Worcester Weekly: Battle of Badges, Party for ALS + more, Aug. 13-19

The most fun you’ll have with a calendar of events all week. And you just might learn something, too.

Sunday, Aug. 13 — Civil War Movie Series: “Glory,” 4-6 p.m., Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St.  Nothing like a light-hearted, fun summer flick to help you forget August is half over already. Or you could go the other way, and immerse yourself in the harrowing, humbling experiences and selfless heroics of one of America’s most historically significant Army regiments. (Then again, watching Matthew Broderick and Cary Elwes try to act like soldiers is kind of funny.)

Inbox [Aug. 9]: News and notes from Worcester jail, Greenwood Industries, Ball Consulting, Spectrum Health, WCTI, WCAC and Worcester Common Ground

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.

Worcester County House of Correction receives funding for new opioid use program

The Worcester County House of Correction is one of five in the state that will receive $100,000 to provide a wide range of pre- and post-release treatment and recovery services for incarcerated individuals with an opioid use disorder who are within two months of release.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced the Medication Assisted Treatment Re-Entry Initiative for Houses of Correction (MATRI-HOC) program on Monday.

Mandell: A San Francisco/East Bay wake-up call — will Worcester’s renaissance benefit all?

No, this is not India, but the United States. How can this injustice be sustainable? How would it be different here if we all were committed to building fair, healthy and loving places? Maybe I do need the Kleenex the homeless man tried to give me on the BART train ride. … Not only is the renaissance on the horizon, but we need to plan for the negative impacts of growth as well — that many of us will be closed out of its benefits.

Sina-cism: Bee regulations? How about doing nothing?

It’s the height of summer, and the honeybees of Worcester and Central Massachusetts are going about their business, safe for now from the tender ministrations of the City Council, which in late June took up a reform of agricultural rules that could impose various regulations upon the city’s 60 or so beekeepers.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

The proposed rules, which were shunted off to a subcommittee, seem innocuous enough. They include a requirement that beekeepers notify any neighbors within a 300-foot radius, limit the number of hives, restrict them to the sides or back portions of property, and keep them at least five feet from property lines. Beekeepers would be required to obtain a permit, submit a diagram of plans, and be subject to fines for violations.

Such stuff brings to mind the Monty Python skit in which John Cleese seeks a license for his pet bee, Eric.

I’m not sure whether life is imitating art or vice versa, but I am certain that anyone who grew up around or maintains beehives understands these creatures are both vital to the pollination of many of the crops we rely upon, and — when left alone — are extremely unlikely to cause any harm.

Editorial: CRISPR and the future

In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists cracked the genetic code — a breakthrough that still inspires awe and wonder for revealing the essential, powerful machinery of life.

Now science has given us something new to think about: How sacrosanct is that code? Is it OK to manipulate the unique DNA each of us carry?

Last week, a paper in Nature showed just how far scientists have opened the doors on DNA over the last decades, edging from appreciative observers to cautious participants. A global research effort lead by a team at Oregon Health & Science University used a fairly recent technology called CRISPR to edit a defective gene inside viable human embryos.

On Beacon Hill: No detour for sales tax on Holiday Road

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

BOSTON — Hotel, motel, Chatham Bars Inn?

Turns out deciding where to holiday can be more complicated this time of year than choosing between the Cape, the Berkshires or Nantucket. It also means figuring out whether to go to Best Buy in Everett or Nashua, N.H.

Lawmakers slunk away from Beacon Hill without acting on bills that would have established a sales-tax-free weekend sometime this August.

No one said a word, but one might have guessed at that point that the decision had been made to forgo a sales tax holiday this summer for just the third time in the past 14 years. After a year of wringing their hands over disappointing tax collections, leaders are loath to give up a revenue source, even if it might mean cheaper school supplies for constituents and a boon for some small businesses.

Gov. Charlie Baker, however, didn’t seem to want to play that guessing game. And despite vetoing $320 million from the fiscal 2018 budget, he apparently feels a few million dollars lost in August can be overcome.

The governor filed a bill last Wednesday to make the weekend of Aug. 19-20 a sales tax holiday. Sure, he could have just issued a statement calling on the Legislature to return from its recess and pass one of the several tax holiday bills already filed this session, But he didn’t. He filed his own, and it was just about dead on arrival.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

House Speaker Robert DeLeo

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Baker’s decision to file legislation, especially in the first week of August, made “little sense,” and Rep. Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat and Revenue Committee chairman who views these tax holidays as little more than gimmicks, said what DeLeo seemed unwilling to.

Baker’s bill would not get through committee.

So why did Baker file it?

Well perhaps it was just coincidence, but it also came the same day Baker decided that he would sign off on $200 million in new fees and fines on employers to help pay for MassHealth without the reforms that he, and groups like the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, had been insisting on as part of a package.

Rather than force House and Senate Democrats to override a veto and deal with the story line all summer that he and the Legislature were at odds, the governor chose to do something he’s hoping won’t become famous last words.

“The Legislature told us they would work with us on this, and we’re going to take them at their word,” he said.

The National Federation of Independent Business said it was “incredibly disappointed” in Baker, but other business groups, including Associated Industries of Massachusetts, struck a more diplomatic tone.

“While this is certainly not the outcome we hoped for, we recognize that the governor’s decision is carefully considered and designed to achieve the ultimate, long-term goal of substantive MassHealth reform,” AIM President Rick Lord said.

Even with the olive branch from Baker, the retailers seem to have just about reached a breaking point. With the deadline arriving to file language to reserve a spot on the 2018 ballot, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts filed four possible ballot questions for next fall.

The group, frustrated by an inability to get what it wants through the legislative process, proposed lowering the sales tax from 6.25 percent to either 5 percent or 4.5 percent, and reserved their right to couple either proposal with an annual two-day sales tax holiday.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Legislators return, but not for legislating
  • Fiscal 2018 tax collections hit first-month benchmark
  • McGovern on ‘a better deal,’ Warren on improving GI Bill, Markey on Trump
  • Moore-sponsored disability protection bill gets public hearing
  • Baker makes choices for marijuana advisory panel

Baker response to SJC’s ICE detainer ruling decried by ACLU, immigrant group

BOSTON — A push from the Baker administration to respond to a Supreme Judicial Court ruling and reinstate a policy allowing state and local police to cooperate, on a limited basis, with federal immigration detainer requests met stiff resistance from civil liberties activists who questioned the constitutionality of the governor’s actions.

As foreshadowed last week, Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation Tuesday that would allow state and local police to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests for individuals already in state custody on criminal charges or for sentences related to past violent crimes.

The proposal from the Baker administration comes a week after the state’s highest court ruled state law did not allow for law enforcement in Massachusetts to hold defendants at the request of the federal government for immigration violations if they had no other reason to keep the person in custody.

The bill was immediately chastised by ACLU of Massachusetts as “constitutionality suspect because it attempts to authorize state and local law enforcement to detain people without due process.”

Moore appointed Senate chair of joint Public Safety and Homeland Security panel

“Sen. Moore brings years of professional knowledge and experience in public safety to his new role,” Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said. “Throughout his time with the Environmental Police and in public service, Sen. Moore has demonstrated tireless commitment to important safety and security issues facing the Commonwealth.”

Editorial: Trump’s anti-transgender maneuver

After six months of skirmishes with the press, political foes, facts and protocol, President Trump sent out tweets last week that stood out from the pack.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” the president wrote Wednesday morning. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”


This surprise attack on transgender people serving in the military was disruptive, puzzling, petty and ill-informed — even by America’s new lowered standards for presidential forthrightness and clarity. The move also reversed a campaign promise to serve as a friend to the LGBTQ community.