No question, 2018 election will be in the toilet

Opponents of the state’s new public accommodations law, which prohibits discrimination against transgendered individuals, have gathered enough signatures to place a referendum for repeal on the 2018 ballot.

If voters think the current election cycle is down and dirty, the battle over that question is guaranteed to be in the toilet as the focus of the debate will be on the law’s protection for transgendered people to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their sexual identity, not their birth gender.

Massachusetts lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the transgender bill and Gov. Charlie Baker, who was publicly noncommittal, quietly signed it into law in July. The statute went into effect at the beginning of the month, but the controversy has not subsided. For example, four churches filed suit against the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Attorney General Maura Healey, claiming the law violates their constitutional rights to religious freedom. Even if the suit is unsuccessful, the case will probably be ramping up in court right up until the 2018 election, giving the campaign some high-profile attention as voters begin to pay attention.

While opponents of the ballot measure will likely talk about equity and fairness in protecting transgendered rights, they will also point to the political and business fallout for states such as Indiana and North Carolina that have passed so-called bathroom bills banning transgenders from using facilities that don’t match their biology. Given Massachusetts voters’ progressive views on social issues, coupled with a corporate community unwilling to forfeit business, it’s a pretty good bet the measure will have a decidedly uphill climb.

But the referendum will also create some uncomfortable moments for lawmakers who were reluctant to bring the measure up for a vote until the deadline passed for challengers to file nomination papers. And there will be even more heat from within his own party for Baker, who is expected to be running for reelection. There is a loud and avid group of conservative Republicans who are becoming disenchanted with the moderate governor over his embrace of progressive social issues and who will try to pull him more to the right, at least in the primary.

And have no doubt, there will be a GOP primary. It’s also fair to speculate who a challenger might be. One name that keeps coming up is former Red Sox pitcher and conservative firebrand Curt Schilling. Schilling has been making noise about entering the political field, ostensibly to challenge Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but has also talked about potential runs for the third floor in the State House as well as, down the road, the White House.

For those paying attention, no one has been more vocal about opposition to transgenders using bathrooms associated with their sexual identities than Schilling. He was reprimanded for expressing his views on various issues while a baseball commentator at ESPN, but he was terminated for retweeting a meme about bathroom access. Having the repeal question on the ballot as a platform for a gubernatorial run could make Schilling a formidable challenge for Baker.

Four weeks until this election gets flushed down the toilet, but Massachusetts will be back in the stalls and the locker rooms in less than two years.



Auditor Suzanne Bump says she will finish her term and run for reelection, ending speculation that she might leave office to manage the companies her late husband ran. (MassLive)

A Globe editorial applauds an Obama administration white paper that encourages zoning rules allowing for more housing, a message that has not gotten through to the Legislature or Massachusetts cities and towns.


The Haverhill City Council voted 8-1 to approve funding for a new well to draw water from the Merrimack River. (Eagle-Tribune)

Holyoke officials, struggling with panhandling, consider requiring those who beg for money in the street to obtain permits. (Masslive) Gateway Cities are preoccupied with panhandling. (CommonWealth)

Gloucester officials won’t say what Detective Sgt. Sean Conners did wrong, but they are pushing ahead with plans to discipline him, including possible termination. (Gloucester Times)

Boston may be famous worldwide as the place where Officer Mike helped Make Way For Ducklings, but Boston city councilors are declaring war on geese. (Boston Herald)


A federal appeals court ruled the leadership structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unconstitutional. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who championed its formation, said the ruling will require a technical tweak and doesn’t damage the guts of the agency. (Boston Herald)

President Obama wants to see a manned mission land on Mars by the 2030s. (CNN)


Jeffrey Lord, the former Reagan administration official who has become one of the most strident supporters of Donald Trump, calls on House Speaker Paul Ryan to resign his post for announcing he will no longer defend Trump. (American Spectator)

Trump goes nuclear on his own party. (U.S. News & World Report) The rift has emboldened Democrats to pour money into red-leaning states where they believe they have an opportunity to win and take over Congress. (New York Times) Hillary Clinton and Al Gore campaign on climate change in Florida. (Time)

What if losing the election only makes Trump stronger, asks Jeet Heer. (The New Republic)

The Democratic candidate running against incumbent state Rep. Shauna O’Connell is calling on the lawmaker to renounce her support for Trump in the wake of the damning lewd video but O’Connell says Taunton City Councilor Estele Borges is being hypocritical because she held a fundraiser featuring former middleweight boxer Vinny Paz, who has a history of domestic assaults. (Taunton Gazette)


Comcast is ordered to pay a $2.3 million fine for wrongfully charging customers for gear and services they didn’t order. (WBUR)

Employees at Wells Fargo complained to the company’s human resources department as far back as 2005 that some of their co-workers were opening up bogus accounts and forging signatures in customers names to meet quotas. (New York Times)


Nearly all Fall River elementary schools improved in performance while the city’s middle schools dropped and the high school remained mired in the bottom 10th percentile in the state, according to an accountability report to the School Committee. (Herald News)

A new report from the auditor in Lowell says the costs associated with funding charter schools outweigh the reimbursements received from the state. (Lowell Sun) Have charter schools been “innovators”? Do they need to be to prove their worth? (Boston Globe)

A state organization of black educators says the Boston Public Schools need to be more aggressive in hiring and retaining black teachers. (Boston Herald)

The National Review says the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester dishonored its own heritage when students, faculty, and administrators joined in an organized “sit-down” protest during the national anthem at a recent football game.

Tennessee’s free college program is a big hit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a success. (Governing)


In 2010, one in every 20 organs donated in New England came from overdose victims. Now one of every four organs donated come from overdose victims. (WBUR)

Mike Widmer says the state Health Policy Commission overreached by inserting itself into the debate over the proposed expansion of Boston Children’s Hospital. (Boston Globe)

Massachusetts General and other hospitals are beginning to hire “recovery coaches” — people who are themselves in recovery from addiction, who help patients get on the same path. (Boston Globe)

New England Patriots defender Rob Ninkovich says the suicide of Junior Seau spurred him to become more active on the issue of mental illness. (Telegram & Gazette)


Friendly Gov. Charlie Baker is making a point of being not so friendly with one group: labor unions, particularly those at the T. (Boston Globe) An Eagle-Tribune editorial applauds Baker’s efforts to privatize work at the T, saying: “Our guess is that the public at large doesn’t care about who runs the T but rather, how they might make the system run more efficiently and reliably.”

A federal appeals court in Illinois rules that Chicago does not have to regulate Uber and Lyft exactly as it does taxis, a potential blow to efforts by Boston taxi drivers to push for comparable rules for cabs and ride-hailing firms here. (Boston Globe)

The FBI is investigating a fatal plane crash in Connecticut as a possible intentional act. (New York Times)


State officials have closed shellfishing in Nantucket Sound between the Cape and Islands, extending a ban that started in Buzzards Bay because of a growing phytoplankton bloom that could contaminate shellfish beds and create toxins harmful to humans. (Cape Cod Times)

GE Energy and Citi have closed on deals to provide funding for an offshore wind farm near Block Island that is expected to start generating power next month. (Standard-Times)

Climate change activists are hosting a party after hearing the owner of the former coal-burning Mount Tom power plant in Holyoke plans to build a solar farm. (Masslive)


Connecticut officials are estimating that the opening of the MGM casino in Springfield in 2018 will cost the Nutmeg State $68.3 million in tax revenues. (Masslive)


Lowell police officers had to taser a fellow officer three times before arresting him for resisting arrest on domestic assault charges. (Lowell Sun)

The Legislature has approved a bill that would mandate saving evidence in rape and sexual assault cases for 15 years, even in those that have yet to be reported as crimes. (The Enterprise)


The Huntington News, a nonprofit student newspaper at Northeastern, is facing a $30,000 debt and the prospect of going out of business. (Mediafile)

The Wall Street Journal is reorganizing its newsroom and cutting down on flabby stories. (Poynter)