Will Democrats Regain Control of Congress in 2018?

Thomas P. O’Neill III, CEO of O’Neill and Associates, was a Sunday guest on NECN‘s DC Dialogue with Eileen Curran and James T. Brett, President and CEO of the New England Council, to review the current state of politics from Boston to Capitol Hill. Tom discussed Roy Moore and the Alabama Senate race, Democratic victories in the recent Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections, and partisanship and the upcoming Congressional midterms.



Link to full interview: here!


The Labor Movement: Janus v. AFSCME and the Impact on Unions and Electoral Politics

The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Janus v. AFSCME, again bringing a critical legal issue for the labor movement before the court that could have a sweeping impact on unions and electoral politics. The key legal question in the case centers on enrollment in the public sector union, whether a worker can be signed up for a union without formally indicating consent. With President Trump’s appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, observers believe the court will rule 5-4 against labor’s position in the matter. The court ruled 4-4 on a similar case last session after the passing of Justice Scalia. The decision could be extremely disruptive for unions in states across the U.S., and has the potential to reduce membership in unions across the country.

While the issue has been at the center of legislative struggles in states across the country, this blanket policy change is a significant threat. It is more important than ever for labor unions of all sizes to communicate to their members, not just that this decision is wrong, but reinforcing to members how their union fights for them and how the labor movement has improved conditions for workers of all kinds. Local unions will have to leverage and expand their ability to efficiently communicate and interact with their membership, utilizing the powerful and precise reach of social media and digital capabilities, while also executing the in-person member to member communication that has served as the backbone for labor communications for generations.

Building the Foundations for the Massachusetts Cannabis Industry

Creating a multibillion dollar industry from scratch that is at the intersection of drug policy, medicine, real estate development, technology, agriculture and the Trump Administration is sure to get attention in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) not only has to handle hot political topics, they have a broad range of issues to address, in a short time frame, and in a cultural environment that is always ready to bring scrutiny.

Over the next several months and for years after the CCC will set the framework for the local market of an industry that is growing, innovating and spreading across the country. The CCC will learn from other states and countries that have lifted the cannabis prohibition but will inevitably create a market unique to Massachusetts. With the cannabis industry’s introduction to scale in the state we will see retailers, cultivators, manufacturers and ancillary companies become significant employers, neighbors in our cities and towns and a part of our cultural and economic landscape.

The CCC commissioners have a multitude of decisions in front of them to make that will shape how cannabis businesses function, how consumers interact with these companies and how they will integrate in their communities. As established cannabis businesses introduce operations in the state or local entrepreneurs move to build successful brands in Massachusetts, beginning a relationship and providing input to the CCC and other officials will be critical. In this formative stage, the CCC will establish criteria for those seeking licenses and what the application process will look like. They will also set regulations and make policy decisions on a wide range of topics such as:

  • Cultivation, seed to sale tracking, craft cultivation
  • Manufacturing Edibles, Extraction
  • Product testing and lab standards
  • Transportation/Distribution/Delivery
  • Packaging/Labeling
  • Potency/Serving size
  • Advertising rules and restrictions
  • Social Consumption
  • Integration of Medical Marijuana
  • Social Justice issues

The CCC has a full plate and is receiving input from a wide variety of sources. As a political entity, commissioners are looking for information they can trust and partners they know can deliver in what will be a highly competitive and closely watched process.

Over the last month, the CCC members have met several times, set initial operational goals and taken steps to put interview and hire for the important role of an executive director responsible for building the new regulatory agency. Commissioners have agreed to divide and research administrative and policy topics to inform the body. The CCC website has upcoming meeting dates and commissioners will be holding listening sessions across the state to solicit input from a broad geographic audience over the next month. The CCC is not yet fully funded but will evolve into a robust regulatory body in order to meet its oversight obligations. Additionally, the 25 member CCC advisory board, comprised of a cross section of industry representatives and other related stakeholders meets today to begin their role as a resource to the CCC and a voice for interested parties.

The real estate development obstacles that cannabis businesses face are, perhaps, the most troublesome challenges for the nascent industry. Real estate in Massachusetts is expensive, stock suitable for this use is limited, and our zoning laws and municipal processes will pose complicated political obstacles, especially at the local level. As with the establishment of medical marijuana in Massachusetts, effectively communicating the planned development, partnering with the community and building relationships with local and state officials will be the only way to open an ideally situated cannabis business in Massachusetts. The expansion of the cannabis industry in the state will bring revenue, economic development in rapid fashion, the CCC and municipal officials need to hear from stakeholders during this formative time to make sure their decisions reflect the intent of the statute and the best interests of the Commonwealth.

Case Study: Murphy & King Associates Networking Challenge Gets Results

Local Boston-based law firm Murphy & King, P.C. has come up with a unique way to engage associate attorneys in developing their networking and business development skills. Called Raising the Bar 3.0, the networking challenge spanned five months and involved not only associate attorneys but also shareholders who served as advisors and mentors to each associate. The initiative also coincided with Murphy & King’s business development and marketing plan that involved creating new content for social media, new website videos and other programs.

Co – founder and shareholder Harold B. Murphy said that the initiative was a success. “The networking challenge, Raising the Bar 3.0, benefited not only the individual associates but also the entire firm. We gained new clients and new matters while helping to develop networking skills of our associates. It was a win-win for all of us.”

Raising the Bar 3.0 was set up as a business development initiative where each associate attorney was assigned a secret identity known only to the administrator of the initiative. Each networking and business development activity was assigned a point value and each week the points would be calculated and posted internally by the firm under the secret identities. At the end of the contest, Murphy & King had established 11 new matters, originated 5 new clients, developed 9 new videos, participated in 41 new one-on-one meetings, participated in 37 events and created 150 new contacts.

This is the third time that Murphy & King launched this type of business development initiative, starting with Raising the Bar in 2012, followed by Raising the Bar 2.0 in 2014 and the most recent Raising the Bar 3.0 in 2017.

The winners of “Raising the Bar 3.0” are: Amanda Rettig (1st), Aaron Rosenberg (2nd) and Andrea MacIver (3rd). They all received prizes for their accomplishments. What were the secrets to their success? Amanda, Aaron and Andrea share their experiences in this short video: http://www.murphyking.com/raising-the-bar-3-0/

For more than 35 years, Murphy & King has been “unraveling complexity” for its clients through prompt, practical and cost-effective solutions addressing the legal needs of individuals and businesses. From startup and incorporation, to maintaining day to day operations, to resolving internal and external disputes, Murphy & King attorneys are skilled at effectively and efficiently unraveling the inherent complexities of each client’s business to ensure that it can attain its maximum potential. The firm’s principal areas of practice are Business Litigation, Bankruptcy and Financial Restructuring, and Corporate and Real Estate Transactions.

Preview of the Legislature’s Fall Session

By: Lindsay Toghill, Vice President

Massachusetts lawmakers have begun a busy fall session. Their packed agenda contains a lengthy to-do list they will address in the coming months. Below is a preview of items that could catch the Legislature’s attention this fall:


  • The State Budget – FY17 finished below revenue projections, though leaders are still trying to assess the consequences. When the Legislature broke for the summer, they still had not dealt with the Governor’s vetoes on the FY18 budget. Though they can tackle these at any time this fall, they’re closely watching the monthly tax collections to see if overrides are sustainable. At the current time, collections are below benchmark so overrides may continue to wait for the foreseeable future.


  • Masshealth Reforms – Governor Baker sent the Legislature some suggested reforms to the Masshealth system to go along with the increased surcharge on employers to help pay for significant increases in cost. The Legislature rejected those reforms, choosing to instead pass the surcharge on employers before the summer break. However, because cost containment is necessary to help reduce pressure on the state budget, the Legislature will likely tackle this in the next few months.


  • Criminal Justice Reform – Legislative leaders are interested in some reforms that would drastically affect the criminal justice system. On the table for discussion – thought not a done deal – mandatory minimums on bail reform.


  • Short Term Rentals – The Senate earlier this year advanced a measure that would tax short-term rentals as lodging establishments. The House is presently looking at another version of this bill, with some expected actions this fall. The issue will gain interest if the state revenues continue to stagnate.


  • Initiative Petitions – This week, the Attorney General certified twenty-one initiative petitions as constitutionally compliant, setting up the process for ballot questions for the fall of 2018. Proponents are required to gather thousands of signatures for each initiative petition before the end of November. While the Legislature is not required to take action until early 2018, there will be considerable wrangling and media attention about some proposed ballot questions.


  • Marijuana Sales Implementation – The recent creation of the Cannabis Control Commission will officially start the process of developing regulations and a structure for the implementation of retail sales of marijuana in mid-2018. The Legislature will be closely watching this process for its effects on state revenues and their own local communities.


  • Opioid Crisis – An ongoing issue, the opioid crisis will require some cooperation from the Executive branch in conjunction with the Legislature. All parties will be watching this issue closely to see if the recent decline in overdose deaths is a temporary or permanent trend.


*Cover photo from Boston metro

Five things to know about the Cannabis business in Massachusetts today

  1. The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) is a new regulatory body established to oversee the marijuana industry in Massachusetts. The CCC is a new independent entity created by Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017, comprised of a five member board of commissioners. Appointments to the Commission were made by the Governor, Treasurer, Attorney General, and two other appointments were made by a majority vote of the previously mentioned constitutional officers.

The newly appointed Commissioners are:

  • Chairman Steve Hoffman (Treasurer Goldberg)
  • Former Senator Jennifer Flanagan (Governor Baker)
  • Britte McBride (Attorney General Healey)
  • Shaleen Title
  • Kay Doyle
  1. In the coming weeks and months the CCC will be responsible for hiring staff, setting policy and issuing regulations on a wide range of important issues for the adult use industry, including establishing a process for entities interested in pursuing cultivation, products manufacturing and retail licenses.
  1. The “head start” provision for teams that had previously submitted an application for a Registered Marijuana Dispensary, part of the original ballot question, was eliminated by the Legislature.
  1. To operate successfully in Massachusetts, businesses will also need to do important work at the municipal level. While many municipalities previously approved moratoriums for adult use facilities, the new law stipulates that cities and towns that had approved the ballot question with a majority vote must hold a city or town wide referendum to approve such a ban, while cities or towns that did not approve the ballot question with a majority vote may do so through town or city elected officials like a Board of Selectmen or a City Council. Working with residents, local and state elected officials, planning and zoning offices will be crucial in moving any project forward.
  1. The CCC will have to move quickly to meet its statutory deadlines. Under the law, applications must be received by the CCC on April 1, 2018, and licenses will not be issued until June 1, 2018 at the earliest. In comments this week, Chairman Hoffman indicated that the goal is to have business ready to open July 1, 2018. The CCC is expected to meet for the first time next week.

By: Chris Niles, Vice President

Disaster Response in the New Economy

By: Anthony DeMaio, Director

As Houston continues to reel from the effects of #Harvey and Florida braces for #Irma, American generosity is once again in full display as individuals, nonprofits and the business community come together to help those in need. In this outpouring of compassion, we are also witnessing a transformation in corporate philanthropy. While many legacy corporations continue to operate business as usual, newer companies, including disruptive technologies, are exhibiting a new kind of corporate citizenship. Delta Air Lines would do well to take a cue from Uber, for example.

The Miami Herald reported today that airfares had skyrocketed in recent hours prompting some consumers to vent their frustrations with the major air carriers on social media with some posts going viral. On the other side of reality are major tech players like Airbnb and Uber. Once again, the hospitality company Airbnb is pushing its Disaster Response Program, encouraging hosts to open their properties to people displaced by the storm, helping them find warmth and safety free of charge. Airbnb’s program launched in 2013 is an outgrowth of its grassroots efforts to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. Uber is offering free rides to and from Harvey shelters in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and other cities in Texas. According to the company, “No action is required to receive a free ride to or from these locations – the full discount will be applied and reflected in the app when you request UberX.”

To be fair, most legacy corporations, including the big airlines, have robust #CSR operations, contributing valuable support to the relief efforts. In many cases, however, their playbooks could benefit from a refresh. There’s still a need for big checks, aircraft and trucks loaded with supplies, free flights for responders and aide workers, and other traditional response initiatives that only large-scale organizations can muster. But, when compared to the immediate utility of Uber and Airbnb’s contributions, the conventional response programs seem outmoded. And their humanitarian response is largely eclipsed by the negative PR engendered by allegations of price gouging.

Perhaps in the future we’ll see airlines – and other big companies – looking to make a more substantive contribution in the face of a devastating storm. At the very least, they need to know that corporate greed has no place during a natural disaster. Every company should be thinking about their CSR plans.

Senior Vice President, Ann Murphy, featured on NECN’s The Take with Sue O’Connell

WebRes_120403_ONeill_AnnMurphy-0085Would having a better gender balance in Congress mean less gridlock? Earlier this month, Ann Murphy, was featured on NECN’s The Take with Sue O’Connell on NECN to discuss the topic of whether electing more women to Congress would reduce legislative stalemate and lead the way to getting more women involved in politics. Ann was joined by Gail Jackson-Blount, president, Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.

Watch interview here!

Peter Goelz on the Benefits of Safety Stand-Downs

By: Peter Goelz, Senior Vice President

Following two deadly aviation accidents in the past month, the United States Marine Corps is considering a “stand-down” for all Marine fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.  A “stand-down” is a technique to focus intensely, on a short term basis, on an issue of real importance. The Marine Corps have used this technique in the past, as have other branches of the Armed Services particularly after accidents. In this case, the Marine Corps lost 15 service members (plus a Navy corpsman) when a KC-130T transport crashed in Mississippi, and then three more when an MV-22 Osprey crashed into the water off the coast of Australia as it attempted to land on the USS Green Bay, an amphibious transport dock. Top brass are considering now whether a system-wide review of safety and operational procedures is in order. Last year, the Marine Corps ordered safety stand-downs following crashes of F/A-18 fighters and after problems with their AV-8 Harrier jets.

The “stand-down” approach, while more common in aviation, has migrated to other fields as well. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has done an annual construction industry stand-down focusing on preventing falls on construction sites. Additionally, law enforcement, utility companies, and trucking companies are all utilizing variations of the “stand-down” as part of their efforts to increase safety and efficiency.

The approach to conducting a stand-down involves focusing system wide on a specific activity — usually safety or operations, and taking time out of the workday to talk top-to-bottom about the importance of the incident, to explore new approaches and, most importantly, to get feedback from employees on ways to improve. By initiating the stand-down event with top management at the forefront, a clear communication is sent: This is critical and we can do better together. A stand-down can last anywhere from a few hours to a day-long event.

O’Neill and Associates is experienced in planning and executing stand-downs for companies. As a SVP in the O’Neill and Associates Washington, DC office and former Managing Director of the National Transportation Safety Board, I have led our agency’s professionals to implement stand-downs on safety and operational issues for a number of organizations and helped create the positive messaging surrounding the event to enhance its impact. For more information on our Crisis Communications practice and safety stand-downs, email me at pgoelz@oneillandassoc.com.

Three Questions with Christopher Tracy, Senior Director


Proposal Boston Sky Line

Christopher Tracy, Senior Director

What are you seeing right now in real estate development in Greater Boston?

It’s pretty clear that there’s tremendous growth taking place. You see it every day with more people and new structures. We can now add Amazon to the growing list of companies calling Boston home. Amazon expects to bring 900 new jobs to Fort Point channel, where GE is relocating its world headquarters. And according to census reports in May, Boston has seen an 8.4 percent rise in population since 2010 and is now the 22nd largest city in the United States. In the City of Boston and surrounding municipalities, housing and planning agencies are continuing to work with developers to approve residential housing proposals and increase the housing stock, which will hopefully soften housing prices.

What strategies does O’Neill and Associates employ to support real estate development clients?

We use a multi-pronged approach to help clients successfully navigate the arduous processes of permitting approvals to expedite their ability to get shovels in the ground. When I say multi-pronged, I mean that we combine our grassroots community outreach strategies with our experience, relationships, and understanding of relevant government agencies involved in permitting and use, along with public relations and social-digital media tools to close gaps and meet any audience in any venue. It used to be that you reached people at an address. Today, you need to reach people digitally. O’Neill and Associates is uniquely qualified as a development partner because we can capably guide clients through these often confusing approval processes. We have an experienced team from the public sector with first-hand knowledge of the goals that cities and towns hope to achieve when considering smart growth opportunities.

What excites you most/do you enjoy most about your sector?

Boston is absolutely booming and thriving with energy, opportunity and community right now. When this building boom is complete, it will be the largest in Boston’s history, bypassing the infilling of the Back Bay and the construction of the high spine corridor. The City has never been cleaner, more active and exciting. I like being a part of this chapter. O’Neill and Associates and our clients are making an impact by increasing housing, including affordable units, enhancing vibrancy and activity in communities and improving neighborhoods in and around Boston. I have the ability to help clients make a tangible impact on the city and its future.