State Rep. Kate Campanale talks Trump, Dixon, guns and making things happen

Republican state Rep. Kate D. Campanale, who represents Worcester’s 17th District (encompassing all of Leicester and “all the way to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Main South”), met for an extended interview with Sun correspondent BJ Hill recently at the Leicester Senior Center. This is their third sit-down since her election in 2014.

Find out how she really feels about Moses Dixon, which of her colleagues she’d like to have a beer with, her thoughts on transgender rights, sanctuary cities, Rep. Brian Dempsey’s sudden House departure, and what it’s like being a Republican in Massachusetts in the era of Trump.

[Editor’s note: Lightly edited for clarity and brevity.]

BJH: In November 2016 you won your first re-election campaign. What was that like, going back into the community and again trying to win support after your first election in 2014?

KC: It was a different campaign since you’re running as an incumbent and you have a record to run on. You’re a little more known. Going door-knocking, people remembered me from the previous two years. And you’re able to talk a little bit more about things that you’ve accomplished versus things you want to do. I’d say it’s a little more comfortable campaigning.

What are three differences campaigning in Leicester versus campaigning in your area in Worcester?

Honestly, BJ, I wouldn’t say there are many differences. It’s still the same strategy as far as you’re going to someone’s door, you’re meeting them, you’re introducing yourself for the first or second time, and you’re talking about pretty much the same issues. And you know, every person has [unique] priorities, but in general, I would say that the campaigning part is the same. Maybe one difference would be I’m a little more known [in Leicester] because I grew up here. Other than that, the campaign strategy really is the same, you know, meeting people is the same, whether it’s an event here at the [Leicester] Senior Center or one at University Park. I kind of handle them the same way.

You mentioned priorities. What did you notice were different priorities between folks in Worcester and folks here in Leicester?

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 180]: When Dukakis, Bulger and Trump collide

Former Bay State governor and Democratic nominee for president Michael Dukakis has not been shy in his critiques of the Tweeter-in-Chief, Donald Trump.

In a recent Boston Herald column, Dukakis says his wife, Kitty, “sees all the signs” of a serious personality disorder in the president. Billy Bulger, another power broker from years past, knows a thing or two about dangerous personalities.

So, Hitch thought it wise to bring everyone together to get to the bottom of this.

On Beacon Hill: A watched pot never boils

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

BOSTON — The Fourth of July holiday, with any luck, may be just the dash of salt legislative negotiators need to bring to a simmer deals over a new annual budget and marijuana legalization legislation that proved elusive as the hours peeled away on fiscal 2017.

Shuffling off into the weekend, tails tucked between their legs, important decisions hanging over their heads, not even the enticement of fireworks, parades and an unencumbered four-day break could pull a compromise out of the back rooms of the State House, where frustration between the branches was mounting.

Two issues were in play this week, both with looming — if inconsequential — deadlines. Anticipation, unrequited, was high.

The new fiscal year began Saturday, but with an interim budget in place to pay $5.5 billion worth of bills in July, state lawmakers had the luxury of not trying to rush a deal if there was no deal to be made. Not only are lawmakers trying to decide what to do with Gov. Charlie Baker’s comprehensive Medicaid reform plan dropped on the conference committee last week, but unreliable tax projections have complicated the math.

As for the overhaul of the voter-approved marijuana legalization law, the House and Senate have been at odds over taxes, local control of the siting of retail shops, and the makeup of a regulatory panel known as the Cannabis Control Commission.

Leadership of the House and Senate set an artificial deadline of June 30 to complete their work, but nothing happens if talks spill over into next week, or the week after that.

The tax rate, according to some close to the negotiations, remained at least one of the sticking points, with the House entering talks at 28 percent and the Senate asking for an unchanged 12 percent tax rate, as prescribed in the ballot law.

Asked if a deal over marijuana was imminent late Friday afternoon, Sen. Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville, shrugged. “How should I know?” said one of the few people actually in a position to be able to answer that question with any authority.

As Beacon Hill waited, last week provided enough actual news to fill what Gov. Baker described in an interview with State House News Service as the “black hole” that is the conference process.

President Donald Trump left mouths, including Baker’s, slack-jawed by the cruelty of his Twitter fusillade against MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski last week; Eversource and National Grid shelved plans to bring a $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline into New England; state Revenue Commissioner Michael Heffernan revoked a directive that would have required many online retailers to begin collecting sales taxes on July 1; and long-serving Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester passed away after a battle with cancer.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

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  • Eldridge teams up with Republican to close healthcare loophole
  • State rebuffs White House election panel’s request for voter information

On Beacon Hill: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

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

BOSTON — Give lawmakers a week to get something done and they’ll probably take eight days. At least.

So it should come as no great surprise that they are once again bumping up against a deadline, albeit one that is self-imposed.

Despite the fact lawmakers have been plotting revisions of the November ballot law legalizing marijuana since delaying its implementation last December, the odds of having it rolled and twisted and on the governor’s desk by June 30 seem long.

Some of that has to do with the fact the House and Senate are far apart on major issues, including taxation and local control over retail dispensaries.

The House didn’t help the cause last week with a bungled rollout of a comprehensive marijuana bill that House Speaker Robert DeLeo pulled back from a scheduled vote because of drafting issues and shaky support. Chief among the problems was a taxation miscue that would have applied the proposed 28 percent, all-in tax on marijuana sales to be compounded as the product moved through the supply chain from grower to consumer.

House leaders, including the co-chair of the Marijuana Policy Committee, Rep. Mark Cusack, will try again tomorrow [Monday, June 19] when they release a redrafted bill in hopes of getting that to the floor for a vote on Wednesday.

Cusack says the bill will look very similar to the one released last week, which would create an expanded Cannabis Control Commission and no longer require a town- or city-wide vote to ban the sale of recreational marijuana within a community’s borders, but instead allow the municipal governing body to do it instead.

Yes on 4, the group behind the successful marijuana ballot campaign, believes the higher tax rate will encourage the black market and slammed the House bill as a stripping of rights from voters. The group is considerably more aligned with the Senate.

The reason for the soft deadline this month is that lawmakers feel, after speaking with officials in other states with legal pot, that it will take a year for the new Cannabis Control Commission to become operational and start licensing dispensaries for retail sales.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

The Marijuana Policy Committee co-chaired by Rep. Mark Cusack and Sen. Patricia Jehlen was under fire last week following a heavily panned rollout of new regulations.

No one seems to have much of an appetite to further delay licensing beyond July 2018, and yet getting a bill done by the end of the month would require the House and Senate to both give up considerable ground if they are to meet in the middle for a compromise.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen, the co-chair of the Marijuana Policy Committee whose relationship with Cusack seems anything but groovy, didn’t even wait to see the redrafted House bill before outlining a competing Senate proposal that would leave the ballot law’s tax structure untouched, with a maximum rate of 12 percent.

Jehlen also proposed to make no changes to the local opt-out process and to seal criminal records with past pot convictions that are no longer illegal. She broadly agrees, however, with the House-proposed construction of the Triple C. The proposed structure of the Cannabis Control Commission from both Cusack and Jehlen is similar to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and one that Treasurer Deborah Goldberg — the principal pot overseer under the ballot law — opposes as an undercutting of her authority.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Sales tax holiday could be revived
  • McGovern on Trump’s Cuba stance, Chandler on education, Healey on DeVos
  • Baker in D.C. for opioid panel, lobbying on health care
  • Video: Polito on ‘fair share’ amendment, local spending
  • Surtax on millionaires advances in face of legal questions

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Sina-cism: Adieu, Paris accord, you meant so little

Sadly, the media doesn’t focus on the science at all, but almost exclusively on the politics of climate.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

Much ink has been spilled and many BTUs of hot air generated since President Trump announced on May 25 that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate accord, but it wasn’t until Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty declared his support for the deal — joining dozens of other mayors nationwide — that I realized just how ridiculous the whole thing is.

Look, there is plenty of evidence that climate change, or global warming (or whatever term is in vogue this week) is taking place. I don’t want the Earth’s flora and fauna to die. I have nothing against residents of the Netherlands, 47 percent of whom are threatened by rising sea levels. And while I’ve never been to the South Pacific, I hope the low-lying island nations there do not sink beneath the waves.

But the Paris climate deal was never going to save the planet — and never will — regardless of what the United States does.