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.

On Beacon Hill: All eyes on Washington

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

BOSTON — Bump stocks, Bump’s rising stock and the gamble of a little-known state representative from Lawrence looking to bump up the political ladder.

When everything else seems to be in limbo, sometimes there’s no easier reprieve for lawmakers from the malaise on Beacon Hill than to open up the newspaper and find something worth a reaction.

The slow burn of criminal justice and healthcare reform bills may have something to do with the decision state Rep. Juana Matias, a first-term legislator from Lawrence, made this week to set her sights on something bigger – Congress.

Go where the action is.

Matias has barely had time to settle into the rhythms of the Legislature, but even in her short political career she has been an embodiment of the newish political culture in Massachusetts that spits on the wait-your-turn philosophy of previous generations.

Like U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who knocked off an incumbent in his own party on his way to being a talked-about 2020 White House contender, Matias took on and beat Democrat Marcos Devers in 2016 and now plans to run for U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas’s seat next year. Tsongas, of course, plans to retire, so there’s no one there to dethrone. Just a wide-open field with no clear heir to the seat.

Matias came to the United States with her family from the Dominican Republic when she was five, and now sells herself as “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.” But she has competition for that title.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

Rep. Juana Matias of Lawrence, left. and Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton, testify at the start of the June 9 Public Safety Committee hearing.

Andover’s Dan Koh, one of at least six Democrats now running in the Third District, turned heads last week when he announced a staggering $805,000 fundraising haul in the month since since he announced his campaign. But if the desired effect was to scare off further challengers, it didn’t work.

Sen. Barbara L’Italien is another legislator looking to punch her ticket out of Boston to Washington, D.C., showing how even the prospects of entering the minority in Congress can have a brighter shine than being in the supermajority at the state level.

The goal is the same, but the dynamic different for state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who is trying to escape the Republican minority in the Massachusetts House to join the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate.

With just one month left until the Legislature recesses for the year, the Democrats’ agenda has been slow to take form, and business groups moved to undercut one leg of their stool by filing a lawsuit challenging the attorney general’s certification of a ballot question to impose a surtax on millionaires.

The Raise Up Coalition believes its constitutional amendment remains on solid footing, but the business group’s case is probably more than just a wish and prayer. If successful, it would seriously dampen the excitement of lawmakers looking ahead to 2019 and all the money they think they’ll have to spend.

The one thing the branches have been able agree on is that the budget they produced in July was fine as it was, before Gov. Charlie Baker got his hands on it.

House leaders flexed their muscles in a way not seen for at least several years, completing their work to reverse all $320 million worth of spending vetoes made by Baker in July as the Republican governor warned about the risk of a third straight cycle of mid-year budget cuts.

House Democrats, however, didn’t want to be told about the need to exercise caution, and their confidence in their own budgeting ability, whether it will prove to be misguided or right on the money this year, got a shot in the arm by a September state revenue report showing that, for the time being, Massachusetts has a $124 million cushion.

The Senate has been taking up budget overrides at a slower pace – just $40 million so far – but there’s little indication to suggest its members will be more conservative about spending than their counterparts in the House.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • DeLeo, state leaders expect to ‘move quickly’ on bump-stock ban
  • Markey on birth control, Baker on PR, Warren on Equifax
  • Pot power drain on minds of Bay State utility officials
  • Watch: Healey on Las Vegas shooting
  • State bestows highest honor on fallen Officer Tarentino

Worcester Weekly: Columbus Day Parade, Railers opener + more, Oct. 8-14

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

Sunday, Oct. 8 — Worcester Columbus Day Parade, 12:30 p.m., Shrewsbury Street [starts at Aitchison Street, ends at Washington Square]  In fourteen-hundred ninety-two, Columbus rolled up in the Woo. Then he heard about the dual tax rate and made a beeline for the Bahamas! That’s how it goes, right?! While the famous explorer’s legacy becomes ever-more embroiled in controversy, Columbus Day lives on as a day to celebrate Italian-American heritage.

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 203]: Warren and Markey, first responders

There are about 3.4 million people — Americans — living in Puerto Rico.

Nearly two weeks ago Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Yesterday, half of those Americans were still without drinking water and some two-thirds remained without electricity, including a few hospitals.

President Trump, as has become American custom, has been widely criticized for his callous, less-than-urgent response.

Never fear, though, Hitch says, because Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are on the case.

Sina-cism: Some lamentable signs of our times

As if the presidential campaign season were not already long enough, and political lawn signs not divisive enough, some Americans in the wake of the 2016 contest have chosen to hang out ideological shingles detailing their core beliefs.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

One of the more prominent proclaims that “Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, No Human Is Illegal, Science Is Real, Love Is Love, and Kindness Is Everything.” A variation adds that “Water Is Life” and “Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.”

The signs are the work of Kristin Joiner, a Wisconsin native and graphic designer now living in Bermuda. According to her website, the signs originated in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. And if there were any doubt that the folks behind them were upset by the outcome, this link (also on Joiner’s website) should settle that.

Perhaps you’re looking for a simpler, multilingual message. If so, there’s the “Welcome Your Neighbors” sign, which originated at Immanuel Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

It declares: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” — with the same message repeated in Spanish and Arabic.

My fellow Americans, where to begin?

On Beacon Hill: Bowling for dollars

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

BOSTON — Line ’em up and knock ’em down. That’s been the House’s approach to Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget vetoes since returning from summer recess.

But if Speaker Robert DeLeo was hoping to see the Senate quickly pick up the spare, he found that it might take them a few extra frames.

For the second straight week, House leaders put dozens of votes on the floor to override $9 million more in spending vetoes, bringing the amount of money Democrats are looking to pour back into the $39.4 billion state budget to $284 million.

Then it was the Senate’s turn.

But in their first session since late July, senators acted on only $25 million worth of overrides focused on statewide services and programs that help children [see story below]. It was less than half of what Sen. Karen Spilka said the Senate was prepared to consider restoring to the budget, and the voting came over the objection of Senate Republicans who urged just a little patience.

The release of September tax collection totals this week will color in a full quadrant of the fiscal year picture and give legislators a better idea of how their financial forecast is holding up — well, at least the revenue side of the equation.

“The current fiscal environment, specifically soft revenue collection reports to date, indicates there is no basis to support the legislature’s decision to increase spending by $284 million,” Baker scolded Thursday evening, powerless to stop the type of decisions that have exacerbated midyear budget cuts in each of the last two years.

Baker watched the override votes from Boston after continuing to wear out the shuttle flight path between Logan and Reagan National. The governor headed back to Washington – this time the White House – for a meeting of President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

His path nearly crossed with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who was at the White House a day earlier as the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. Congressional leaders were there to discuss tax reform, but the bipartisan nature of the photo-op did not exactly buy the president or GOP leadership any rope with Democrats.

Flickr / Ben Wikler

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Neal, along with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others from their party, blasted the GOP tax reform framework as a trickle-down economic plan geared toward helping the wealthy, despite the White House casting it as middle-class tax relief.

In Massachusetts, leaders – Baker included – seized on the proposed elimination of state and local tax payment deductions as a particularly egregious simplification of the tax code.

That change would particularly hurt Bay State residents, they said, because they earn more than workers in many places around the country and pay higher income and property taxes that can be used to lower their federal tax burden.

Trump’s tax plan also proposed to eliminate the federal estate tax, a levy that got some attention at the state level as well last week. Rep. Shawn Dooley has proposed to raise the $1 million threshold for the Massachusetts estate tax at one of several hearings last week that put the State House in a morbid mood.

Despite the rejection by voters in 2012 of the concept of helping the terminally ill end their own lives, legislative proposals to revive the debate live on, even if their chances of resurrection seem remote.

Matters of life of death were also never far from mind for those with family in Puerto Rico, where water, food and medicine shortages continue to cause grave concern in a state with one of the top five populations of people from the Caribbean island in the country.

The devastation in Puerto Rico from the one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria continued to influence both policy and politics, as Baker took steps to assure the community and his critics that Massachusetts stood ready to assist in any way possible [see video below].

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • With another break looming, lawmakers about to buckle down?
  • McGovern on SNAP, Baker on WPD
  • Worcester awarded state recycling grant
  • Watch: Baker, Sanchez on Puerto Rico aid
  • Senate restores $25 million in Baker budget vetoes
Bancroft Tower

Inbox [Oct. 1-7]: News and notes from Park Spirit, city of Worcester, You Inc., Becker, Clark, Greyhound, UniBank and St. Peter-Marian

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.

Bancroft Tower open Sundays in October

Bancroft Tower at Salisbury Park will be open to the public today and every Sunday in October. The event is sponsored by Park Spirit.

The inside of the tower, normally closed to the public, will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Park Spirit members are eligible for early access at 9 a.m.

Within the tower, historical displays created by students from Bancroft School will highlight the landmark’s past and pay tribute to the tower’s namesake, George Bancroft. Individuals will be guided to the turret to take in one of the best views of Worcester and enjoy the fall foliage.

Volunteers will also be on site to supervise the visit, while surveying visitors’ thoughts on Bancroft Tower, Salisbury Park and what kind of programming they would like to see there.

State of Politics: Cannabis commissioners eye swift director hire

State of Politics is an occasional collection of news and notes from on and around Beacon Hill compiled from the latest reports by State House News Service.

CCC HOPES TO INTERVIEW DIRECTOR FINALISTS OCT. 17

The Cannabis Control Commission aims to hire an executive director to run the marijuana oversight agency by mid-October and has pledged to conduct public interviews of the finalists.

More in the Sun: Flanagan opens up on role regulating legal pot

“This is an incredibly important job,” said CCC Chair Steven Hoffman, who is serving as acting/interim executive director. “We’re going to run an expeditious process to hire a full-time executive director, but we’re going to do it the right way. It’s going to be public, we’re going to allow applications from whomever might be interested and we will do what we can in open commission meetings.”

Watch: Charlie Baker on Graham-Cassidy and being ‘presidential’

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 201]: Trump bashing? There’s a remote chance you’ll miss it

Even the best of our presidents had their flaws.

Transformational JFK was a legendary lecher (and not the only one). Washington and Jefferson were among those to infamously own slaves. The list goes on. But President Trump raises the ire of his opponents like few elected leaders in history.

His recent irresponsibly pandering speech and attack on the First Amendment rights of NFL players is merely the latest salvo from the Troll-in-Chief.

Hitch, for one, thinks it’s high time to change the channel.