Happening Today

Anti-merger rally, Cannabis Control Commission, Healey on Columbia Gas

— Gov. Charlie Baker speaks to community-based health and human services organizations at a daylong conference hosted by the Providers’ Council, Marriott Copley Place, 110 Huntington Ave., Boston, 9 a.m.

— Community leaders from Boston, Brockton, Lawrence and Lowell rally against the 13-hospital merger led by Beth Israel and Lahey Health, State House steps, Beacon Street, 10:30 a.m.

— U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, river stakeholders and elected officials unveil the ‘Nashua River Wild & Scenic River Act of 2018,’ Nashua River Watershed Association’s River Resource Center, 592 Main St., Groton, 11 a.m.

— The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice hosts a symposium on the legacy and future of civil rights, Suffolk Law School, 120 Tremont St., Boston, 12 p.m.

Cannabis Control Commission meets to review marijuana business licenses, Health Policy Commission offices, 8th floor, 50 Milk St., Boston, 1 p.m.

— Attorney General Maura Healey talks about Columbia Gas on ‘Radio Boston,’ WBUR-FM 90.9, 3 p.m.

— Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who oversees the School Building Authority, attends a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new school in Carver, 85 Main St., Carver, 5 p.m.

— Attorney General Maura Healey delivers remarks at the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance’s annual program for the Garden of Peace memorial, remembering homicide victims and their survivors, 64-98 Somerset St., Boston, 5:30 p.m.

For more calendar listings, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available) and MassterList’s Beacon Hill Town Square below.

Today’s Stories

Landslide alerts: Baker and Warren hold huge leads in poll, nurse-staffing question running strong

A new Suffolk University/Boston Globe polls shows Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, leading their general-election opponents by 27 points and 30 points, respectively. The Globe’s James Pindell has the potential landslide details.

Meanwhile, the same Suffolk/Globe poll shows that the mandatory nurse-staffing ballot initiative (Question 1) has a strong, though not insurmountable, lead. On Question 3, 73 percent of those surveyed said they favored keeping the state’s new transgender-rights law, reports Pindell.

Btw: The Globe’s Joan Vennochi wonders if Jay Gonzalez, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, can manage to outperform Mark Roosevelt, a Democrat who long ago also took on a tall and popular Republican governor. Twenty-four years later, Roosevelt still feels the pain.

Boston Globe

Gonzalez’s university-tax plan leaves Dems scrambling

They were against it before they were for it. The Globe’s Matt Stout has a good piece this morning about how Democrats, many of whom previously blasted Congressional Republicans and President Trump’s push to tax university endowment funds, are suddenly, if awkwardly, for a university-endowment tax now that it’s being proposed by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Gonzalez’s Republican opponent in the general election, isn’t bending himself into pretzels: He says he was against the GOP plan nearly a year ago and he’s against Gonzalez’s plan today, calling it a “bad idea,” according to a SHNS report at NewBostonPost. In an editorial, the Boston Globe is criticizing Gonzalez’s plan because it appears to pick mostly on one university (we’ll let you guess which one) and doesn’t raise enough money to cover all his proposed spending initiatives.

Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth magazine focuses on how Gonzalez admittedly used the proposed millionaire’s tax as a template for his university-endowment tax. Fyi: We still have problems with the university-tax plan (see our “About those pots of gold” post at the bottom), but Gonzalez does deserve credit for at least coming up with a proposed revenue source for some of his spending plans.

DeLeo calls for end to National Grid lockout after Lawrence disaster

Citing last week’s gas-line disaster in the Merrimack Valley, House Speaker Robert DeLeo is calling on National Grid to end its lockout of 1,250 natural-gas workers across the region, saying that public safety concerns require an end to the standoff, reports Brian Dowling at the Herald.

In another sign of unease over gas-line issues in general, state Reps. Joan Meschino and James Murphy and state Sen. Patrick O’Connor have written to Baker administration officials asking for a halt to a natural-gas compressor station project along the Fore River in Weymouth, reports Jessica Trufant at the Patriot Ledger. Meanwhile, SHNS’s Colin Young at South Coast Today reports on members of the state’s Congressional delegation calling for hearings on the Merrimack Valley fiasco.

Boston Herald

Columbia Gas withdraws planned $33M rate hike amid criticism of its repair plans

The BBJ’s Max Stendahl (pay wall) reports that embattled Columbia Gas yesterday scrapped a plan to raise rates for consumers by $33.2 million in the wake of the recent gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley.

In an editorial, the Boston Globe says the rate move, coupled with Columbia’s vow to donate $10 million to relief efforts in the Lawrence area, is a nice gesture. But the committed $10 million is only the “floor” of what Columbia owes the public, the paper says.

Separately, the Globe’s Matt Rocheleau and Milton Valencia report that Columbia’s plan to quickly replace 48 miles of gas lines is getting panned by experts as both unrealistic and potentially unsafe.Isaiah Thompson at WGBH reports that Columbia Gas and its corporate parent have a history of late reporting of accidents, which have included 15 explosions over eight years.

Meanwhile, hundreds of businesses remain closed in Lawrence area

These are just a few of the many stats that bring home how severe last week’s gas-line tragedy was to area residents and companies: In downtown Andover alone, 100 businesses and 67 food establishments were still closed as of yesterday, announced Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan, who met with Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday about economic issues related to the tragedy, as the Eagle-Tribune’s Zoe Mathews and Jessica Valeriani report. Saraya Wintersmith at WGBH has similar tales of woes from other business owners and residents in the city of Lawrence. 


He really wants that job: After losing primary, Caccaviello plans to run as write-in candidate for Berkshire DA

He got the job via a politically orchestrated appointment – and, damn it, he’ plans to keep it. Linda Enerson at CommonWealth magazine reports that Berskshire County DA Paul Caccaviello, who lost to Andrea Harrington in the three-way Democratic primary, now intends to run a write-in campaign against Harrington in the general election.


Springfield strip clubs ask for late-night parity with MGM

A trio of Springfield strip clubs say they’re losing late-night business to the new MGM Springfield casino and want the city to loosen late-night operating rules in order for them to compete, Peter Goonan of MassLive reports. The city isn’t wild about the idea, needless to say.


NY’s mayor holds secret meeting with Red Sox brass

We see that Boston’s clandestine plan to sow dissent and confusion behind enemy lines is proceeding as planned. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday secretly met with Red Sox brass at the Manhattan offices of Goldman Sachs, the New York Post reports. They say it was about the Red Sox Foundation. But we all know that’s just the psych-ops cover story by our Cambridge-native plant.

NY Post

ACLU suing Essex County sheriff over drug-treatment access

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger on behalf of a man facing jail time who wants to continue his methadone treatments while behind bars, Paul Leighton at the Salem News reports.

Salem News

Could trade war impact the Chinese firm making the T’s new subway cars?

From Jim Kinney at MassLive: “As the U.S.-vs.-China trade war escalated Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal said he’ll work against a potential ban on transit agencies spending federal money on Chinese rail and transit cars — like those CRRC MA assembles and finishes in Springfield. … CRRC, the world’s largest rail car maker, established a $95 million factory in Springfield to build subway cars for the MBTA.”


Massachusetts fails S&P’s recession stress test

Thanks to the state’s relatively small rainy day fund compared to its overall spending, S&P Global Ratings has placed Massachusetts at an “elevated risk” of financial distress during a hypothetical recession, one of 15 states considered at risk if the economy turns south, reports SHNS’s Colin Young at the Telegram. Young has more on S&P’s state-by-state recession stress tests.


Disagreeing with Trump? Diehl says presidents should release tax returns

During a campaign event meant to push his own proposals to make Congress more transparent, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Geoff Diehl said he believes presidents and presidential candidates should release their tax returns, something his close ally and pal President Trump has famously failed to do so far, as Neal Simpson reports at the Patriot Ledger. Diehl later added that an ongoing IRS audit would be one good reason for an exception. 

Patriot Ledger

Change of plans: CCC now eyeing first pot-shop license in October, not this month

Someone should start taking bets on this. SHNS’s Colin Young at the Worcester Business Journal reports that the Cannabis Control Commission’s approval of the state’s first retail marijuana store probably won’t happen this month, as hoped, and a retail go-ahead will likely have to wait till October. 


Third trooper to plead guilty in State Police OT scandal

From a report at WBUR: “A third state police trooper will plead guilty to overtime fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday. The officer, Gary Herman, 45, of Chester, was suspended from duty after his arrest in June. He had previously been charged with one count of embezzlement from an agency receiving federal funds.”


Jackpot: Lottery’s general counsel nominated for judgeship

Careerwise, this is her version of a winning ticket. From SHNS’s Katie Lannan: “The general counsel and assistant executive director of the Massachusetts Lottery Commission was nominated for a judgeship on Wednesday. Gov. Charlie Baker tapped Carol-Ann Fraser, an Andover resident, for an associate justice position on the District Court.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Wayfair’s shares tumble after Amazon unveils furniture-focused site

Wayfair’s usually bullish investors weren’t so bullish yesterday after Amazon.com unveiled a new website providing recommendations on furniture-sale deals, sending the Boston e-retailer’s share prices down amid concerns about the growing threat that Amazon poses to Wayfair’s home-furnishing business, the BBJ’s Kelly O’Brien reports.

BBJ (pay wall)

Employee wages may be stagnant in New England, but benefits are up

Callum Borchers at WBUR has an interesting economic story about how wages in New England are largely stagnant, despite low unemployment rates across the region, and yet workers are benefiting from more lucrative benefit packages from employers. He has all the stats.


State says Atlantic Union College didn’t follow closure rules

State higher education officials say Atlantic Union College failed to follow the rules when it shut down its academic programs earlier this year, but it’s not clear there will be any ramifications for the school or the religious organization that ran it, reports Scott O’Connell at the Telegram. File under: “Mount Ida and misc. other closures.” 

About those pots of gold …

Finally, our post yesterday (“Gonzalez goes there”) on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez’s proposal to tax large universities sparked a nice email exchange with a MassterLIst reader, JM, who diplomatically asked for more clarification on our comparison of university endowment funds to the state’s large pension fund, both of them “pots of gold” that Gonzalez would treat differently, as we see it. In case other readers have the same questions as JM, here’s a portion of what we wrote back to him:

“To your main point about the distinction between endowment and pension funds: Of course there are distinctions. We were sort of having a little absurd fun with our comparison, i.e. pointing out that just because a pot of gold exists doesn’t mean a pot of gold should be taxed. … The state pension fund obviously, in our opinion, shouldn’t be taxed or routinely dipped into for non-pension purposes, even though it’s a big pot of money, because the state wisely is putting money aside to pay for future obligations. Universities are effectively doing the same thing: Wisely putting money aside to pay for future obligations. But some people see the latter funds as somehow different, even inherently wrong if they get too large, and therefore subject to taxation. What’s sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander, it seems, when it comes to public and private sector set-aside funds. … Bottom line: We don’t want to see either fund taxed.”

It was a good exchange with JM and we hope we clarified things for him and others.

Slums: New Visions for an Enduring Global Phenomenon

Slums: New Visions for an Enduring Global Phenomenon is a symposium that challenges its participants to discuss the range of perceptions and systemic changes needed to re-imagine integrative urban and social landscapes, as well as the labor and land markets that most often underpin the formation of slums.

Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

Navigating the Permitting Maze: A Crash Course On Permitting in Massachusetts

What does it take to successfully navigate a development project through the permitting process? Find out at this in-depth two-day (September 21 + 28) educational workshop where some of the real estate industry’s foremost experts will provide a close look at the ins and outs of environmental review and permitting in Massachusetts.

NAIOP Massachusetts

2018 Better Government Competition Awards Gala

Join Us on Sept. 24th at the 2018 Better Government Competition Awards Gala! Remarks by Governor Charlie Baker Keynote Speaker: John Sexton 2018 Topic: Making higher education & career training options affordable & effective.

Pioneer Institute

Starr Forum: The Assault on Intelligence

Starr Forum: The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies. A book talk with Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA.

MIT Center for International Studies (CIS)

Launching the Next Big Thing (Successfully) – A Panel of Experts Share Their Experiences

A panel of product development experts and serial entrepreneurs will share their experiences and guidance on the essentials of successful product development.

North Shore Technology Council

HIPAA Privacy Rule Compliance-Understanding New Rules and Responsibilities of Privacy Officer

New York Events List

Women in Science and Politics featuring Obama EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy, former head of the EPA under President Obama, Nandita Scott, cardiologist and elected member of Hingham’s Rec Commission, and Katie McBrine, pediatrician and current candidate for State Senate, Plymouth and Norfolk, will discuss the importance of having science-literate women in public office.

Committee to Elect Katie McBrine

2018 Inner City 100 Conference & Awards

2018 Inner City 100 Conference & Awards – the premier networking and management education event for fast-growing urban businesses. Timed with its 20th anniversary of recognizing America’s fastest growing urban small businesses, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) has expanded its 2018 Inner City 100 Award ceremony (IC 100) into a two-day event.

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC)

11th Annual Public Performance Conference

Please join us for the 11th Annual Public Performance Conference. The goal of the conference is to examine and discuss performance management research and models for the adoption and implementation of compelling practices in the public sector.

Suffolk University

Today’s Headlines


Boston looks to spend windfall from new CPA tax on affordable housing – Boston Business Journal

As Boston City Councilors call for meeting on gas safety, National Grid workers protest outside – MassLive


Charlton pot zoning amendment goes to town meeting – Telegram & Gazette

Braintree’s troubled Motel 6 to stay closed for good – Patriot Ledger

Sturdy Hospital in Attleboro says nursing referendum would cost it over $5M – Sun Chronicle

After Merrimack Valley explosions, lawmakers want Weymouth compressor proposal halted – Patriot Ledger


The five battlefields for control of the House – New York Times

Amazon Will Consider Opening Up to 3,000 Cashierless Stores by 2021 – Bloomberg News

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