The Codcast: The ‘Harvard tax’ plus transgender rights on the ballot

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez filled in one big missing piece of his campaign platform last week, a plan for how to pay for the new investments in transportation and education he has vowed to pursue if elected.

His proposal to levy a 1.6 percent annual tax on the holdings of Massachusetts colleges and universities with endowments greater than $1 billion became the topic of the week in the race — and it’s the first of two issues Jennifer Nassour and Jesse Mermell tackle in their latest Codcast installment. The Republican and Democratic voices live up to the show’s tagline, “disagreeing agreeably,” staking out opposing views on the matter.

Nassour, the former chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said her impulse is to be wary of any new taxes, but she said this one, in particular, makes no sense. It could “hurt the neediest students the most,” she said, a reference to concerns that the tax could mean a hit to college financial aid programs.

Nobody likes imposing new taxes, said Mermell, who served as communications director for Gov. Deval Patrick, but she argued that our education system and transportation infrastructure are badly in need of new revenue. “We have really fallen short over decades in both parties in doing something,” she said.

In the second half, they set their sights on the November ballot question that would repeal the state’s transgender rights law signed two years ago by Gov. Charlie Baker. On this issue, Nassour and Mermell are in agreement, with both supporting the “yes” side that would retain the law.

Jeanne Talbot, the mother of a transgender high school student, Nicole Talbot, is their guest, along with Matt Wilder, a spokesman for the Yes on 3 campaign.

Talbot said the law simply provides basic dignity and rights to people like her daughter, who she calls “your typical teenager.” (When it comes to singing skills, however, Nicole stands out as anything but typical: She is a finalist in the competition to select a successor to Rene Rancourt in singing the national anthem at Boston Bruins games.)

Addressing fears raised by opponents that the law will result in male sexual predators in women’s bathrooms, Talbot said law enforcement officials “overwhelmingly, unequivocally say that this law makes everyone more safe, not less.”

A recent Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll showed the yes side enjoying a huge lead, with 73 percent of likely voters supporting the law, 17 percent favoring repeal, and only 9 percent undecided. But Wilder said the yes campaign is not taking anything for granted.

He expects opponents of the law will “at the 11th hour” hit the airwaves with “frightening television ads” to try to win supporters. He said such ads are bound to be “misleading and untruthful,” but said they can be very effective in influencing people who have not paid a lot of attention to the issue to that point.



Lawrence mayor Dan Rivera has been a steady and calming presence amidst the crisis in his city set off by gas explosions. (Boston Globe) The gas explosions have raised worries about the safety of pipelines across the state — and the adequacy of the state’s inspection resources. (Boston Globe) Pledges that natural gas service will be restored by November 19 seem overly optimistic to industry analysts. (Eagle-Tribune)

Brockton officials have refused a state order to release public records to The Enterprise regarding the $30,000 investigation by an outside legal firm into a parking garage employee who was forced to resign amid questions of mismanagement of funds.

Police are reportedly investigating an alleged overtime scam at the Boston Public Library. (WGBH)


Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday about her accusations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. (Washington Post) A second woman now says she was a victim of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh while both attended Yale in the 1983-84 school year, though the woman admits she was drinking heavily and there are gaps in her memory. (New Yorker) Kavanaugh plans to give senators his calendar from 1982, which he apparently kept for 36 years, that purports to show he could not have attended a party like the one described by Ford. (New York Times)

Republican US Senate candidate Geoff Diehl is standing by Kavanaugh. Gov. Charlie Baker not so much. (Boston Herald)

Howie Carr wonders why Rep. Joseph Kennedy III doesn’t show bipartisan outrage when it comes to alleged perpetrators of sexual misconduct and assault. (Boston Herald)

The economy may be booming, but the US scores horribly on a Social Progress Index that measures a range of indicators, including health, education, and environment, writes Harvard professor Michael Porter. (Boston Globe)


The nurse staffing ballot question is totally confusing to voters. (Salem News)

Gov. Charlie Baker and his Democratic rival Jay Gonzalez may both be former health care executives, but they have very different ideas on health care policy, with Gonzalez supporting a single-payer system and Baker opposing that approach. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Supreme Judicial Court ruling barring corporate campaign contributions is a missed opportunity and should be corrected by the US Supreme Court, says Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. (CommonWealth)


Cape businesses say they are not feeling the fallout from the increase in shark attacks but admit next year could be different. More and more homeowners on the Cape are installing backyard pools and part of the reason is the explosion in shark sightings. (Cape Cod Times)

Margaret Monsell says Education First grows on the backs of cheap labor. (CommonWealth)


Ludlow superintendent Todd Gazda says it is time to rethink educational assessments and standards. (CommonWealth)

A former top administrator at UMass Dartmouth, who briefly served as acting chancellor, was doing consulting work for a for-profit college that aimed to compete with the campus at the same time that he was on the school’s payroll. (Boston Globe)

A new coalition of education groups is joining the call for more school funding in the state. (Boston Globe)


A new study funded by the manufacturer shows a tiny clip inserted into the heart can dramatically reduce the risk of death for severe heart failure that afflicts more than 2 million Americans. (New York Times)

Veterinarians are contending with a new challenge: Pet owners who push for opioid prescriptions for their animals but whose aim is to use the drugs themselves. (Boston Globe)

Rep. Andy Vargas and Stephen Kerrigan say we need to strengthen, not scrap, the Affordable Care Act. (CommonWealth)


A Texas judge dismissed a second shareholder complaint against MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez for issuing false and misleading financial reports during a previous job. The judge gave him a pass largely because the amount of money involved was so small that would not have affected an investor’s decision to invest in the company, Global Power Equipment Group. (CommonWealth)

James Aloisi jumps into the debate over new revenues for transportation, saying state leaders seem strapped to the status quo express. (CommonWealth) A Berkshire Eagle editorial pans
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez’s proposal to tax college endowments, saying what’s needed is not us-against-them taxation policies but hikes in traditional taxes such as the gas tax.

Disability advocates say the shuttle buses hired by the MBTA to run at night and on weekends during construction on the Red Line between North Quincy and Braintree lack necessary equipment or expertise for wheelchair riders or visual notifications for deaf passengers. (Patriot Ledger)

MBTA commuter rail is showing progress, says Keolis chief David Scorey. (CommonWealth)


Federal regulators could place further restrictions on herring fishing quotas with concerns the declining population could have an impact on other species such as striped bass and tuna that feed on the herring. (Providence Journal)

A disproportionate number of Quincy residents who lived and swam for decades in the Fore River basin, which had the South Shore’s highest concentration of industry, have been diagnosed with a variety of rare diseases thought to be caused by environmental factors. (Patriot Ledger)

Cynthia Arcate of Power Options says consumers are being overlooked as ISO New England plays power politics. (CommonWealth)


A Boston police officer was shot in an encounter yesterday in the South End. His wound was non-life threatening and two suspects are under arrest. (Boston Herald)


Brockton refuses to release records on a parking garage investigation to the Enterprise, even though state officials have ordered the municipality to turn the information over to the newspaper. (The Enterprise)

Comcast outbid 21st Century Fox for British pay-television network Sky, purchasing the media giant for $38.8 billion. (Wall Street Journal)