Hartford Courant. May 18, 2021.

Editorial: The angry, disruptive display at UHart’s commencement over switching to NCAA Division III was thoughtless and misguided

Filled with anger and disappointment over the University of Hartford’s decision to move its athletic program from NCAA Division I to Division III, a number of students decided to make their displeasure known during the school’s commencement exercises at the XL Center in Hartford this weekend.

According to videos on social media and statements from the university, attendees jeered and booed from the audience; they shouted and shared “language as they crossed the stage.” The disruption caused university president Gregory Woodward to leave the Saturday night ceremony for UHart’s College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions, one of several proceedings held over the weekend.

Those against the move to D-III, who argue the change is shortsighted, hurts athletes and will put a crimp in fundraising efforts, have targeted Woodward. Woodward has argued the program is too expensive and the school’s resources would be better spent elsewhere.

Those who participated in the boo-fest — and those who saluted the display on social media — may think they were exercising their right to make their views known. Many of the school’s student-athletes, coaches and alumni have been vocal in their displeasure with the Board of Regent’s decision. They have marched on campus. Members of the softball team, playing a game the day after the decision was announced, blocked out the school’s name on their jerseys.

But disrupting the commencement ceremony was thoughtless and misguided. Were they going to change anyone’s minds by booing Woodward? No. Were they going to add anything constructive to the debate? Hardly. The passion around this issue has been intense, but too many of those weighing in on the issue have turned a legitimate debate into an exercise in character assassination.

Those who disrupted the ceremony indulged their anger and spoiled a milestone event for the other students in attendance. You might think after having lived through a year when the coronavirus pandemic canceled in-person events like graduations, those determined to make their views known might have been more thoughtful. Deck your cap with a message. Wear something on your gown.

There are better ways to make your voice heard without robbing others of what should have been a special day.


Hearst Connecticut Media. May 19, 2021.

Editorial: CT late to the game to start paying college athletes

Can you hear that?

Tick, tick, tick...

That’s the clock, and it’s running out. There’s no halftime this time. On July 1 the buzzer will go off that changes the college sports landscape. That’s when college athletes in six states can start getting paid by third parties for use of their image and likeness. Without active legislation, Connecticut is in a deep hole.

In some cases the athletes will have mild obligations, such as showing up for camps and business openings. Otherwise, they won’t even have to get off the bench. The real money is in sponsoring content on social media, which is why soon-to-be-eligible college stars are branding their hashtags.

While the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team reliably gives us national bragging rights, we’re poised to tumble in these new rankings for player compensation. Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico all have legislation in place so players can start pulling in coin July 1.

State Sen. Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) tried to get Connecticut in the game, but his bill was benched as COVID shut down last year’s session. He now says, “It would be nice if Connecticut isn’t the last state.”

Alas, we could be destined to land in the basement. If the pandemic was a big timeout, Connecticut has forgotten to get back in the game this session. Somehow, no one has thought to introduce legislation to ensure Connecticut is playing on a level playing field.

Put yourself in the sneakers of the teen wunderkind contemplating scholarships to play ball for the Huskies or, say, the Crimson Tide in Alabama. One school can only offer scholarships, but the other has extra carrots in the form of earnings from social media endorsements with virtually little extra work.

Suddenly, the potential stars of the future never even bother to visit Connecticut campuses.

Then there’s the current roster. Paige Bueckers, fresh out of her freshman season as the newly minted face of women’s college basketball, has massive earning potential. How’s that going to play out when her opponents are getting paid and she’s not?

If you don’t think there’s big money in college sports, consider that departing UConn President Thomas Katsouleas earned a base salary of $540,750, but UConn women’s hoops coach Geno Auriemma’s annual paycheck is $2.7 million.

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are teaming up with colleagues from other states to get national legislation on the board. Blumenthal’s days as attorney general seasoned him to reason that a push by the feds will finally motivate the NCAA.

UConn has taken welcome steps to prepare athletes to handle these new income streams, a collaboration with David Noble, director of the school’s Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. It gets to the core mission of any college: education. There will be steep learning curve for colleges as well .

Tick, tick, tick. Time is almost up, and Connecticut will need to start hustling to stay in the game.


Portland Press Herald. May 18, 2021.

Editorial: Abortion rights under attack, in Maine and nation

Bills that would make it more difficult to terminate a pregnancy come before state legislators as the Supreme Court takes on Roe v. Wade.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in all 50 states, saying that the individual rights described in the Constitution were “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

Almost a half-century later, those rights have never been more threatened.

Anti-abortion activists have succeeded in packing the Supreme Court with justices who claim, before they are confirmed, to be bound by precedent but send signals that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is far from “settled law.”

The latest sign comes with the news that the court will take up the case of a Mississippi law that directly attacks Roe v. Wade and could send abortion regulation back to the states. What that could look like in Maine will be on display Tuesday, where the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on a series of abortion restrictions.

None of the bills directly challenges Roe, but all would make it more difficult, expensive and possibly dangerous to terminate a pregnancy, putting abortion out of reach for some women.

The bills include L.D. 1225, which would require families to bury or cremate the remains after an abortion, a miscarriage or fetal death – regardless of its gestational age.

Although it’s called “An Act to Provide Dignity for Fetal Remains,” it’s equally likely to strip dignity from pregnant women, shaming them if they choose abortion. And it is cruel to women who miscarry, adding to their grief and disappointment.

The committee will also hear L.D. 825 and L.D. 851, which would require that providers tell patients that a medication abortion can be reversed between taking two drugs, typically administered 48 hours apart.

The problem is that no evidence exists that this is true. The only scientific test of the theory was canceled for safety reasons because it caused severe hemorrhaging.

Tennessee passed a similar bill last year, but it has been blocked from taking effect by a federal judge who found that the message was “likely to mislead patients.”

We would never let this kind of uninformed meddling by lawmakers intrude into any other aspect of the relationship between a health care provider and a patient. But when it comes to abortion, opponents think they know better than women and their doctors.

These bills should be viewed in the context of the upcoming Supreme Court case, which could again allow states to make abortion a crime. Maine law should continue to respect a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and what’s best for her family.


Boston Globe. May 17, 2021.

Editorial: A solution for hunger takes shape in Chelsea and Cambridge

Food insecurity in Massachusetts increased 55% during the pandemic, requiring policy makers to look for new ways to get food to the hungry.

In these pandemic times, guaranteed income has been called a “financial vaccine.” Indeed, there may be no stronger type of policy inoculation right now against food insecurity and hardship than cash transfers, no strings attached. Call it universal income, call it financial assistance, call it whatever you want, but there are strong signs that distributing more cash aid to low-income families works.

Massachusetts is dipping its toes into the experiment. So far, there are two guaranteed-income pilot programs in the state. The Chelsea Eats program — which has been called the nation’s largest guaranteed-income program — began last fall giving between $200 and $400 in gift cards to roughly 2,000 low-income families in Chelsea, the early epicenter of the COVID-10 pandemic in the state. And last month, Cambridge announced it will start issuing $500 monthly cash transfers in August to 120 eligible low-income families for 18 months.

Preliminary results from the Chelsea experiment released recently show enormous promise, particularly given a recent Greater Boston Food Bank poll that shows food insecurity is still widespread in Massachusetts: More than 1.6 million adults are still struggling to get enough food to eat. In Chelsea, researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School analyzed five months of data — $2.1 million in spending — from the Chelsea Eats cash transfer program and found that nearly three-quarters of it was spent at food retailers such as grocery stores, restaurants, wholesale clubs, markets, and convenience stores. A third of the spending went to Market Basket stores, primarily the Chelsea location.

“The families participating in this program have been experiencing extremely high levels of food insecurity, with more than half reporting that their children were sometimes not eating enough because the families could not afford food,” said Jeffrey Liebman, economist and professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the director of the Rappaport Institute, in a statement. “(W)ith 12% of Chelsea households receiving assistance, this program demonstrates that direct payments can be delivered at scale,” Liebman said.

But the need isn’t limited to Chelsea. From 2019 to 2020, food insecurity in Massachusetts increased 55% during the pandemic. And it’s affecting people of color in higher levels: 58% of Latino adults and 45% of Black adults reported food insecurity, according to the Greater Boston Food Bank survey, which was conducted between October and January.

Nor are food pantries necessarily the only solution to close persistent gaps. The survey found that only 1 out of three adults struggling with food insecurity was using food pantries at the time. This is why a more direct intervention, such as a guaranteed-income program, may be more effective.

It wouldn’t be cheap. Boston Indicators, the research arm of the Boston Foundation, estimated last summer that a modest but large-scale guaranteed minimum income program for Massachusetts would cost roughly $1 billion dollars. Boston Indicators’ researchers proposed doing it by overhauling and expanding the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.

That may be the big thinking needed to deal with the uneven economic fallout of the pandemic. In the meantime, other cities and towns should consider following Chelsea and Cambridge’s lead.


Boston Herald. May 17, 2021.

Editorial: Script a happy ending for state’s film industry

The Senate issued its $47.6 billion fiscal year 2022 state budget last Tuesday, a proposal that aims to repair the overall economic damage done by COVID-19 without factoring in the billions in federal aid Massachusetts will soon receive, or the state’s recently robust tax receipts.

The bill will be a subject of debate on May 25, after which Senate and House leaders must reconcile their differences before sending a final document to Gov. Charlie Baker for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The Senate bill varies only slightly from the House version with one notable exception, the state’s film tax credit, on which both chambers hold polar-opposite positions.

The Senate’s spending plan would amount to a $1.2 billion increase, or about 2.6%, above the current fiscal year budget. Its bottom line is $1.8 billion higher than the recently passed House bill.

The Senate budget likewise doesn’t include any of the $4.5 billion Massachusetts will receive from the American Rescue Plan.

In mirroring the House, the Senate also built its budget on the assumption that Massachusetts will collect $30.12 billion in taxes in fiscal 2022.

The Senate’s budget bill calls for a maximum withdrawal from the state’s “rainy day” stabilization fund of $1.55 billion to meet spending obligations — $325 million less than the House proposed.

However, there’s no hint of consensus when it comes to the fate of the film tax credit.

The House voted last month to permanently extend the credit, while the Senate plan would extend the credit only to 2027, four years beyond its current expiration date.

It also would cap those salaries eligible to be covered by the credit at $1 million, and more importantly, end the ability of production companies to sell the credit to other entities, like insurance companies and corporations.

The film tax program currently includes a 25% payroll credit for any project that spends more than $50,000 in the state. Productions that spend more than half their total budget in Massachusetts — or film at least half the time in the state — are also eligible for a 25% production credit and a sales tax exemption.

The Senate plan would also increase that qualification threshold by requiring productions to spend 75% of their budget, or 75% of their filming days, in Massachusetts.

Senate leaders see expending $60 to $80 million annually in these credits as a bad deal for the state’s taxpayers.

House leadership, as well as the Massachusetts Production Coalition, which represents workers and businesses in the state’s film industry, see it differently.

They believe the Senate’s proposals would deter companies producing feature films, TV shows and streaming series from setting up shop in Massachusetts.

Tax-credit supporters point to the Hulu series “Castle Rock,” based on stories by Stephen King that used New England Studios at Devens as its base of operations, as an example of the credit’s long-term benefits.

According to one industry-backed analysis, “Castle Rock’’ alone created more than 1,000 jobs in Massachusetts during its first season.

We previously endorsed making the film tax credit permanent because of its job-creating potential for the central part of the state and beyond.

There’s certainly room for compromise here; terminating the tax credit transfer could exact some concessions on the Senate side. We urge the Senate — and a likewise skeptical governor — to work with the House in forging a long-term tax incentive to sustain the state’s film industry.