I am proud to be a part of the vibrant activist culture in Western Massachusetts. As a community organizer, from working on the statewide Medicare for All organizing committee to advocating for the Safe Communities Act to serving as Director of the Pioneer Valley Women’s March, I have long worked to pass legislation from the outside. Now I want to pass legislation from the inside, and I want to do it with all of you - the people of 1st Hampshire. I want to make sure the voices of Western Massachusetts are heard on Beacon Hill. Here is where I stand on the issues that matter to the people of our district:
Every person must have access to quality, affordable health care. This is my number one priority because it affects each of us on a deeply personal level. Everyone I know, myself included, has been impacted by our overly complex and expensive health care system. I believe Massachusetts needs to institute Medicare for All to ensure that people are healthy and cared for. Currently, Massachusetts struggles to come up with the money our state needs; a whopping 42% of our yearly budget is spent on healthcare. This leaves less money for education and for aid to municipalities. I also support Paid Family and Medical Leave, so that no one has to worry about losing their job when they have to care for a sick loved one.
I support the bill put forth by Representative Benson in the House to conduct a three-year study to compare current state spending levels on health care with the projected costs under a system of Medicare for All. I believe this study would demonstrate that Medicare for All is necessary for both the physical health of our people and of the financial health of the Commonwealth. Most importantly, we can review the last three years, not the next three years, so we don’t have to continue to wait for single-payer.
Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system. I support the nurses' unions and Safe Patient Limits that allow them to provide the high quality of healthcare services that our communities need.
The state has also failed to adequately support healthcare needed by children with special needs in our schools. Many children with special needs rely on schools for basic care. Today, our municipalities are not fully reimbursed for the cost of the essential care provided in schools. Through the Massachusetts Circuit Breaker Program, the state promises to refund municipalities for special education costs, but if the cost of a student with special needs to the district is $50,000, the state only pays $10,944, and that number is subject to change based on state revenues. This leaves municipalities on the hook for major care costs. I will advocate for stable and fully funded special education so students with special needs can get the care they deserve in school without decimating local budgets.
The opioid epidemic is a public health problem, not a criminal justice issue.. For too long, the big companies that profit from sales of pain medication have influenced our political and healthcare systems. I support needle exchanges, increasing the number of clinics staffed by trained medical professionals, and the availability of beds, particularly for women, to help the members of our community who are struggling with addiction.
As a parent I know the importance of a public education that enables kids to grow and learn and that cultivates a love of learning. We have excellent schools in the Commonwealth, but they need dedicated financial backing to survive. Schools are an essential part of our community and should be valued as more than a number in the budget. I will make adequate education funding a top priority, reversing the trend of neglect by our state legislators. To ensure our municipalities have the full support of our state, I want to revamp funding for schools through the Chapter 70 Funding Formula. Chapter 70 funding determines how much money each school district is allocated by the state. I want to use it to alleviate financial disparities between districts, so each school district can be funded fairly and equally and not on the basis of the wealth of its residents.
Charter school funding is another problem that needs to be addressed. Right now, if a child uses school choice to change schools, the school they leave pays $5,000 to the new school. If that child goes to a charter school, their previous school pays $12,000 to the charter school. Our local districts are footing the bill for charter school buildings when they shouldn’t be. I believe the state needs to pick up tab for charter schools, not municipalities, so our own local public schools can remain successful and fully funded.
I firmly support the Act Relative to Healthy Youth (S. 2062, H. 3754 ) which ensures all health education is medically accurate, includes birth control, and includes information about LGBTQIA+ identities. Education should include teaching our students how treat each other with respect. I have worked with Planned Parenthood to build support for this bill among local organizations, especially those who work with young people, who are stakeholders. We need to pass this bill as soon as possible. Our State legislators have allowed necessary bills like the Act Relative to Healthy Youth to languish in committee. I will work to move and pass important bills like this, especially those that affect our most vulnerable citizens.
I firmly support Senator Eric Lesser’s bill to build an east-west rail between Springfield and Boston. This line will allow people to live in Western Massachusetts and work or study in Boston, preventing "brain drain" and promoting economic development in Western Massachusetts. It’s a greener and more human-friendly option than sitting on the Mass pike for hours. Investing in our infrastructure is important. In addition to expanding east west service, improving north-south service to New York would benefit economic development. The Pioneer Valley has so much to offer; people just need to be able to get here.
With my other Western Massachusetts legislators, I will work hard to protect PVTA funding from being slashed by the Governor, as he has repeatedly tried to do.
ENERGY & ECONOMY
We have an amazing opportunity to create economic growth in Massachusetts by bolstering our investments in green jobs. But we need to be smart about implementing green energy to ensure that we don’t leave those with less income behind. I am dedicated to protecting our citizens from big companies that take advantage of us.
I also will work to reform net metering. Right now, if a house generates more electricity than it uses, it gets credits that it can exchange for electricity later. Electric companies should be paying for the electricity generated by homes. Homeowners should be able to fully redeem the benefits of their electricity generation, not just be given credits.
Big companies now get millions of dollars in tax breaks that hurt local economies. We should be investing in local, small businesses which are already on the cutting edge of technology. These local businesses can attract people to the area and create jobs that stay here. As an entrepreneur and an environmentalist, I understand the necessity of helping local business and of developing clean technologies.
Massachusetts needs to aim to be fully powered by renewables by 2050. By committing to use 100% green energy, and requiring utilities to sell at least 3% renewable energy, our state will show its commitment to helping the environment and its commitment to developing green energy industry. Even though Massachusetts is second in the nation for solar, there was a 20% decrease in solar jobs in 2017. I will push for properly sited solar and off-shore wind, lifting the net metering cap, and creating micro grids to increase the number of jobs in clean energy. Establishing Green Banks will finance projects that protect our environment and our children and create jobs.
To learn more about my stance on issues related to climate and energy, watch video from the June 6th candidates' forum here.