Happening today

10 a.m. | Democrat Reps. Mike Connolly and Jamie Belsito and Sen. Jamie Eldridge host a press conference to discuss new legislation that would create a $6,500 per taxpayer cap on tax credits set to flow under a 1986 law known as Chapter 62F and redistribute the remaining balance to all other taxpayers equally.

10 a.m. | Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission meets to consider license applications, including one from the company in which Chairwoman Shannon O'Brien once had ownership stake.

10 a.m. | MBTA hosts an employment fair at Boston City Hall as it tries to address staffing shortages that are affecting operations and safety.

11:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu hosts a press conference to announce the future site of a BCYF full service community center in Grove Hall.

12:30 p.m. | Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito tours Red Hat's offices in Fort Point and participates in a roundtable discussion about the company's workforce development pilot program.

1 p.m. | Gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey campaigns all day with auditor candidate Diana DiZoglio starting with a a downtown Northampton business walk.

4 p.m. | Author Bill Browder speaks at Worcester State University with U.S. Rep. McGovern about his latest book, "Freezing Order: A True Story of Russian Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath."

7 p.m. | Joint fundraiser at Princeton Station in Chelmsford for Congressional candidate Dean Tran and gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl featuring a performance by Scott Brown And The Diplomats, the musical act of former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown

Attorney General Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl, the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, faced off last night in their first debate on NBC10 and NECN.

It was actually the first televised debate for either one this election (neither debated on TV during the primary), and both shook off the cobwebs pretty quickly. After some awkward pre-recorded opening statements, they settled into the game plan each had coming in and what followed was a lively, if predictable, hour of television that seemed to leave supporters of both candidates walking away feeling good about how it went.

Here’s five takeaways from last night and what it means for the race:

— Both can read a room – and the polls. Healey and Diehl know that the economy and inflation, as well as the cost of living in Massachusetts, are foremost on voters’ minds this fall. That’s why each are hammering away at pocketbook issues. Healey continues to promise to cut taxes and supports the tax reform package still alive on Beacon Hill, though Diehl correctly noted she also supports Question 1 to raise the income tax on the wealthy. She also spends a lot of time focused on housing and how to create more inventory. Diehl, meanwhile, targeted Healey for her opposition to new natural gas pipelines as residents brace for an expensive winter heating season. Healey was ready for Diehl and quick to point out ratepayers would have helped fund the multi-billion pipeline projects if she hadn’t blocked them.

— Healey has also read those headlines about abortion driving Democratic turnout this fall and wants in. “Abortion is on the ballot in this race,” Healey said, vowing to fight for a woman’s right to choose. Diehl fell back on his argument that the Legislature has spoken on this issues, despite his support for Dobbs and opposition to abortion, and he will enforce the law. But Healey wants voters to choose based on their gut, not the pragmatic realization that Diehl doesn’t have the power to change state abortion laws. This is also why she continues to bring up the unpopular former president Donald Trump every chance she gets. 

— Last night was arguably more important for Diehl than Healey, who is sitting on a 20+ point lead in the polls. He needed to appeal to those independent Baker voters who will decide the election. And over the course of 60 minutes, Diehl held his own. He even seemed at times like he was trying to moderate some of his positions, such as past claims that the 2020 election was rigged. Diehl said “obviously” President Joe Biden won the election, blaming the Democrat for the state of the economy, and called the efforts by Healey and Democrats to link him with Trump a “distraction.” “It’s Halloween time and that’s her boogeyman,” Diehl said.

— While abortion, immigration and Trump played big parts in the debate, it wasn’t all about nationalized issues. Diehl proposed fighting the opioid addiction crisis by expanding treatment options outside of the major cities into the suburbs, and Healey is bullish on the state’s expansion into green sources of energy at the expense of fossil fuels.

— They agree? On some things, yes. Like South Coast rail. The need for more housing. Tax relief. And hiring support for the MBTA to address safety and operational concerns. Just don’t get Diehl started on whether the new employees should be vaccinated.

What they’re saying on Twitter:

— Former Globe political reporter Frank Phillips: “The gov. debate winner tonight: Geoff Diehl. AG Healey did a perfectly good job as expected, but Deihl (sic) proved he could hold his own on the stage with smart, snappy opponent. She did what was expected, he showed he’s more than the Trumped-up dolt image he generally has.”

— Democratic political analyst Mary Anne Marsh: The debate performance tonight by @maura_healey and @RepGeoffDiehl reflects the polls with the strongest performance by Healey who got her message out and performed well while Diehl was with Trump, and trying not to look like he was with positions MA voters don’t support.”

— State Rep. Jamie Belsito (D-Topsfield): “Tonight’s debate with @maura_healey

was like biting into your most fave sandwich. It was full of fresh goodness, great substance, exceptional flavor and a little spicy sauce on top.”

— More coverage from last night’s debate

Healey, Diehl spar on Trump, abortion rights, and affordability in first TV debate – The Boston Globe

Affordability, Trump Feature As Pressure Points in First Healey-Diehl Debate – State House News Service

Maura Healey, Geoff Diehl square off in first debate – Boston Herald

Scorecard: Grading the debate performances of Massachusetts candidates for governor – The Boston Globe

— Telehealth popular, but mostly cost neutral

After years of hearing health care leaders talk about the promise of telehealth, the COVID-19 pandemic put its adoption into hyperdrive. Telehealth visits have not only become popular for being low risk, but also their convenience for patients. It appears they’re here to stay. CommonWealth Magazine’s Shira Schoenberg reports that a preliminary analysis of data by the Health Policy Commission have found that telehealth’s expansion has not added significant new cost to the health care system, but it’s also not saving anyone too much money either.

CommonWealth Magazine

— Baker recommends pardons for four in first for outgoing guv

For the first time, Gov. Charlie Baker proposed pardoning four men convicted of crimes like larceny and assault and battery dating to the 1970s, 80s and 1990. The move by Baker to issue pardons is notable for its rarity. Though earlier this year he used his authority to commute the sentences of two men convicted of first degree murder, Baker has never pardoned anyone. Furthermore, the Globe’s Matt Stout reports that former Gov. Deval Patrick issued only four pardons and one commutation himself, and those were the first since 2002.

The Boston Globe | CommonWealth Magazine

— Progressive Dems propose reform of tax cap law

A group of progressive Democrats have put forward a proposal to reform the 1986 ballot law responsible for delivering $3 billion in tax refunds to Massachusetts residents this fall. The law, known as 62F, caps annual state revenue and directs the refund of excess tax collections equitably to all taxpayers based on what they paid in. Some lawmakers have argued that this leaves behind those on the lowest end of the income ladder, while benefiting those who might not need the help. Instead, Rep. Mike Connolly and others are proposing to cap refunds at $6,500, which would essentially cover all people earning up to $1 million. After that, the money would be redistributed to all other taxpayers. Gov. Charlie Baker has already announced plans to begin sending out checks next month, and Democrats mostly have suggested reforming 62F will be a debate for the next Legislature starting in January. But this could be a starting point for that discussion. 

The Boston Globe

— Amore the best hope, and still a longshot

The “most interesting” race on the ballot? Maybe. It is still a race for auditor, and one in which the Republican trails the Democrat by double digits. But GBH’s Adam Reilly dissects the state of the campaign, which he describes as the GOP’s “best bet to retain a sliver of power” on Beacon Hill. The race has also had a bit of drama that has nothing to do with Democrat Diana DiZoglio and everything to do with the fact that Anthony Amore looks the part of a Gov. Baker-type Republican, and that doesn’t sit well with some leading the state Republican Party.

GBH News

— What comes next when COVID rental supports expire?

At the height of the pandemic, policymakers worried about how searches for new housing could lead to more spread of the COVID-19 virus put in protections from renters making it harder to evict and pouring money into rental assistance. But with many of those programs expiring and rents still high, the Globe’s Diti Kohli reports that housing advocates worry many vulnerable populations could find themselves without a place to go.

The Boston Globe

— Republicans consider all-or-nothing demands for tax bill

This is not a position in which Republicans in the Legislature often find themselves – one with real power. But as Democrats in the House and Senate wrangle over how to proceed with legislation carrying billions in economic development investments and tax reform, GOP members suddenly have the key to try to dictate some of the terms. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski talked with House and Senate Minority Leaders Brad Jones and Bruce Tarr about their approach to the negotiations, with both telling him they are not drawing any lines in the sand. Though Jones said he would like to see the tax reforms, such as changes to the estate tax and breaks for renters and seniors, included in the final package, he’s not yet threatening to blow up the entire bill over it. Once leaders decided to postpone action on the economic development bill until after July 31, they forfeited some control as the Legislature moved into a period for the rest of the year where rules prohibit calling formal sessions where roll calls can be used to pass bills. That means an objection from just one lawmaker can block an entire bill, they just have to bill willing to take that all-or-nothing step.

State House News Service

–Newton North student play the subject of discrimination complaint

All publicity is not good publicity for the play Newton North High School plans to put on early next year. The school has become the focus of a civil rights complaint after Parents Defending Education, a national conservative group with ties to Charles Koch, filed their objections with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the decision by the high school’s “Theatre Ink” program to put on a play called “Lost and Found: Our Stories as People of Color” discriminates against white students. The play, which was developed by a Newton North alumus, is described by the school as a show intended to “to provide a safe community space for students of color to express themselves through the performing arts.” Newton North officials told the New Boston Post that white students are not prohibited from participating in the production, but PDE contends that it has not be made clear “that participation in this performance is open to all.” This is not the first time PDE has filed complaints against Massachusetts schools alleging discrimination based on race with respect to programs designed for students of color.

New Boston Post

— Ambassador Brown to help Diehl raise cash

Coming off his debate last night, the Eagle-Tribune’s Christian Wade reports that Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl has a bevy of fundraisers lined up over the next week to try to close the money gap between his campaign and Democrat Maura Healey’s. One event is planned for tonight in Chelmsford where former U.S. senator and ambassador Scott Brown will be performing with his band Scott Brown and the Diplomats to raise cash for Diehl and Congressional candidate Dean Tran, and another private event is planned for the weekend in Connecticut. Diehl may be trying to scrape together enough cash to keep advertising through election day with his television presence limited so far to what the MassGOP has been able to support.

The Eagle-Tribune

— Tran appeals dismissal of lawsuit against Healey

Former state Sen. Dean Tran is asking a court to reinstate his First Amendment retaliation lawsuit against Attorney General Maura Healey, which a federal judge dismissed last month. Marco Cartolano of the Telegram reports Tran, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, believes pending charges that he intimidated a constituent back in 2019, are politically motivated and aimed at silencing him.

Telegram & Gazette

— Clark grad students ratify contract, raises 

The recently formed union representing Clark University graduate student workers has ratified a new contract that ended a brief strike and will nearly double the stipends some doctoral students receive. Some PhD candidates could see increases of up to 90 percent, while MassLive’s Trea Lavery reports most master’s degree candidates will receive more modest raises.


— Gloucester City Council meetings to remain Zoom-only

Despite growing pleas from some residents to resume in-person or hybrid meetings as soon as possible, the Gloucester City Council has voted to continue meeting via Zoom, at least until some technical issues can be solved to allow blended meetings. The Gloucester Times reports the council hopes to get back to meeting in person well before next March, when Gov. Charlie Baker’s order allowing online-only meetings is set to expire.

Gloucester Daily Times

— Jump in, Mitt: Utah senator wants Romney’s help

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee is making a direct plea for fellow Utah Sen. Mitt Romney to jump in and help him fight off a challenge from Independent candidate Evan McMullin as Lee seeks re-election, Ryan Bort of Rolling Stone reports. Romney has said he would stay neutral in the race, citing his friendship with both candidates.

Rolling Stone

— First in: Former Attleboro councilor Davis launches bid for mayor 

Former Attleboro City Councilor John Davis says he’ll be a candidate for mayor of the city, even though it’s not yet clear when the office will be up for grabs, George Rhodes of the Sun Chronicle reports. Davis served four terms on the council and was a mayoral candidate twice before and says his hat will be tossed into the ring once it’s clear when current Mayor Paul Heroux, currently running for Bristol County Sheriff, will vacate the office.

The Sun Chronicle

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