Opiates have been ravaging our communities and destroying our families for far too long. While speaking with voters I have heard countless stories of addiction, recovery, and families who have had their lives torn apart due to this crisis. While families and communities struggle to to find the best way to tackle this problem, our elected officials have failed to engineer a comprehensive solution to the epidemic, and that needs to change.
If elected to the State Senate, I will begin to combat this epidemic by fighting for more funding for quality in-patient treatment beds, and supporting those who are in recovery through programs like peer counseling and recovery coaching. We also need to make systematic changes to the way we deal with prescription drugs. This starts by changing prescription practices that result in too many dangerous drugs moving from medicine cabinets onto our streets. We need to shut down “pill mills” and change guidelines so medical professionals are not over-prescribing opioids for outpatient treatment. We also need to look at how these drugs are marketed, and end deceptive marketing practices that misrepresent the potential for addiction.
It is also necessary to improve how our health system deals with addicts in the immediate aftermath of an overdose. We must expand healthcare access to ensure every citizen has a plan that allows them the option of detox and treatment. Furthermore, we can reduce the amount of deaths from opioids by expanding access for healthcare providers to administer life saving drugs like Narcan.
Jobs and Training
Now more than ever, it is critically important for our legislators to make job-creation and job training a top priority. As Legislative Director for the AFL-CIO, I have dedicated my career to fighting for fair wages, quality health benefits, retirement security, and the expansion of workplace protections that lift standards for all Massachusetts workers.
I’m proud to have played a role in the historic campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 and create a system of Paid Family and Medical Leave for all workers in Massachusetts, and I will continue to play a role in ensuring that workers take home a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work by stopping the problem of “wage theft,” often committed against vulnerable workers.
I have also seen how job training opportunities can turn lives around. The most successful job training model our nation has seen is the joint labor-management apprenticeship programs used in the skilled construction trades. Unions have been working to promote apprenticeships to groups of workers who have not typically been well-represented in the trades, including women and people of color -- and as a result the construction trades are becoming more diverse, and workers who were desperately seeking opportunity have found a career that provides for them and their family. We need to continue extending apprenticeship opportunities to new workers, and also extend the apprenticeship model to new industries with a need for skilled workers.
If we are going to make a better future for our community, we first need to take the crucial step of investing in our children. Massachusetts overall has the highest performing public schools of any state, and that is a testament to the skilled and dedicated teaching force we have in the Commonwealth. However, these accolades can mask areas where we need to do better.
Three years ago, a legislative commission reviewed the formula by which the state funds local school districts and found that we are under-funding the true cost of public education by at least $1 billion per year. Efforts to implement the recommendations of this commission (The Foundation Budget Review Commission) have stalled out multiple times in the legislature, which is unacceptable. Among the top priorities of the incoming state legislature in 2019 should be to fully implement the commission’s recommendations and identify the revenue sources needed to properly fund them. Whether to fully fund our public schools should not be the subject of debate. It is the job of our elected officials and it is a job that I will ensure gets accomplished.
Health care is a basic human right and should be affordable for everyone. While I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made on both on the national and state level, I recognize that we have to keep fighting. Too often, crushing medical debts force middle class families to declare bankruptcy or sell assets just to provide care for a loved one.
Ultimately, I believe the answer is for the United States to move towards a single-payer system that guarantees health care for all. In the immediate term, there are other important steps to take. Many employers in Massachusetts take advantage of our public healthcare system by pushing their low-wage employees into subsidized public plans rather than providing them with decent health insurance. Employers who take advantage of the system in this way should be held accountable and required to pay a fair share fee as a disincentive, and to keep our public program solvent.
Additionally, I support a public health insurance option that small employers can buy into to provide insurance for their employees, and for those who purchase their plans on the individual market.
Mental health care must also be a priority within the healthcare system. In order to do this, we have to reverse the trend of skyrocketing prescription drug costs that cause patients to forego important treatments, and provide more support and guidance for family members of those in need of mental health treatment as they try to navigate a complicated system.
Environmental and Economic Development
Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing our state and nation today. Rising temperatures that threaten our climate and ecosystem pose the biggest public health crisis of our time, and we need to take decisive action to minimize and reverse its effects.
If elected the the State Senate, I will work to decrease our state’s dependence on fossil fuels and encourage the development of new sources of clean energy to meet our state’s overall energy needs. To do this, we must require utility companies to increase the level of clean energy sources in their overall energy portfolios. Without these requirements, utilities will continue to favor cheaper, dirtier options to power our grid.
Investments in clean energy has a dual benefit for Massachusetts: improving our environment while spurring economic growth and creating jobs. By investing in forms of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, we can derive our energy from low-carbon sources, while creating jobs for thousands of Massachusetts residents. Our long shore-line presents enormous untapped wind potential, and the opportunity to be a national leader in clean energy development.
We should be proud that Massachusetts was at the epicenter of the movement towards marriage equality; a movement that has now made marriage equality the law of the land across the entire United States. However, there is much more to do to ensure full equality, respect, and understanding of LGBTQ citizens. First, we must pass legislation to ban licensed mental health providers from offering “conversion therapy” to minors -- a practice that serves to reinforce the damaging notion that being LGBTQ is something that can and should be “cured.” We must also support comprehensive health education in public schools that includes medically accurate and age-appropriate information for all students, especially those that are LGBTQ.
Finally, Massachusetts must reject hate and discrimination by voting YES on Question 3 on November’s ballot. A YES vote will uphold the state’s current law banning discrimination against transgender individuals in public accommodations.
The cost of housing is reaching crisis levels for working families. Housing affordability can be addressed both through supply, and direct requirements on developers to include more affordable units. To increase supply we must make it easier to build multi-family housing through zoning reform. Far too often in Massachusetts it is easier to build a single-family Mcmansion with a sprawling yard than it is to build more affordable multi-family units. This drives the cost of housing ever-higher. By lowering the vote threshold for local zoning changes from two-thirds to a simple majority, we could significantly increase housing stock and drive costs down.
America is a nation built on immigrants. The vibrant communities of the 1st Middlesex District illustrate the valuable contributions that immigrants make to our culture and economy, and I know the important role that immigrants play in our community.
Any humane immigration policy must include protecting Dreamers from the threat of deportation, and working to keep families together. It’s the right thing to do, and will positively impact our economy, increasing Massachusetts’ GDP by over $250 Million. Furthermore, we must provide Dreamers with the same educational opportunities as their peers, including in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.
Finally, under the Trump Administration, ICE has demonstrated a departure from basic American values in how it has enforced immigration law. It’s important for Massachusetts to send a strong signal that our police departments are not the local arm of ICE. We can do so by passing the Safe Communities Act.
Our criminal justice system needs to focus more on rehabilitation and outcomes, and less on punishment.The Massachusetts legislature took a big and important step forward this year by passing a significant criminal justice reform bill that does away with most mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses, and allows for more young adults to expunge their criminal records and move on to a productive life without barriers from their youth. We must now support programs that assist those who are incarcerated with the transition to life outside of prison. Job training, drug treatment, and other transitional services must begin behind prison walls if we truly want to achieve restorative justice.
Massachusetts state government has done a good job of responding to the senseless tragedies that have occurred in the past several years by further passing legislation that allows local law enforcement agencies to issue Extreme Risk Protective Orders and confiscate dangerous weapons from individuals who are a danger to themselves and others, and through the Attorney General’s enforcement of the state’s existing assault weapons ban.
However, while decreasing access to dangerous firearms is an important first step, we must advocate for properly study the effects of gun violence on our society. Too many policy makers are left out in the dark on the facts due to the lack of funding for gun research. An increase in funding will give us a clear view of the problem and the best ways to prevent it.
Other common sense regulations must be implemented as well. Background checks for all gun sales is a necessity. Rights now, only licensed gun shops are required to run a background check on buyers. However, over 20% of guns are purchased from unlicensed dealers who are not required to run background checks. Requiring every gun purchase to include a background check is a commonsense measure that can save lives.
Lastly, we must prevent domestic abusers from carrying weapons. Having a gun in a household that experiences domestic abuse increases the chance a women will be murdered by 500%. I will fight to close loopholes that allowed abusers to carry guns.
Given the current possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could very soon establish a distinct conservative majority for years and years to come, it is vitally important that state governments are prepared to defend a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, in consultation with her doctor. Beyond this, we must strive to make women’s healthcare needs treated on an equal footing to those of men. Massachusetts took a great step in that direction earlier this year by ensuring cost-free access to contraception in all health insurance plans. We must continue moving in this direction, by ending price discrimination against women in disability insurance policies.
I believe that we have a moral obligation to provide the best possible care for our veterans. Doing so is especially important as our nation continues to recruit young men and women to fight for liberty and democracy around the world. We have to be able to look our sons and daughters in the eye and promise them that there is life after service in Massachusetts. That is why if elected to the State Senate, I will fight to secure funding to ensure the best possible care for veterans at the local level through our veterans service offices. Providing better treatment for mental health is also a priority, because it is an increasingly large issue facing our brave vets returning from combat. Issues stemming from PTSD have had ruinous effects on vets and families. In addition, these unaddressed mental health issues have led to increased veteran homelessness. By fighting for comprehensive mental health treatment, we can provide the best possible care for those who have served.
Protecting Our Seniors
I’ll fight to provide the best possible community services for our seniors by working to secure resources for these vital programs. Additionally, we must be working to ensure that we are providing adequate levels of senior housing in our communities for those who are looking to downsize, and protecting the retirement incomes of seniors, including the state retirement system and Social Security. We must also work to keep retiree healthcare affordable through Medicare and the state retiree healthcare system.