Editorial: Courting Amazon, and all that comes with it

Amazon plans quite a delivery to a North American city next year, and it’s not coming in a UPS truck.

It’s the recently announced second headquarters, or “HQ2,” for the famous Seattle-based company, and Worcester is one of many cities vying to be chosen for the site.

The city decided last month to apply — competing locally against Boston and a dozen or so other Massachusetts cities. In addition to Boston, the list of major-player hopefuls reportedly includes Chicago, Denver, New York City and Washington, D.C.

The application deadline is Thursday, Oct. 19. Some competitors for the headquarters are bending over backwards in lavish or quirky ways to get Amazon’s attention.

Will Amazon look Worcester’s way for more than a glance?

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.

Sina-cism: For those taking a knee, it’s 4th down

It’s fourth down for athletes taking a knee to protest racial injustice and oppression in America.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

Our stand-up-for-Old-Glory millionaire billionaire president, who in his spare time runs the country, was both impetuous and intemperate in his recent spats with the kneel-during-the-anthem millionaires who in their spare time play football.

But Trump was also mostly right.

Sure, NFL players are free to express themselves, as are those who follow their example, such as Doherty High player Mike Oppong, who a year ago took a knee to protest injustice. But that which is permissible is not always wise.

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].

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 205]: Last stop, Union Station

Whether it’s failed nightclubs or high-speed trains, improved commuter rail service to Boston or deficit spending, Union Station has a way of staying in the news — and in the hearts of so many residents and decision makers in our city.

It’s a monument not only to history but to the possibilities of tomorrow. But much like the covert entrance to its parking garage, there is another side rarely seen.

For far too many of our friends, coworkers, uncles and sisters it’s become the final destination of a life overtaken by opioid addiction. Hitch has thoughts.

Inbox [Oct. 11]: News and notes from Assumption, A Livable Worcester, REC, WPL Foundation, QCC, UniBank and Ninety Nine

Have news you or your group would like to share? Let us know by emailing it to info@worcester.ma. Be sure to include a link to the full release on your site or Facebook page so we can include it and send Sun members your way.

Assumption’s annual business ethics lecture to address Worcester’s opiate crisis

Assumption College’s annual Business Ethics Lecture will feature Joseph Sawicki, lead clinical pharmacy coordinator at Saint Vincent Hospital, who will discuss Worcester’s opiate crisis and the ethical difficulties faced by caregivers, managers and providers in a healthcare setting.

The lecture, “Making Sense of Complex Patient Care Issues,” will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, in La Maison Auditorium at Assumption.

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.