Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 206]: Pot restrictions high on City Council wish list

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia now have laws on the books legalizing marijuana to some extent.

And with California’s massive medical marijuana infrastructure expected to buoy a potential $7 billion recreational marketplace, experts see no end in sight to the pot shop proliferation.

In Worcester, up to 15 licenses could be awarded once state regulators open the floodgates next July. And city councilors want their say on where these retail outlets will put down roots.Hitch is hungry for answers.

Hitch is hungry for answers.

A Mother’s Journey: The risk-taker’s lament

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Some of the top jobs in the United States in 2017, according to Glassdoor — based on job openings, salary and overall job satisfaction rating — include mechanical engineer (ranked No. 20), data scientist (No. 1) and a wide range of professions in between. For me, a listing like this gives readers a slightly slanted outlook on prospective careers.

In a ranking of 50 positions on the jobs and recruiting website, there was something missing — one job that matters greatly to a growing economy, but is treated like the stepchild of the workforce.

To no one’s surprise, the term “entrepreneur” doesn’t fit Glassdoor’s list. But for me, it truly is a job title, and one I think deserves more respect. The thing is, entrepreneurs are busy creating, launching and developing many of the jobs so in demand on Glassdoor.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Entrepreneurs make the world turn, and without them, well, we wouldn’t be publishing this article in the Worcester Sun – a business created from scratch by two entrepreneurs.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The gentrification exasperation, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

On Beacon Hill: Cost sharing … and caring

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — So, how many days a week do you suppose Charlie Baker wakes up and thinks, “GOD, I wish Hillary had won!”?

“Seven” may be a valid guess. Because an inconvenient truth has stalked Baker’s political life since the election of Donald Trump: his job would have been enormously easier this year, and his job security greater, had Hillary Clinton been elected. That truth came into starker-than-ever relief last week.

Baker was getting ready to leave for Las Vegas to talk clean energy as news broke that his party’s leader was hoping to demolish Obamacare by allowing the sale of low-cost, low-benefit plans aimed at the young and healthy, and withholding subsidies for insurance copays to the poor at the state level.

It was easy to anticipate Baker’s reaction: walking through a well-worn script that boils down to the message: “Don’t Blame Me, I’m From Massachusetts.” And pretty much, the people of Massachusetts haven’t.

Guns. Gays. Coal. Immigration. Contraceptives. Climate change. On almost every eye-catching Trump maneuver this year, the governor’s instinct for pragmatism in rhetoric and decision-making has seen him through. But now, the veteran number-cruncher and former health insurance executive faces more daunting budget and policy challenges, caused by Republicans.

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

President Trump

The president signed a short executive order Thursday fostering the creation of new bare-bones plans with low premiums, aimed at people whose health needs are few. He said the move addresses one of the main complaints about Obamacare — not enough choice for consumers.

Then came the blockbuster: The president announced he plans to end $9 billion in “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies that enable the functioning of Obamacare on the state level. The president pointed out that the payments were never funded by Congress, but rather paid through administrative accounts controlled by the Executive Branch.

U.S. House Republicans sued over the matter three years ago, arguing the administration has no right to fund a major program like this without congressional appropriation. They won. Even so, officials from both parties had urged Trump to continue the payments, and Baker was out in front.

As with most everything except, perhaps, the national Marine Monument off Cape Cod, the governor disagrees with his president on the dismantling of Obamacare. That frequent disavowal has made his most potent political rival, state Attorney General Maura Healey, arguably his most potent policy ally.

As she’s done many a time this year, Healey said she’d go to court against the federal administration, aligned with Baker’s point of view, joining other state AGs in a lawsuit to block termination of the CSR’s.

For his part, Baker issued a statement that “the Trump Administration is making the wrong decision to eliminate cost-sharing reductions for all 50 states, as it will destabilize insurance markets and jeopardize coverage for thousands of Massachusetts residents.” [See more on Baker’s and Healey’s reactions below.]

Health coverage and its provision to the poor had already made the administration’s life complicated last week, as the Massachusetts Health Connector that administers public insurance for low-income residents tried to set rates for MassHealth for the coming year.

The Connector was expected to announce 2018 MassHealth rates early in the week, but delayed its announcement to make a last-second decision as to whether premiums should rise an average of 10.5 percent or 26.1 percent. The lower rate was announced as official Thursday, but it was contingent on … continuance of the CSR’s, which the president announced at 10 p.m. that evening would be ending. The Connector said it would explore “alternative pathways.”

The flurry of healthcare developments came at the end of a short week that was long on news even before the Grand Finale.

— Craig Sandler

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Three finalists for Cannabis Commission director to be interviewed Tuesday
  • McGovern on Trump’s Iran move, Polito on domestic violence
  • Baker, Healey rail against Trump healthcare maneuver
  • Watch: Chang-Diaz, others weigh in on criminal justice reform
  • Senate gun bill restricting bump stocks set for House showdown

Lapsed funding for children’s insurance initiative snared in federal healthcare flap

The current CHIP funding arrangement is especially beneficial to Massachusetts and other states, since the federal government provides 88 percent of the program’s dollars compared to the usual 50-50 split for other jointly funded state-federal healthcare programs.

BOSTON — Healthcare industry insiders, including Gov. Charlie Baker and elected officials on Beacon Hill, are beginning to fret over the future of a program that provides insurance coverage to about a quarter of children in Massachusetts, mostly on the federal government’s dime.

“Developments over the next several months could have strong repercussions for Massachusetts children,” the Massachusetts Medicaid Policy Institute, a program of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, wrote in June in a 14-page report on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The report concludes Massachusetts and other states would exhaust their current CHIP allocations by March 2018 unless Congress took action.

Video: Baker on Amazon HQ2, etc.

The governor talks to reporters about the best location for Amazon’s planned $5 billion-plus headquarters. He also shares opinions on criminal justice reform, an award for disgraced former House speaker Sal DiMasi, and the Red Sox [4 minutes, 28 seconds].

State opens pipeline to more development money for cities like Worcester

The state is taking nominations from gateway cities interested in customized assistance, including real estate services, aimed at encouraging economic development activity with landowners and investors.

MassDevelopment on Tuesday announced the second round of its Transformative Development Initiative (TDI), with the goal of selecting four to six additional TDI districts. Ten TDI districts — in Worcester, Brockton, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lynn, New Bedford, Peabody, Pittsfield, Revere and Springfield — were selected in the first round.

Worcester Railers tracking rare sellout to open inaugural season

In their nine seasons of existence, the Worcester Sharks never sold out the DCU Center. The closest the American Hockey League club ever came to a sellout was in February 2012, when the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski spiked a puck at center ice. Even that spectacle left the crowd more than 2,000 tickets short of a packed house.

The Sharks’ AHL predecessor, the Worcester IceCats, did slightly better. The team registered two sellouts, both in 1995, during its decade in the city.

Attendance declined in each of the Sharks’ final three seasons in Worcester. In the club’s final season here before moving to California in 2014-15, the average paid attendance was 3,847, which ranked in the bottom third of the AHL.

The NHL’s San Jose Sharks didn’t move their AHL affiliate out of Worcester because of attendance issues. They wanted their minor-league team to join them on the West Coast. But there weren’t many Worcester fans showing up to prove they wanted the team to stay, either.

Rich LeBlanc / Worcester Railers HC

Chris Langkow is a 28-year-old forward from Canada who last season played for a now-defunct Slovenian team in the Austrian Hockey League.

This week, professional hockey returns to Central Massachusetts for the first time in more than two years. The Worcester Railers open their first season as an ECHL (formerly East Coast Hockey League) expansion team on Saturday, Oct. 14, when they host the Manchester Monarchs.

The Railers hope that in one game, they can achieve what the Sharks never did and fill the 12,316-seat DCU Center.

Editorial: Silence is deadly to needed gun reforms

When he opted out of a moment of silence last week in the House chamber, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes was not disrespecting the victims of the mass murder in Las Vegas.

He was respecting his job.

“Anywhere else — in a Rotary Club, at a baseball game — do a moment of silence,” the Connecticut Democrat told “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah Tuesday.

“If you’re in the one room where you could start fixing this problem … that’s negligence. That’s not honoring anybody. Honoring the victims would mean we’re going to fix this,” Himes said.

It’s sad how much sense this makes.

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 204]: Amazon-to-Worcester talk? It’s a jungle out there

Much like the top Red Sox affiliate moving to the Canal District, the prospect of online retail behemoth Amazon choosing Worcester for the site of its economy-changing HQ2 is a dream almost too sweet to wake up from.

And with visions of so many dollars and jobs and tax breaks dancing in their heads, chins have been wagging about the possibilities from Airport Hill to the Burns Bridge.

Of course, there are drawbacks, too, and plenty of warning signs back in Seattle. Pros and cons? Yeah, Hitch has some thoughts.

Editorial: American Roulette

The first shots rang out on the Las Vegas Strip at 10:08 p.m. PDT.

Less than 9 hours later, with victims still succumbing to their wounds and the country just starting to wrestle with the enormity of Sunday night’s attack, stocks of U.S. gunmakers were already rising.

This is the new normal.

With the provocative headline “Gun stocks are getting their usual post-bloodshed pop,” an article in Vice News explained the phenomenon.

“Stocks in gun companies have been known to rise in the aftermath of American mass killings, as the killings can lead to an increase in chatter surrounding the imposition of new laws restricting gun sales,” the article reads.

“And while Congress hasn’t passed any new tough new gun laws since 1994’s assault weapons ban (since allowed to expire), the mere mention of new restrictions has been enough to spur a short-term rise in gun sales, and therefore profits for gun makers.”