Welcome Spring 2018 Interns

This spring, we are proud to welcome eleven undergraduate students from Boston College, Boston University, Emmanuel College, Endicott College and Suffolk University. Throughout the semester, these students work closely with specially paired mentors in order to gain first-hand experience into the world of public relations, government relations and marketing. Our interns will become immersed in the public affairs world and will build lasting relationships that will help guide them as they embark on their careers.

Spring 2018 Interns

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s 2017 State-of-the-State

highres_120403_oneill_jamiedunbar-0269By: Jamie Dunbar

Having worked for two former Republican Governors in Massachusetts, I was struck by the Governor Baker’s closing remarks.  His words are a reminder of the class, collegiality and confidence we have been fortunate to witness in our great state.  At a time where our national elected leaders and political party apparatus are as divisive as they have ever been, Governor Charlie Baker made it clear that will not be the case here in Massachusetts.  Governor Baker addressed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with his plans, commitments and strategies for the coming year.  He highlighted several accomplishments such as relocating GE’s headquarters to Boston and the efforts underway on issues ranging from economic development, combating the opioid epidemic and improving transportation infrastructure.  After extoling strides made to lower unemployment, provide predictable energy costs and improve services for children and families, the Governor spoke candidly on his vision for governing in the current political environment.  His theme was one of respect, inclusiveness and bi-partisan cooperation.  Governor Baker, a Republican in a deep blue state, has experienced high approval ratings and favorability since taking office.  He is lauded for working well with the Commonwealth’s super majority Democratic legislature and for finding areas of common ground.  While acknowledging he may not agree with legislators on every issue, the debate will be driven by respect, courtesy and compromise.  This is how the Commonwealth will be governed in his Administration.  These are not always the easiest waters to navigate, but with leaders committed to progress and civility, citizens will be better served.

AICUM, Governor Baker and State Senator Donoghue Celebrate New College Savings Incentive

At its 12th Annual Dinner, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) celebrated the Commonwealth’s new 529 College Savings Plan incentive for families which was passed by the Legislature this past summer. AICUM represents 58 private, non-profit colleges and universities throughout Massachusetts.

Governor Charlie Baker received AICUM’s “Committed to Access” Award for advancing a 529 tax deduction as part of his Economic Development bill and State Senator Eileen Donoghue, the legislative sponsor of the 529 provision, delivered keynote remarks. The 529 College Savings provision of the Economic Development Bill was signed into law by Governor Baker in August. A video testimonial on the story of the 529 legislation can be seen on YouTube, here.

The new 529 College Savings provision offers Massachusetts families a new tax incentive for contributions to a prepaid tuition or college savings program established by the state. Single filers will be able to deduct up to $1,000 while married people filing jointly can deduct up to $2,000.

Massport Holds Ribbon Cutting for Dog Park in South Boston

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The Massachusetts Port Authority today held a ribbon cutting for its new Dog Park in South Boston. The quarter-acre, fenced-in dog park features agility equipment, benches, and a pet fountain. The Dog Park is a segment of the larger Thomas J. Butler Freight Corridor and Memorial Park on East First Street. The haul road has improved the quality of life of the neighborhood by redirecting trucks away from the neighborhood streets and subsequently improving operations at Conley Terminal.  In addition to the dog park there are walking paths, trees, a water fountain and a memorial dedicated to Butler.  Tommy Butler worked for Massport for 25 years as its community relations director and was a lifelong resident of South Boston.  In attendance at the Dog Park opening was Massport CEO Tom Glynn, Mayor Marty Walsh, Congressman Stephen Lynch and numerous city and South Boston representatives.

2017-2018 Massachusetts Legislative Look-Ahead

By Lindsay Toghill

Reliability iwebres_120403_oneill_lindsaytoghill-0138n state policies and regulations is a significant priority for any business, but especially so in Massachusetts, with an active Democratic Legislature that is historically interested in effecting social change.  Changes in taxation or employment regulations can have a significant impact on the future of business investment in the Commonwealth.

The tension between the business-friendly House of Representatives and more liberal Senate in the last legislative session resulted in a number of last-minute deals on items of interest to the business community, including an expanded renewable energy bill, a bill intended to help stimulate economic development, and regulation of ride-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft.

As we look toward a new legislative session, there are a number of items on the horizon that will significantly affect the business community and its bottom line.  In planning for 2017, it is important that all businesses take the following issues into account.

  • Taxation/Millionaire Tax – Proposed as a ballot question for the 2018 election cycle, the so-called “Millionaire Tax” would amend the Commonwealth’s Constitution to allow higher taxes on any personal earnings above one million dollars in a calendar year.  With funds earmarked for the areas of transportation and education, the ballot question is the first maneuver in many years that proposes to raise income taxes, and comes at a time when the state continues to see slow revenue growth with faster-growing spending needs.  While both the House and Senate leadership has maintained a line of “no new taxes” in past legislative cycles, this dedication to such policies has begun to soften.  As the gap in available financial resources continues to grow, companies should monitor the issue of taxation closely for potential change.
  • Employment Covenants – Commonly referred to as “non-competition agreements,” employment covenants are one restriction used to inhibit the flow of intellectual property or market share.  In some cases, employers attempt to protect their customer base by prohibiting employees from working in the same industry or geographical area.  In other cases, employers are seeking to protect their significant investment in R&D or other intellectual property.  Both House and Senate passed their own versions of this bill, with inclusion of Uniform Trade Secrets Act language in each. As an issue that has attracted support on both sides, there will be a continued interest in clarifying the use of such agreements in the next session, with expected limitations on the employer side.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave – A key Senate initiative in this past session, this measure was not considered by the House when sent to that body at the end of July.  Intended to assist employees in times of significant change, the bill would allow eligible employees up to 16 weeks of paid job-protected leave in the case of significant illness or injury, or up to 26 weeks to care for a seriously ill family member or a newborn child.  The program would create a new Family and Employment Security Trust Fund that would be administered by a new Division of Family and Medical Leave in the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  Employer contributions to the Fund would finance the paid leave, although an employer could require employees to pay up to 50 percent of the contribution.  As this issue gains momentum nationally, Massachusetts will likely try to lead the way in finding a balance between employers and employees.
  • Climate change – An Executive Order issued by Governor Charlie Baker in mid-September requires state agencies to look closely at climate change, with new targets for greenhouse emissions and a plan that begins to address the outcomes of climate change.  Businesses can expect to see increasing municipal attention on their so-called “carbon footprint,” with perhaps new targets regarding municipal waste, recycling, energy efficiency and climate preparedness.  It is currently unclear what form this effort will take in the Legislature for the next session, but climate change will continue to be a significant issue.
  • Energy – While the Legislature did pass a measure dealing with renewable energy in the last session, there are already signs that more work will be needed, especially in the area of solar energy.  The planned shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in 2019 will enhance the need for additional energy sources to replace that capacity.  In addition, the discussion of alternatives such as hydropower and wind power have not been fully exhausted.
  • Transportation – As the state continues to invest in recruitment of new businesses, adequate transportation and transit for workers continues to be a theme.  State investment in transportation has been a touchy subject in recent years, with questions of reliability, sustainability and expansion overlaid by the significant funding amounts needed to ensure all three.  A 2016 fare increase did not go far enough to meet the needs of an aging public transportation system – expect that the funding gap as well as adequate future planning will continue to be a discussion in the new legislative session.
  • Airbnb/Emerging Technology – This past session, call for proper laws and regulation of “emerging technology” became more prevalent.  One such issue is the regulation of short-term rentals, such as Airbnb.  Currently, lodging rented through web-based applications does not fall under the same public safety and health restrictions as conventional hotel and motel rooms.  Nor are they taxed at the same level as other forms of short-term lodging, which means a significant loss of potential revenue for the state and host cities and towns.  A measure passed out of the Senate would have regulated the taxation of these short-term rentals without addressing public health and safety regulations.  While the House did not take up the Senate bill, Speaker DeLeo has stated his intention to address this issue early in 2017.  This issue is of interest to those monitoring the state’s treatment of emerging technology, as well as those who are interested in the long-term availability of transient accommodation in the Commonwealth.

A number of measures passed this last session are in the process of full implementation, and will significantly affect Massachusetts businesses, such as the implementation of an equal gender pay act and a planned January 1, 2017 increase in the minimum wage to $11.00 per hour.

Finally, the 2017-2018 legislative session leads up to the next gubernatorial election in November 2018.  Governor Charlie Baker is expected to run for re-election and will be looking for opportunities to prove his worth to the voters.  Many hot-button issues remain out of his direct control, such as inadequacies in the transportation system and stagnant revenues, both of which are two areas that can quickly become a headache during a statewide campaign.  While he has not been in favor of increased taxation, he may be amenable to regulatory or other changes that could affect businesses’ bottom line.

Close monitoring of state policies and legislative efforts will ensure that your voice is heard at the correct time.

Lindsay Toghill is a vice president in O’Neill and Associates’ government relations practice. To learn more about her or our services, click here

2015-2016 Massachusetts Legislative Recap and Look Ahead

July 31st marked the informal end of the 2015-2016 legislative session, and lawmakers rushed to churn out veto overrides and landmark legislation before heading out for summer vacation and reelection campaigns in the lead up to November. In a final session that ran into the early morning hours of Monday, August 1st, Massachusetts legislators were able to compromise on major bills dealing with the ride-for-hire industry, economic development, and energy, but were unable to pass anything dealing with non-competition agreement reform.

Ride-for-Hire Regulation – The House and Senate were able to agree to a compromise bill regulating ride-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft. The bill requires a two-tiered background check system for drivers, but stops short of requiring fingerprinting, a provision strongly supported by the Commonwealth’s taxi drivers. The bill creates a path for the transportation network companies (TNC) to begin picking up at Logan Airport and the Boston Convention Center, which had not been allowed up to that point, and includes a 20-cent ride surcharge to benefit local infrastructure as well as state programs.

Renewable Energy – Just under the wire, the Legislature was able to pass a compromise energy bill that would require the state to purchase significantly more energy from renewable sources, especially offshore wind producers.  Advocates and industry representatives had a more ambitious agenda than was reflected in the eventual law, so expect this to remain an issue next session.

Economic Development – The $1 billion economic development bill passed in the waning hours of the session, and included funding for a wide array of projects such as improvements in infrastructure, investment in workforce development and low-income housing. The compromise bill, however, omitted several provisions that were included in original versions of the bill. Among those were a proposed tax on Airbnb and other home rental services, an expansion of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as well as language that would authorize the Massachusetts Lottery to expand mobile gaming.

No Deal on Non-Compete Agreements – Although the House and Senate both passed their own versions of legislation that would govern the use and applicability of non-competition agreements, the two bodies were unable to come to a final compromise in the closing hours of the session. Ultimately, it was the issue of so-called “garden leave,” which would require employers to pay former workers not to work, that prevented a final agreement. This perennial issue will surely come up again next session.

The 190th General Court will convene on January 4, 2017 for its next two-year legislative cycle.

For more information about O’Neill and Associates state government relations services, click here.

CEO’s Corner: Does Brexit Help Trump’s Candidacy?

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_IIIOn Thursday, June 23rd, I had the honor and privilege of attending the inaugural lecture of the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Chair in Peace at the Ulster University-Magee in Derry, Northern Ireland. The keynote speaker, Dr. Arun Gandhi – the grandson of India’s legendary leader – delivered the inaugural lecture, which was entitled “Building a Culture of Peace: Lessons from My Grandfather.” His message was a valuable reminder of the peace and prosperity prevalent throughout Northern Ireland today – and how many dedicated people and years of hard work it has taken to guide the peacebuilding process to this point.

The following morning, I woke up in Derry to the distressing news that approximately 52 percent of voters in the United Kingdom had voiced their support for a “Brexit,” choosing to withdraw from the European Union. I immediately began to consider what this could mean for the peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, as a whole. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the European Union, causing Sinn Fein to call for an increase in border security.

The Brexit referendum garnered a 72 percent voter turnout – an unprecedented number that illustrates constituents’ overwhelming desire to voice an opinion about their country’s future. The Leave campaign declared victory with 52 percent of the vote, echoing the growing support that the populist movement in the UK has gained in recent years.

At present, there is no way to comprehend the full effect of Brexit on the United Kingdom, the European Union or the world. One outcome is clear, however. Brexit is a cautionary tale of what could happen in the United States come November, if American voters don’t fully appreciate the consequences that our election will have on our country’s future and that of the world.

In just a few short weeks, the Republican Party will convene in Cleveland to name Donald Trump as its presidential candidate. Throughout his unorthodox campaign, Trump has tapped into some of the same populist concerns and frustrations in the United States as the Leave campaign wildly leveraged to market the Brexit referendum in the UK. Those among us still longing for America’s promise will require thoughtful solutions from the next President, not bluster and discord.

My good friend and professional pollster David Paleologos released a poll today, part of which illustrates that 68 percent of Americans do not view Brexit as an isolated referendum, but rather as an expression of anger and dissatisfaction towards the UK government. Many Americans have echoed similar sentiments of frustration with where our country is headed and have rallied behind Trump as a result. Although a plurality of those polled did not believe that Brexit would positively impact Trump’s candidacy, we must keep in mind that a Trump presidency – like Brexit – has serious implications not only for the United States’ economy and foreign policy, but for the entire world.

On November 8, 2016, we only get one vote and there are no do-overs.

 

CEO’s Corner: Super Tuesday

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_IIISuper Tuesday’s matchups marked an important milestone for the 2016 Presidential Election. As many polls and pundits predicted, the two winners of the night were Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Both Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Bernie Sanders, however, were able to pick up a few critical wins to remain viable alternatives to the frontrunners.

Notably, Super Tuesday illustrated just how deeply Trump and his rhetoric have captured the Republican primary electorate. He won seven of the 11 states that voted. He also won over a diverse voter base – from white, working-class moderate voters in New England to evangelical voters in the Deep South. More than 8.5 million Republicans cast ballots on Super Tuesday, shattering turnout numbers from 2012 and reflecting the record numbers set during the 2008 Democratic primary. Comparatively, Democrat voters, while passionate, fell short of the GOP turnout with approximately 5.9 million voters casting their ballot.

Separate and apart from the conversation about the likelihood of Trump’s nomination, we really ought to keep our ears to the ground about the elements of Trump’s message that resonate with so many Americans. After all, 50 percent of Republican primary voters have taken to the polls to give him their support. Still there is a deep concern brewing over Trump’s prospects in the fall. Notable figures within the GOP establishment – including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate from the past two elections – have publicly questioned Trump’s suitability for the presidency.

On the other end of the spectrum, we also cannot dismiss the central message of Senator Sanders’ campaign and his calls for a “political revolution.” Despite Secretary Clinton’s growing momentum, Senator Sanders may represent the American mindset more closely than the Democratic primary contest results have indicated.

The 2016 Presidential Election has been characterized by anti-establishment candidates on both sides of the aisle. Regardless of whom we elect as our next president, the Democratic and Republican parties owe it to their voters to take time to listen to and reflect on Americans’ calls for change and their dissatisfaction with the current political landscape as we look beyond 2016 and to our future as one united nation.

To continue the conversation, connect with Thomas P. O’Neill III on Twitter or by phone at (617) 646-1000.

 

St. Francis House Moving Ahead Program Advocacy Breakfast at State House

SFH Advocacy Day Michelewitz 2

Chairman Aaron Michlewitz addresses Advocacy Breakfast attendees

“Before doing the Moving Ahead Program I thought I was damaged goods with no self-worth and no belief in a life without drugs. I never thought I could hold a position for more than a few weeks, with my addiction destroying any and all dreams of living clean. Life is so much better today for me because of the Moving Ahead Program.” –Sheila, Graduate of Class 126

At the Massachusetts State House Advocacy Breakfast yesterday, with the support of Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, St. Francis House highlighted the success of the Sullivan Family Moving Ahead Program (MAP). Each year MAP prepares hundreds of men and women to join the workforce and lead productive lives.

Every day of the year, St. Francis House is open, welcoming all who come to our front door each morning seeking ways to start rebuilding their lives. Last month alone we served 1,862 unique individuals, and although we are located in Boston, people come from all over the state seeking our help.

Beyond the basics of warm meals, showers and changes of clothing, we have 56 units of permanent supported housing, and MAP provides vocational rehabilitation for 200 students each year.

SFH Advocacy DayLast year marked the twentieth anniversary of our Sullivan Family MAP, founded in 1995, which has an alumni network of over 1,500 graduates. More than a job-skills training program,  MAP proves that men and women can overcome long histories of homelessness and incarceration, struggles with mental health issues, and addiction to rediscover their true talents and abilities, successfully obtaining employment and leading fulfilling lives.

To best understand our impact, it is important to recognize that our students have, on average, experienced homelessness four times before joining the program.  This past year, 54% of our enrolled students graduated! But even more impressive is that 91% of those graduates were sober and employed the day they graduated, with an average hourly wage of $11.48.

These are some of the most resilient men and women in our community, whose stories highlight the power of believing in others. The power of the St. Francis House community is our collective belief in people, and the belief that people can change and rebuild their lives. Our Moving Ahead Program helps students seize these opportunities to move ahead in a meaningful way in their own lives.

About St Francis House

St. Francis House is the largest day shelter in the Commonwealth, serving as many as 600 poor and homeless men and women a day, 365 days a year on their road out of homelessness. St. Francis House provides basic, rehabilitative and housing services that overlap and build on one another to provide guests with continuous and comprehensive care. Learn more: www.stfrancishouse.org

O’Neill and Associates Announces Promotion of Matt Irish to Vice Chairman

Vice Chairman Matt Irish

Vice Chairman Matt Irish

O’Neill and Associates, New England’s leading full-service government affairs and public relations firm, today announced the promotion of Matt Irish to Vice Chairman. In his new role, Mr. Irish will continue to serve as the managing director of the firm’s government relations practice, while also providing advice and counsel related to the strategic growth of the company and large-scale business development initiatives.

With over 20 years of experience with the Massachusetts state legislature and numerous political campaigns, Mr. Irish develops and implements integrated public affairs strategies, uniquely designed to assist clients in reaching and exceeding their goals on the municipal and state levels. He has represented a diverse array of clients across several industry sectors including transportation, education, nonprofit, technology, trade associations, and travel and hospitality.

“In his twelve years at the firm, Matt has been an integral and valuable part of O’Neill and Associates’ success and growth, not only for our government relations practice, but for the entire company,” said Thomas P. O’Neill III, Chief Executive Officer of O’Neill and Associates. “We are grateful to have Matt as a part of our team, and his political acumen and knowledge of Massachusetts state government is unmatched. I am pleased to recognize his achievements by elevating him to Vice Chairman.”

Prior to joining O’Neill and Associates, Mr. Irish served as Chief of Staff for Massachusetts State Senator Steven Tolman. In this role, Mr. Irish oversaw and directed all legislative, budgetary, personnel and administrative issues and acted as the media spokesman. Before becoming Chief of Staff, Mr. Irish served as Senator Tolman’s Senior Legislative Aide and Staff Director. Mr. Irish began his career as a Press Assistant to then-U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Mr. Irish holds two graduate degrees: a master’s degree in modern Irish history from Boston College, as well as a master’s degree in public affairs from the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at UMass Boston. He also graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Mr. Irish is a native and resident of Worcester and a graduate of Saint John’s High School of Shrewsbury.