The First Monday in October
While everyone’s focus is on President Trump’s battles with, well, everyone, one of the most important decisions he’s made so far will begin to show results today when the newly constituted Supreme Court sits for what many say is one of the most consequential terms in recent memory.
The court will take up a number of hot-button cases involving divisive social and economic issues the likes of which the justices avoided while they were down a man following the death of the conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia. But while the justices are making those culture-altering rulings, much attention will be paid to the health and welfare of a number of other aging members, such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who may not be far from retirement.
First up on the docket will be a case on workers’ rights involving business owners’ attempts to ban employees from banding together to file suits involving workplace issues. That will be closely followed by another case the Court has accepted that has many union officials on edge. The justices will decide whether government workers who decline to join a union should be forced to pay dues. If the Court rules in favor of the plaintiff who sued his local union, it could reverberate in more than 20 states, including Massachusetts, costing local labor leaders millions of dollars in organizing and lobbying funds.
One of the hotter political potatoes will be the Court’s decision in a Wisconsin case brought by Democratic voters challenging extreme gerrymandering. Many legislatures across the country, controlled by both parties, have used the extreme mapping to solidify their power and many are nervous that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has indicated in the past his unease with gerrymandering, will be the swing vote that will eliminate the practice.
Below the radar is what many observers are predicting could be the most important decision by the Supreme Court in years and one that will touch anyone who has a cell phone, which means probably everyone in the country. The case involves a petty criminal, Timothy Carpenter, who claims police illegally obtained his location data from his cellphone service provider to tie him to a series of robberies. The ACLU is representing Carpenter, claiming police need a warrant to gain such information but other courts have held there is no expectation of privacy when customers voluntarily turn their location information over to a third party.
The Court will also weigh in a suit by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on whether a 1992 law passed by Congress prohibiting sports betting in all but four states – Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon – passes muster. If the justices overturn that statute, which is supported by all major sports leagues in the country, it will open a whole new front for casino gambling online and around the country.
And none of the 26 cases they have agreed to hear so far includes potential cases the justices still haven’t decided on accepting. It will be one of the most fascinating terms in memory, though potentially overshadowed by political theater everywhere else.
“The upcoming term promises to be one for the history books,” Elizabeth Slattery, a lawyer for the conservative Heritage Foundation, told the New York Times.
Pro-pot advocates do not want the more than 100 communities that have imposed bans or limits on marijuana operations to receive any of the estimated $150 million in pot tax revenue that will soon be flowing into state coffers. (Boston Globe)
A Herald editorial voices support for eliminating or reducing the state estate tax.
Boston City Council president Michelle Wu and the Walsh administration are at odds over whether to pursue a municipal aggregation contract that would ensure a higher share of residents’ electricity comes from renewable sources, but which could result in a small bump in monthly bills. Wu is pushing the idea, while the administration opposes it. (Boston Globe)
Truro selectmen are mulling a proposal to lift the year-round ban on condo occupancy. (Cape Cod Times)
Herald News columnist Marc Munroe Dion wants to know why it takes hours for the Fall River City Council to agree on buying pencils but they quickly signed off on Mayor Jasiel Correia’s plan to pave over the city’s walking trail, a move he labeled the “Sasquatch of failure.”
A gunman on the 32d floor of the Mandalay Bay casino/hotel in Las Vegas killed 50 people and wounded 200 more before he killed himself. (Las Vegas Sun) The gunman was identified as Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old Las Vegas area resident. Police said he had no criminal history and reporters have been unable to find any social media footprint. (New York Times)
The Coast Guard released a report that says the sinking of the El Faro freighter two years ago in a hurricane with a number of Massachusetts crew members on board was caused by errors by the captain and lack of safety standards. (Patriot Ledger)
Congressional leaders are touting the benefits of their $1.5 trillion tax proposal while glossing over the looming deficit should the plan take effect. (U.S. News & World Report)
While his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was looking to engage North Korea in talks to diffuse the increasingly tense situation, Trump took to Twitter to tell Tillerson to “Save your energy, we’ll do what has to be done.” (New York Times)
A Lowell Sun editorial examines the electoral clout of Lowell’s predominantly white Belvidere section, which turned out in force last week for city council candidates who favor a downtown high school instead of building a new one in Belvidere. Of the 7,391 votes cast, 2,396 came from Belvidere. In a similar vein, CommonWealth explained why whites control Lowell city government in a piece last year and followed up with a story on a lawsuit prompted by the disparity.
The Boston district city council seat match-up between African-American lawyer Lydia Edwards of East Boston and Stephen Passacantilli, whose family has been steeped in North End political life for generations, is another sign of a changing city. (Boston Globe)
A Globe editorial decries a new dark money-funded campaign of attack ads against Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Howie Carr, in a column marveling at Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s long history of luck in drawing hapless opponents, says Martha Coakley was “his opponent” in his first race for state rep in 1996. Coakley was, in fact, one of five candidates in special election Democratic primary, and was hardly Walsh’s main rival, placing fourth in the primary field. (Also, the election was in 1997.) (Boston Herald)
Renee Loth sings the praises of wood-frame construction as greener and more affordable than other materials in the wake of several recent fires at larger wood construction apartment complexes that were under construction. The problems were more with construction “methods than with the material,” she says. (Boston Globe)
Despite early optimism, a wet summer has Cape business leaders lowering their expectations on what the tourism season did for the local economy. (Cape Cod Times)
A Salem News editorial praises the By All Means program in Salem, which enlists community organizations to deliver support for students so they can be successful in school.
The state Appellate Tax Board ruled that Atlantic Union College in Lancaster was a nonprofit even when it was temporarily closed for three years. As a result, the town must reimburse the Seventh Day Adventist school the $400,000 it collected. (Telegram & Gazette)
Students who were defrauded by shady for-profit universities and were in line to have federal loans forgiven under an Obama administration decree are now in limbo as the Trump administration says it’s reviewing the forgiveness program. (Boston Globe)
Small colleges, which have typically struggled to compete with donor dollars for endowments, are increasingly becoming the recipients of large gifts from benefactors. (Bloomberg)
Two Brandeis University professors win the 2017 Nobel Prize for medicine. (MassLive)
A researcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is developing a system for mapping brain injury that may eventually provide real-time information of the effect of head trauma such as that experienced by football players. (Boston Globe)
Dante Ramos touts a recent Pioneer Institute report on the untapped potential of expanded Boston Harbor ferry service to address the city’s traffic problems and growth along the waterfront. (Boston Globe)
John Livermore argues that stopping climate change literally begins at home. (CommonWealth)
Northern Pass, the beleaguered transmission line backed by Eversource Energy, faces another hurdle as the EPA is calling for more of the line to be buried. (CommonWealth)
Wild lake trout are making a welcome comeback in Lake Champlain — though nobody knows quite why. (Boston Globe)
State and local officials are forecasting at least a 7 percent increase in energy prices for Massachusetts customers this winter. (MetroWest Daily News)
Boston police are undertaking an extensive inventory of ballistic evidence to try to determine how many guns used in recent shootings remain on the streets. (Boston Globe)
MEDIANate Silver said the media need to stop rationalizing President Trump’s behavior — not everything he says is an attempt to rally his base. (FiveThirtyEight)
WBUR and the Boston Globe team up for a sports-focused podcast. (WBUR)