From State House News Service
ON THE AGENDA
- Despite Warren’s prodding, Trump’s antics, Baker stands firm on presidential vote
- Supporters rally to fend off transgender ‘bathroom bill’ repeal attempt
- Declining health has imprisoned DiMasi lined up for early release
- Precipitation finally rains on persistent drought’s parade
TOP OF THE HILL
‘Incredibly disappointed’ Baker maintains sideline stance on Trump vs. Clinton
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker turned his back a long time ago on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but even amid the latest scandal over Trump’s comments about women, the governor would not take sides between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Baker, back from a week-long vacation in Ireland, faced a new round of questions Thursday about the GOP standard-bearer in the wake of released recordings of Trump discussing sexual advances toward women and accusations of harassment.
Baker has repeatedly said he would not vote for Trump or Clinton, and on Thursday when asked whether Trump or Clinton would be better for the country, Baker, a Republican, said he continues to be “incredibly disappointed” in both candidates.
Watch: Baker on not voting for Trump, Warren’s calls and more
“There’s a reason why I said I wasn’t going to vote for either of them. And let me start by saying, I said wasn’t going to support Donald Trump a very long time ago, seven months. I think I was one of the first elected Republican officials in the country to say that I could not see myself voting for him because I didn’t believe he had the temperament to do the job. I still don’t,” Baker said. He added, “Secretary Clinton, in my view, has believability problems.”
Baker said, “The American people have already started to vote and I certainly hope they will take all the information that’s available to them into consideration when they make their decision.”
In the days since Baker left the country, Trump’s taped conversation from 2005 during which he discussed with Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” how his celebrity allowed him to get away with making overt sexual advances on women has dominated the campaign. Trump has apologized for the remarks that he chalked up to “locker room” banter.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth A. Warren, however, said last week Baker’s early disavowal of Trump as a suitable nominee for president is “not enough” for a leader in the Republican party, and suggested he should be more outspoken against Trump’s rhetoric.
“As one of the first elected Republicans in the United States to come out against him and say I would not vote for him, I think that’s pretty far out there,” Baker said when asked about Warren’s comments. He noted that he has publicly taken issue throughout the campaign with Trump’s comments on women, the media, religion and Muslims, and other policies.
“I’ve made very clear for a very long time that he was not going to get my vote for president and I think I’ve been quite clear about that. I continue to feel that way. I find a lot of what he says to be not only inappropriate, but I think it’s outrageous and disgusting,” Baker said.
Without a presidential candidate to support, Baker said he has been spending most of his political energy fighting for passage of the charter school expansion ballot question and to defeat a ballot question that would legalize the adult use of marijuana.
He has also been holding events and fundraisers for numerous Republicans running for legislative offices in Massachusetts.
— Matt Murphy
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Freedom Massachusetts, others join forces to fight transgender ‘bathroom bill’ repeal
Advocates who worked to pass a law preventing discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations said last week they stand ready to resume their fight — this time to keep the law from being repealed.
Opponents of the law learned this week they have submitted enough signatures to place a question on the 2018 state ballot asking voters to repeal the law. Four churches have also filed a federal lawsuit arguing the law’s requirements force them to act contrary to their religious beliefs.
From behind the pulpit at Boston’s historic King’s Chapel, down the road from the State House, Freedom Massachusetts co-chairperson Mason Dunn described the transgender community and its allies in the state as a resilient and growing group. Dunn said the law is supported by more than 350 churches and congregations and more than 250 business.
Describing himself as “a proud trans person,” Dunn said he was “prepared to fight and defend” the new law, which took effect on Oct. 1.
Rep. Denise Provost, a Somerville Democrat who sponsored the original legislation, said she will “be working hard to make sure that all of the effort we put into getting this bill enacted in the Legislature will not have been for nothing.”
Signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 8, the law bans discrimination based on gender identity in places of public accommodations, including hotels, parks and restaurants. It allows transgender people to access sex-segregated locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity rather than their anatomical sex, a provision that has been at the center of the backlash.
Backers of the repeal effort, organized as the ballot question committee Keep MA Safe, say they are resisting “radical transgender policies.”
“We’re happy to have the opportunity to let the people decide whether or not privacy rights and protections of our children should be taken away simply because the Legislature is overwhelmingly Democrat in this state,” Rep. James Lyons, an Andover Republican, said on Boston Herald Radio Wednesday. “I just don’t believe that rights should be taken away from folks because the Democrats can do things.”
— Katie Lannan
IN THE NEWS
Health, age give DiMasi chance at early prison release
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has recommended that former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi be released from a federal prison before his sentence expires in two years due to his age and deteriorating physical health.
In a motion filed Oct. 13 in U.S. District Court, the Bureau of Prisons recommended a federal judge reduce DiMasi’s sentence to time served. DiMasi has already served 56 months of his 96-month sentence for using his political office to steer a multimillion-dollar state software contract to a preferred vendor in exchange for kickbacks. He was convicted of corruption in 2011.
Since his incarceration, DiMasi has been diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer and is also battling prostate cancer. The court filing details a spate of medical issues the former speaker deals with that “substantially diminishes his ability to function in a correctional facility.”
“DiMasi, who is now 71 years old, has cancer of the tongue and prostate, atrial fibrillation, hyperlipidemia, esophageal stenosis, esophageal reflux, acid reflux, and musculoskeletal pain,” first assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb wrote in the motion, which was filed on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. “He continues to suffer from choking episodes and requires regular esophageal dilations, among other treatments.”
Weinreb cited DiMasi’s age, the length of time served and his medical conditions as “extraordinary and compelling reasons” — the phrase used in federal law — for his early release. If a judge grants the motion, DiMasi would return to Massachusetts and live with his wife and son in Melrose, according to the motion.
Numerous elected officials have expressed support for DiMasi’s compassionate release, including former colleagues Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Revere) and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. Gov. Charlie Baker said last year that he’s generally in favor of compassionate release, but was not supportive of extending it for the former House speaker. Baker did say he would support moving DiMasi to a prison closer to Massachusetts.
DiMasi is currently serving his sentence as inmate 27371-038 at a low-security correctional facility in Butner, N.C., according to the Bureau of Prisons.
— Colin A. Young, with Antonio Caban
Southeast Mass. precipitation finally rains on persistent drought parade
The drought that parched Massachusetts all summer receded for the first time since May this week, the U.S. Drought Monitor announced last week.
Thanks to much-needed rainfall in the southeast part of the state — Plymouth got 2.22 inches of rain Oct. 9 alone, according to the National Weather Service — the Monitor moved Plymouth and Bristol counties from the “extreme” drought category and into the “severe” drought classification. Cape Cod was downgraded from “severe” to “moderate” drought, and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket were moved to the least serious category of “abnormally dry.”
“Other portions of these regions remained dry and had drought intensify and expand this week,” the Monitor said in a statement.
The Monitor now considers 37.83 percent of Massachusetts in an “extreme” drought, down from 52.13 percent for the last three weeks. Last week, the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs announced that all outdoor water use should be banned in all parts of Massachusetts except for Berkshire County, Cape Cod and the islands after seven straight months of below-average rainfall.
“Water reservoirs, groundwater, streamflow, and soil moisture levels continue to decline, severely impacting the commonwealth’s riverine habitats and fisheries, agricultural sector, and elevating the risk of fire,” state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew A. Beaton of Shrewsbury said in a statement last week. “Now more important than ever, we all must administer best water-conservation practices to avoid additional stress on our drinking water sources and other water-dependent habitats.”
— Colin A. Young