by targeting its profitability. 

Lowell Sun

Rocky Mountain high: Pot worth $1B to Colorado

In a data point likely to feed into debates over marijuana legalization in Massachusetts, the state of Colorado says it will likely see pot sales exceed $1.3 billion this year, with the state reaping more than the $135 million it collected in taxes last year, Craig Boudreau of the New Boston Post reports. Proponents of Question 4, which would legalize recreational marijuana in the Bay State, have cited enhanced tax revenue as one of their main arguments.

New Boston Post

Framingham voters to weigh golf course purchase

Selectmen in Framingham have hastily called a special town meeting to allow voters to decide whether the town should match the $55 million purchase price that a developer has offered for a 14-hole golf course, Jim Haddadin of the MetroWest Daily News reports. Proponents want the town to exercise the towns’ right to match the offer to preserve open space and limit development—the would-be buyers have indicated they would build homes on the 68-acre property.

MetroWest Daily News

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Boston’s mounted police might ride again – Boston Globe

Two Boston companies named fastest-growing – Boston Magazine

Bill Evans questions Ed Davis’ motivation on Uber and long guns – WGBH

Red Sox owners pitch Fenway renovations – Boston Herald

Massachusetts

Framingham residents to vote on buying golf course for $55M – MetroWest Daily News

Marlborough: State Rep. candidates squabble over gas spill – MetroWest Daily News

Court: ACLU can try to get 24,400 drug convictions tossed – Boston Herald

SJC nixes pipeline tax – CommonWealth Magazine

Mass. Democratic party votes to oppose expanding charter school access – MassLive

Gov. Baker voices support for Chip Harrington at fundraiser – MassLive

Most prescribers haven’t registered to use drug system – Boston Globe

Mashpee tribe seeks involvement in lawsuit – Brockton Enterprise

Four towns awarded funding to limit impact of climate change – Cape Cod Times

Nation

Colorado pot industry tops $1B this year – New Boston Post

Trump’s new campaign chief likely to amplify his nationalist message – Washington Post

Trump lawyer on polls showing him losing: Says who? – Politico

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