Happening Today

Annual health-care costs hearing

Gov. Charlie Baker, former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, is scheduled to give the keynote remarks on the first day of the Mass. Health Policy Commission’s 2016 health care cost trends hearing, Suffolk University Law School, 120 Tremont St., Boston, 9:15 a.m.

Tsongas, Wofford debate

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat, and her Republican challenger Ann Wofford, face off in a debate at the Devens Common Center, 31 Andrews Parkway, Devens, 10 a.m.

MBTA Control Board

The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board plans to discuss Green Line trolley derailments, automated fare collection and an equity analysis policy, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, 12 p.m.

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‘Ask the AG’

Attorney General Maura Healey joins co-hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan for her monthly “Ask the AG” segment on Boston Public Radio, WGBH radio, 1 Guest St., Brighton, 12:30 p.m.

Save Our North End Waterfront

Save Our North End Waterfront and Boston City Council President Michelle Wu, Councilors Michael Flaherty, Annissa Essaibi George, Ayanna Pressley and Salvatore LaMattina, as well as Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Joseph Boncore, highlight the “disappearing piles” at a “high tide” event at Lewis Wharf, Lewis Wharf, Boston, 12:30 p.m.

UMass Boston ribbon cutting

UMass President Martin Meehan, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and UMass Boston Chancellor Keith Motley will participate in a ribbon-cutting for the Columbia Point campus’ new $130 million University Hall, UMass Boston – University Hall, 100 Morrissey Blvd., 4 p.m.

Former NATO commander at Tufts

General Sir Richard Shirreff, the former British supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, will give a talk at the Fletcher School about his wargame novel “2017 War with Russia,” Fletcher School, Tufts University, ASEAN Auditorium, 160 Packard Ave., Medford, 5:30 p.m.

Hearing on Sumner Tunnel toll demolition

The Department of Transportation hosts a public meeting to provide information about the proposed design of the Sumner Tunnel entrance and toll booth elimination as part of the implementation of all electronic tolling, East Boston High School Auditorium, 86 White Street, East Boston, 6:30 p.m.

Media on the election panel at Tufts

NBC News journalist David Gregory, a former host of Meet the Press, will moderate a panel discussion on the media coverage of the 2016 presidential election, as part of Tisch College’s Distinguished Speaker Series at Tufts University, and will feature New York Times political correspondent Patrick Healy, National Public Radio political reporter Asma Khalid, and Mic co-founder Jake Horowitz, Distler Music Hall, 20 Talbot Ave., Medford, 7 p.m.

Today’s Stories

Buyout program begins today as Baker tries to plug state deficit

The Baker administration today launches its state-employee buyout program as the governor attempts to plug a $294 million state budget gap. The administration hasn’t ruled out layoffs within the executive branch if the buyout program doesn’t achieve unspecified results. Early details of the buyout program include 12,000 retirement-eligible employees getting a $15,000 cash incentive to voluntarily stop working for Massachusetts, while others could get $5,000 to leave early, reports the Globe’s Joshua Miller. David Holway, president of the National Association of Government Employees, which represents thousands of state workers, is calling buyouts a “humane first step” but warned that previous budget reductions that included buyouts “cut certain agencies beyond the bone,” reports Matt Stout at the Herald

Is it time to start taxing all online retail sales?

As Gov. Charlie Baker sharpens the budget ax for spending cuts, a number of people are scratching their heads about why exactly state revenues are falling short of projections amidst a relatively strong economy. Chief among the culprits is disappointing sales tax revenues, something Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, describes an “enigma” since unemployment is down and withholding taxes are up, reports SHNS’s Matt Murphy at CommonWealth magazine. She suggested health care and housing costs could be eating into disposable income while businesses are holding back on spending and investments.

All of which may be true. But this is also true: Online retail spending continues to rise across the state, country and world – and most of that retail spending isn’t taxed. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room that people like Jon Hurst, head of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, have been pointing to for a while now. P.S. – Did you know that many new luxury apartment and condo complexes in Boston, as well as non-luxury multifamily dwellings, now have somewhat elaborate “mail rooms” for residents, complete with lockers and not simply boxes? It’s true. And it’s mostly for delivery of online-purchased items. Just pointing out a new economy reality.

CommonWealth

Dems stand by Worcester legislative candidate after ‘unfounded’ domestic violence allegations surface

As local Dems pound into Donald Trump and his supporters over the GOP presidential nominee’s various groping controversies, they’re desperately trying to put out a now raging controversy over past allegations that a Worcester legislative candidate allegedly assaulted a former girlfriend, reports Scott Croteau at MassLive. The charges were later dismissed against Moses Dixon, a Democratic candidate for state representative in Worcester, who over the weekend told State House News Service’s Andy Metzler (pay wall) that the ex-girlfriend “concocted a story that he physically assaulted her after he accused her of stealing money and told her he was going to go to the authorities.” Dixon’s campaign produced an email the woman allegedly sent more than a week after the incident saying she was “sorry for lying on you to the police! forgive me.” Meanwhile, the woman’s attorney made note of a decision by a “competent court” to drop the charge.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, state Rep. Mary Keefe and Worcester City Councilor Sarai Rivera were all standing by Dixon as of this weekend, Croteau writes. In a statement, Healey said that the “ugly, baseless attacks” came from the state Republican Party while the other Dems noted how many Republicans haven’t denounced Trump since his own sexual controversies have emerged. Dixon is challenging Rep. Kate Campanale, a Leicester Republican, in her re-election bid.

‘Hypocritical partisanship’

During Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsy and other sex controversies of the ‘90s, Republicans were morally indignant and Democrats politically dismissive. During Donald Trump’s current groping controversies, the roles are reversed: Democrats are morally indignant and many Republicans are politically dismissive. The NYT’s Amy Chozick and the Globe’s Jeff Jacoby take tough looks at this role reversal — and how Hillary Clinton and the religious right are handling it (or not handling it), respectively. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of ‘hypocritical partisanship’ to spread around, as Jeff notes.

Poll: Trump falls further behind Clinton, as men bolt Donald following groping revelations

Pundits think Donald Trump’s groping controversies have helped galvanize the female vote for Hillary Clinton. But GropeGate, if you will, appears to have revolted a much wider swatch of the electorate, a new nationwide Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll shows. Clinton leads Trump by a 46-41 percent margin, slightly better than the 2-point lead she held a month ago. “But even more telling is that the GOP nominee has suffered the biggest defections among groups that have carried him this election — unenrolled voters and males,” reports the Herald Joe Battenfeld. “Trump’s 11-point lead among men has dropped to just 5 points in the past month, while his once formidable 19-point advantage among likely independent voters has plummeted to 9 points.”

Boston Herald

Is Warren, Baker and Moulton on Trump’s post-election hit list?

It’s pure speculation, but after Donald Trump’s vow to put Hillary Clinton in jail if he’s elected president you have to wonder who else might be on his hit list, such as Elizabeth Warren, Charlie Baker, Seth Moulton and maybe even the entire state of Massachusetts, write the Globe’s Joshua Miller and Jim O’Sullivan. Throw in the biting anti-Trump remarks by Mitt Romney, William Weld, Marty Walsh and other state pols, and you have a lot of potential anti-Massachusetts steam building up in Trump.

Boston Globe

Oil tycoon donates $75K to anti-Question 3 group

Indiana oil baron Forrest Lucas has contributed $75,000 to Citizens Against Food Tax Injustice, a newly formed committee opposing the Question 3 initiative that calls for banning cage confinement of farm animals and the retail sale of eggs and meat produced by caged animals, reports Christian Wage at the Eagle-Tribune. Lucas has become a formidable opponent to animal rights groups, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in other states to defeat proposals aimed at banning puppy mills, restricting hunting and curtailing farming practices, Wade writes.

Eagle-Tribune

And a casino tycoon shells out $1M to anti-pot legalization group

Meanwhile, Las Vegas casino tycoon and Dorchester native Sheldon Adelson, known for his big campaign contributions to Republicans, has contributed a million dollars to the group opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, reports the Globe’s Travis Anderson. Meanwhile, the billionaire Adelson is also shelling out big bucks to block the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida, reports TC Palm. As the Globe’s Anderson notes, Adelson and his wife founded the Adelson Clinic in Las Vegas in 2000, which provides treatment and counseling services to patients battling opiate addictions.

Meet the man behind Question 1 who’s probably backed by tycoons

Eugene Augustus McCain Jr. may not be a tycoon (he filed for personal bankruptcy years ago), but he is the man behind Question 1, the ballot referendum that will determine whether Massachusetts voters want to open another slots casino, this one on a dilapidated trailer park near Suffolk Downs in Revere, reports the Globe’s Stephannie Ebbert, who profiles the little-known McCain, who won’t disclose his fellow investors, who may well (and probably are) tycoons of some sort.

Boston Globe

Super PAC pushes super progressive candidates and agenda on Beacon Hill

From State House News Service’s Matt Murphy at the Herald News: “The coalition that successfully pushed for earned sick time for workers at the polls in 2014 is throwing its weight behind incumbents supportive of its latest agenda – paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage and higher income taxes for the highest earners.” The Raise Up Together super PAC – which was formed only a few weeks ago by the Service Employees International Union, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Coalition for Social Justice – has begun running a mail and digital ad campaign in support of 27 incumbents, all but one of them Democrats, and is prepared to spend at least $175,000 this election cycle.

Herald News

‘Not 413 enough’ is not enough

James ‘Chip’ Harrington’s may have switched parties since he last faced Sen. Eric Lesser in the 1st Hampden and Hampshire Senate district in the Dem primary two years ago. Harrington is now a Republican and once again squaring off against Lesser. But one thing hasn’t changed: Harrington is still running a campaign that emphasizes his background and credentials, rather than emphasizing major policy differences, writes Matt Szafranski at Western Mass Politics and Insight. “The result has been a campaign repeating lines fired from all sides of the 2014 campaign that tried to delegitimize Lesser as not 413-enough. With Lesser in office for nearly two years, those charges can seem warmed over.”

WMPI

Remember those big T fines against Keolis after the 2015 snowmageddon? Never mind

The Globe’s Nicole Dungca says the Baker administration and others talked tough about Keolis Commuter Services after its much criticized performance during the mega-snow storms of 2015. But that was then, this is now. From Nicole: “Transit officials agreed to waive $839,000 in fines (against Keolis) from February and March 2015, nearly half the original amount, according to a November 2015 letter obtained through a public records request. The decision to forgive the fines has never been publicly disclosed and drew angry rebukes from elected officials and commuters alike when they learned of it.” Meanwhile, remember those reports about T worker absenteeism going down? They have gone down, but they’re still “alarmingly high” and plaguing MBTA operations, reports the Herald’s Owen Boss.

Rush hour woes and maybe more will accompany switchover to electronic tolls

MassDOT Highway administrator Thomas J. Tinlin is warning that the demolition of Mass Pike toll plazas could lead to rush-hour traffic congestion as the state switches over to all-electronic tolling later this month, the Herald’s Brian Dowling reports. The Herald’s Howie Carr is warning that administrators like Tinlin ultimately have their eye other things, like future ‘congestion pricing’ and ‘vehicle miles traveled’ taxes.

Boston Herald

SJC to lawmakers: Revisit mandatory minimums

The state’s highest court wants lawmakers to revisit the issue of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, saying they may impact minorities disproportionately, reports Zeninjor Emwemeka at WBUR. In a ruling Friday, the Supreme Judicial Court said a lower court judge erred when he issued a lesser sentence to a convicted drug dealer and then put the onus on lawmakers to address the issue, which a special commission urged a revamp of in 1996. “It may be appropriate for the Legislature to consider anew, guided by the work of the commission, the issue of authorizing sentencing judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences in relation to certain types of drug offenses in appropriate circumstances.”

WBUR

DeLeo ethics revamp moves forward

House Speaker Robert DeLeo has officially introduced his resolution that will create a Task Force on Integrity and State and Local Government to study ways to update the state’s ethics laws, the Associated Press reports at the Telegram. DeLeo’s previously disclosed proposal—the subject of a hearing scheduled for Tuesday—would charge the group with recommending changes to conflict-of-interest and other ethics rules as well as lobbyist rules and campaign finance disclosure regulations by Dec. 23. 

Telegram

Student vote expected to increase – from a low bar of zero percent

UMass Dartmouth students this year are expected to turn out to vote at higher rates than in the past, especially compared to the 2012 election, when local races drew zero percent of voters to a local voting precinct, Aimee Chiavaroli of the Standard-Times reports. Efforts to use technology to get students registered and to the polls have ramped up and the town will offer an early voting station on campus for the first time.

Standard-Times

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Meet the man behind Question 1 – Boston Globe

Newton partners with Boston College to address income inequality – Boston Globe

Courting millennials: Boston aims to attract biz brains of future – Boston Herald

Drought forces Cambridge to start buying water from MWRA – Universal Hub

Massachusetts

Worcester and fired election workers to go to mediation – Telegram & Gazette

Speaker pushing for review of Mass. ethics laws – Telegram & Gazette

An issue of choice and funding: 14 of 18 legislators oppose Question 2 – Lowell Sun

How a President Trump could shun Mass. – Boston Globe

Oil baron behind cage ban question opposition – Salem News

Advocates fume over failure to pass hands-free cell phone law – Salem News

What will change if marijuana is legalized in Mass? Possibly nothing – Taunton Gazette

X-rated headlines aside, anti-Trump Baker still won’t vote for Hillary – WGBH

Mass. high court urges lawmakers to revisit mandatory sentences – WBUR

Nation

Criticism of the news media takes on a more sinister tone – New York Times

Fresh from Wells Fargo win, Warren wants to oust an Obama appointee – Boston Business Journal

There’s really no comparison between the Trump and Clinton foundations – NPR

Donald Trump slumps as Hillary Clinton’s lead up to 5 points – Boston Herald

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