Compromise is cheaper

Bitter enemies are suddenly finding common ground on Beacon Hill.

First, supermarkets and package stores endorsed legislation that would allow food stores to purchase more liquor licenses. Then insurance agents and insurance companies agreed to a legislative ban on the use of credit scores in setting auto insurance rates.

In both instances, the two sides concluded it made more sense to compromise rather than fight expensive, winner-take-all ballot campaigns. Lawmakers this week dutifully began moving the compromise bills toward passage, raising an interesting question: Do Beacon Hill lawmakers set state policy or do they just approve the laws that special interests tell them to pass.

The liquor license legislation is a good example. In 2006, supermarkets, unable to win more liquor licenses through legislation on Beacon Hill, decided to take their fight to the ballot. They squared off against package stores in the most expensive ballot campaign in state history, with the two sides spending close to $12 million. The package stores won that battle by a 53-41 margin, convincing voters that allowing more supermarkets to sell wine and beer would lead to an increase in drunk driving fatalities.

The Salem News reports both sides wanted to avoid another expensive ballot fight, so they agreed to back legislation that would increase the cap on the number of liquor licenses supermarket chains may hold from the current level of three to five in 2012, seven in 2016, and nine in 2020. With no opposition, the bill is expected to pass quickly. As the Boston Herald reported on Tuesday, the Senate gave initial approval to the legislation at an informal session with only two members present.

A Lowell Sun story details a similar case. Insurance agents up until recently were pushing a ballot question that would ban the use of credit scores, educational background, and other socioeconomic factors in setting auto insurance premiums. Currently, the use of such factors is prohibited by regulation. The agents said they wanted to protect consumers against discrimination, but many insurance company executives suspected their real goal was to block pricing tools favored by firms that sell direct to consumers and bypass agents.

The agents dropped their ballot campaign after they became convinced that legislation banning the use of credit scores (but not the other factors) would pass. In other words, a deal was cut. Interestingly, the legislation reflecting the insurance compromise was filed by Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport, the same lawmaker who filed the liquor license legislation.

                                                                                                                                                            –BRUCE MOHL


Gov. Deval Patrick signed a supplemental budget that brings the state’s “rainy day” fund to $1.4 billion, still below the one-time high of $2.3 billion but making it the third largest stabilization fund of all states in the country.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump rules that requiring towns like Danvers to transport and educate homeless children living in local motels is an unfunded state mandate.  As of October 11, there were 1,410 families living in motels in 33 communities. A Danvers state rep says he plans to use the ruling to argue for $6.3 million in state funding to pay the cost of the mandate, the Salem News reports.

Anti-drunk driving activists are seeking expansion of the current drunk driving law that would require first time offenders to install ignition-interlock devices in their cars, the Cape Cod Times reports. The expansion is supported by Sen. Robert Hedlund, who was criticized during a public comment period by a constituent concerned about his simultaneous support for the casino bill’s happy hour amendment.

The smart money on redistricting has US Rep. John Olver’s district getting lumped in with Worcester, leaving the rest of US Rep. Jim McGovern’s district flapping in the wind.  That’s exactly what some Western Massachusetts officials worry about. McGovern tells the Sun Chronicle he’s heard so many redistricting rumors that he could get whiplash trying to follow them. Barney Frank speaks for the entire delegation, telling the Globe, “None of my colleagues have a sense of what the [redistricting] committee is doing.”


The Lawrence School Committee declines to take up a motion to hire the interim superintendent. The lack of a permanent superintendent the past two years is one of the reasons the state is considering a takeover of the Lawrence schools, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A committee of the Weymouth Town Council voted to require a two-thirds majority approval to spend any funds out of the mitigation payments from the SouthField developer at the old Naval Air Base.

Not a pretty picture: Museum of Fine Arts director Malcom Rogers is not happy with the “payments in lieu of taxes” effort through which the city exacts payments from Boston’s many tax-exempt institutions.


WBUR’s Radio Boston examines whether it’s possible to work on Wall Street (or its Boston equivalent) and support Occupy Boston. Here’s an interesting take on the Occupy movement: The National Review says Occupy Wall Street needs a Republican president to achieve its goals. The Wall Street Journal says the movement is a direct challenge to Saint Milton Friedman, who steadfastly insisted that corporations had no responsibilities to benefit society at large.

California unveils a wide-ranging pension reform package that includes a 401(k)-style savings plan for new hires.


NECN sizes up the US Senate race, post-Khazei.

Keller@Large says polls show the constant barrage from Democrats have had an effect on Sen. Scott Brown’s popularity and it might be time for the incumbent to start going negative.

Globe columnist Scot Lehigh paints a picture of flat-taxers like Rick Perry and Herman Cain that gives their ideas about as much credibility as those of flat-earthers. Perry wants to skip a number of upcoming debates, and instead plans to use those nights to press the flesh in Iowa. The Atlantic says the plan reinforces the notion that the Texas governor isn’t ready for prime time.

The MetroWest Daily News pens an editorial arguing Perry’s “Cut, Balance, and Grow” plan is full of “goodies for wealthy taxpayers.”

Slate compares the Massachusetts GOP’s attempts to dirty up Elizabeth Warren to Democrats’ 2010 strategy of trying to make every candidate with Tea Party sympathies look crazy.


A fishery official tells the Gloucester Times that preliminary data indicates Gulf of Maine cod appears to have undergone a dramatic and inexplicable decline in the last few years.

Commercial fishermen got some relief when federal officials raised the quota for skate by 17 million pounds, a 56 percent hike.


Stronger economic growth in the third quarter is further easing concerns that we could be in for a double-dip recession, the Globe reports.

The latest effort to goose Boston’s innovation economy: networking on the Red Line.

Several big banks decided not to join Bank of America in imposing new debit card fees, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Good news, everybody! The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout should now only cost $124 billion, not the $154 billion the firms’ federal regulator previously estimated.


A member of the Diman Regional Vocational Technical School Committee wants to take away the Fall River mayor’s appointment authority for the city’s three positions and have them elected by voters as the other three member towns do.

Mayor Tom Menino says he’s had it with chronically late school buses in Boston.


A hike in Medicare premiums next year will be lower than expected, reports the Cape Cod Times. Via the AP.


A new peer-to-peer program called RelayRides that allows neighbors to borrow each other’s cars instead of owning one is squeezing the commercial car-sharing and rental industry.

The MBTA will employ a Fast 14-like technique to reconstruct two structurally deficient commuter rail bridges, spending a weekend replacing each bridge, rather than two years.


Fall River City Councilor Leo Pelletier, who owns two Internet cafes, is one of four people indicted by the attorney general on charges of operating illegal slots parlors. CommonWealth had an overview of the problem of video gambling last year.

Several Massachusetts communities have restricted where sex offenders can live, but an Alabama county is going a bit further, requiring them to attend a meeting on Halloween night to keep them away from trick or treating children, Reuters reports.

Robert A. Sullivan of West Bridgewater resigned from the Southeastern Regional School Committee after he was found guilty of and sentenced to jail for sexually assaulting a boy while Sullivan was serving as a Boy Scout troop leader.


Colby Magazine has a profile of New York Daily News editor and Colby College alumnus Kevin Convey, the Brockton native and former Herald editor in chief. Via Media Nation.

Ken Doctor, writing for the Nieman Journalism Lab, examines the New York Times’s Sunday circulation bump.