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:
My #1 Priority: Medicare For All
My number one priority is fighting for everyone to have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Everyone I know, myself included, has been impacted by our overly complex and expensive healthcare system, and it affects each of us and our loved ones on a deeply personal level.
I believe Massachusetts must institute Medicare For All to ensure that everyone can get and stay healthy. Under the current system, Massachusetts struggles to come up with the money to keep our population healthy. A whopping 42% of our yearly budget is spent on healthcare—leaving less money for education and aid to municipalities.
I support the bill put forth by Representative Benson in the House to conduct a study based on three years of data to project costs under a Medicare for All system so we can compare them with the current system. I believe this study will demonstrate that Medicare For All is necessary for both the physical health of our people and the financial health of the Commonwealth. Importantly, we can use data we already have for the past three years, not the next three years, so we don’t have to delay single-payer any longer.
I Support The Patient Safety Act for Safe Patient Limits
Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system. I support the nurses unions and the Safe Patient Limits ballot initiative sponsored by the Massachusetts Nurses Association that will allow our nurses to provide the high quality of healthcare services that our communities need.
I Will Advocate for Healthcare for Students with Special Needs
Many children with special needs rely on schools for basic care—but the State has failed to adequately support their healthcare needs. 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 revenue. 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 devastating local budgets.
The Opioid Crisis Is a Public Health Issue, Not a Criminal Justice Issue
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 drug dependency. We need to bring those suffering from substance abuse disorders into our discussions about how to deal with the problem. My priority is harm-reduction. Current practices, such as holding those suffering from substance abuse disorders for 72 hours, are dangerous because they can lead to binging upon release and consequent overdosing.
I Will Champion Adequate and Equitable School Funding
As a parent, I know the importance of a public education that enables kids to grow, learn, and develop a life-long love of learning. Education is essential for a thriving democracy and is a prime contributor to better health, lower violence, and overall life satisfaction. We have excellent schools in the Commonwealth, but they need dedicated financial backing to survive. Adequate Education funding is a top priority, and I will reverse the trend of neglect by the State House.
But we don’t just need more money—we need to make sure it is distributed around the Commonwealth equitably. The Chapter 70 Funding Formula determines how much money each school district is allocated by the State. I want to revamp Chapter 70 to alleviate financial disparities between districts. School districts must be funded fairly and equally—not simply according to the wealth of their residents.
Charter School Funding Needs to be Reformed
Charter school funding is a problem that needs to be addressed. Right now, if a child uses school choice to move to a different public school, the school they leave pays $5,000 to the new school. If that child goes to a charter school, the school they leave has to pay $12,000 to the new school. This means that our local districts are unfairly burdened with footing the bill for charter school buildings. I believe the State—not municipalities—needs to pick up the tab for charter schools, so our own local public schools can remain successful and fully funded. At the same time, the cap on Charter Schools should be maintained so funds are not diverted from public schools.
I Support the Act Relative to Healthy Youth
I firmly support the Act Relative to Healthy Youth (S. 2062, H. 3754 ) which ensures all health education is medically accurate, discusses birth control, and includes information about LGBTQIA+ identities. Education should also teach our students how treat each other with respect. I have worked with Planned Parenthood to build support for this bill among many local organizations, especially those that work with young people. We need to pass this bill as soon as possible. Our State legislators have allowed the Act Relative to Healthy Youth to languish in committee. I will work to move and pass this important bill that affects our most vulnerable citizens.
Our Children Need Universal Access to Pre-K Programs
Young Adults Need Debt-Free Higher Education for All
We Need to Provide Educational Opportunities in Prisons
I Will Fight to Increase PVTA Funding
Safe, reliable, affordable, convenient and reliable transportation is essential to the well-being of our region. Our district’s residents depend on the PVTA for access medical care, education, and economic and social opportunities. A solid transportation infrastructure makes our region attractive to economic investment. With 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. In fact, I will fight to increase funding to expand service and to make the long-term investment to electrify the PVTA.
We Must Improve Railways to Expand Access to the Region
Investing in our infrastructure is essential. Our district lies between both Boston and Albany and Brattleboro, Hartford, New Haven, and New York. By expanding rail service to connect us to these hubs we will increase opportunities for commercial and cultural activity.
I firmly support building an east-west rail between Springfield and Boston, which is currently proposed for study by the MaDOT, after years of advocacy by Senator Eric Lesser. I think we should take the extra step of making this line electric-powered to further reduce our carbon footprint. This line will allow people to live in Western Massachusetts and work or study in Boston—and vice versa—preventing "brain drain" and promoting economic development in our area. It’s a greener and more human-friendly option than sitting on the Mass Pike for hours.
Improving north-south service to New York would complete our connection to the major cities in our region, benefiting economic development. The Pioneer Valley has so much to offer—people just need to be able to get here!
We Must Invest in Local Businesses
Locally owned and operated businesses contribute to the well-being of our community, and because they have a stake in the district’s success, they are generally better employers and community participants. Local businesses keep money in the local economy, especially when they serve local needs. I will do everything I can to help our friends and neighbors who are local entrepreneurs and business owners find success in our district.
I Will Promote Local Agriculture
While we promote local businesses, we must also ensure that land use policies preserve agricultural land. In addition, we need to create policies that encourage young people to become farmers. Currently, the biggest obstacle for young people who want to get into farming is the high cost of healthcare; adopting Medicare for All will eliminate that obstacle and result in a vibrant, younger generation of people dedicated to sharing our district’s agricultural bounty with the region. I will work with programs such as the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project to strengthen agriculture in our region and create smart land use policies.
Green Jobs Will Help Us Grow
We have an amazing opportunity to create economic growth in Massachusetts by bolstering our investment 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 and generating jobs for everyone.
We Must Invest State Funds Wisely
Big companies now get millions of dollars in tax breaks that hurt local economies and often do not deliver the promised economic benefits. We should be investing in local, small businesses that 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 developing clean technologies.
We should also be investing in companies that reflect our values, which means divesting from fossil fuel, prison, weapons, and big pharma.
I 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. I will work to reform net metering so that electric companies actually pay for this electricity, and homeowners are able to fully redeem the benefits of their electricity generation, not just be given credits.
We Must Complete Our Transition to Renewable Energy
Massachusetts needs to aim to be fully powered by renewables by 2050. Our legislature has committed to 100% green energy and requiring utilities to continuously increase renewable energy targets by 3% each year until reaching a 100% renewable energy target by 2047. This shows that our State recognizes the critical importance of helping the environment by developing the green energy industry. But even though Massachusetts is second in the nation for solar, there was a 20% decrease in solar jobs in 2017, which translates into over 3,000 lost jobs. I will push for properly sited solar and off-shore wind, lifting the net metering cap, and creating microgrids to increase the number of jobs in clean energy. I will also work to establish Green Banks that will finance projects that create jobs while protecting both our environment and our children.
I support the recently passed Senate Bill S. 2545 (An Act to promote a clean energy future), which advances these goals, and also sets new 2030 and 2040 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, which are needed to ensure that Massachusetts reaches its existing goal of 80% reductions by 2050
Watch My Video
To learn more about my stance on issues related to climate and energy, watch video from the June 6th candidates' forum here.
I Believe Prison Is for Rehabilitation, Not Punishment
Our goal as a society should be to keep people out of prison, not put them in. I support expansion of Restorative Justice programs for resolution of non-violent crimes. These programs, as well as other diversion programs such as ROCA and UTEC in Lowell, have been shown to dramatically reduce recidivism, are far less costly than imprisonment, and provide a greater degree of satisfaction to victims. According to a report by WBUR radio in 2014, it costs $45,500 a year to keep someone in a state prison, and $37,000 in a county jail—but even the most intensive intervention programs for extremely high risk youth cost less than $20,000 per year. Cost savings from these programs should be invested in programs aimed at rehabilitation of prisoners, such as mental health treatment, counseling, and education.
We Must Put an End to Cruel Punishment
Punishments such as solitary confinement and shackling of prison inmates are being used with increasing frequency. They often constitute cruel and unusual punishment, which is specifically prohibited by the 8th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. I will be a strong advocate for ending these inhumane practices.
I Oppose ICE Offices in Prisons
Our State should not cooperate with the oppressive operations of ICE, especially now that they have resorted to cruel and illegal actions against refugees. The US Constitution explicitly protects the states from being coerced into using their resources for federal law enforcement, and I will resist any such cooperation.
I WILL FIGHT TO END THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE
Zero-tolerance policies, the presence of police in schools, and the underfunding of in-school counseling all contribute to pushing kids out of school and toward the criminal justice system. Students of color are disciplined more harshly than their white peers. Punishment, often in the form of suspension and expulsion from schools, sets in motion a process where students who often need support and education the most are excluded, leading to low-self esteem and hopelessness. These factors, often exacerbated by poverty, lead to behaviors that bring these kids into contact with law-enforcement agencies, which are also more likely to be more punitive toward people of color.
We must transform our schools into places where students are supported instead of punished, by doing away with zero-tolerance policies. A fully-funded education system must include sufficient counseling and family support resources and creative, humane ways to deal with student behavioral issues. Such resources not only give our youth a better chance at life, they are a better investment in their future.
I Will Fight to Stop the Increasing Incarceration of Women
In the 1970s there were approximately 250,000 men and women in prison and jails. Nationwide, women’s state prison populations grew 834% over nearly 40 years—more than double the pace of the growth among men. Today there are 205,000 women in prison and jails. 64% of mothers in state prisons lived with their children before they were sent to prison. In 2010, black women were incarcerated at nearly 3 times the rate of white women. Hispanic women were incarcerated at 1.2 times the rate of white women (64 vs. 53 per 100,000). This number may be low due to inaccurate reporting.
According to The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 60-70% of incarcerated women and girls have experienced physical or sexual violence in childhood and 70-80% of incarcerated women report adulthood intimate partner violence. In the general population, one in three adult women experience domestic violence, and 20% of girls experience sexual abuse and assault.
The majority of women entangled in the criminal legal system have experienced zero tolerance policies in school, the school-to-prison pipeline, racism, misogyny, domestic violence and sexual abuse, poverty, community and police violence, and extreme policing. Gender non-conforming girls and women and lesbians also experience homophobia and trans phobia. Often, abused women revert to drugs and alcohol for relief. Substance abuse for girls and women who do not have access to quality health care and substance use treatment can lead to criminal activities such as selling sex, theft and check fraud, or selling small amounts of drugs.
Nearly half of all single Black and Hispanic women possess zero or negative wealth. If a woman is held on bail even for a few weeks, she can lose her apartment, car, job and even custody of her children. Jail is both a consequence and a cause of poverty.
I promise to help keep women out of prison by working to change mandatory minimum sentencing, to overhaul the unfair bail system that puts undue stress on the economically disadvantaged, and to provide adequate health care and other support that will help women cope effectively societal pressures.
I Will Promote Higher Density Housing
Higher density housing has many benefits. For example, it enables wise land-use management, which preserves farmlands and natural lands, thus protecting the viability of our watershed. In addition, a denser population close to retail areas reduces reliance on automobiles and makes public transit more efficient. The State’s Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production law provides incentives for municipalities to make creative use of existing building stock for the purpose of increasing the availability of low and moderately priced housing. I will work with a range of stakeholders to ensure that we are creating new opportunities for housing in smart, efficient ways.
We Must Keep Rents Affordable
As a local economy grows, the region becomes more desirable; in turn, real estate prices rise and rents increase. We need to implement a system of rent control so that the people who work in the community can continue to live there and feel that they have a stake in the future. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) provides incentives to developers to invest in low-cost housing. The state has a say in how those incentives are distributed, and I will join with the other representatives in this region to make sure we get our fair share.
I Will Champion Adequate Shelter for the Homeless
Homeless people are the victims of an uncaring economy in which speculative real estate investment makes it hard to afford housing, even for working people. We need to stop stigmatizing homelessness and provide adequate and safe places for people to stay. At the same time, we need to provide services that will help lift people out of the circumstances that have caused them to be homeless, whether it is lack of education or skills training, or health problems, including drug dependency disorder. I will take special care to ensure that shelters are stocked with sanitary products for women. In that regard, I will also work to exempt women’s sanitary products from the sales tax.
I Support Keeping Families Together
I support Senate Bill S. 1963 (Children in need of services reform) introduced by Senator Karen E. Spilka and Representative Paul J. Donato. This bill provides alternatives to the juvenile justice system for dealing with youth with serious problems, including substance abuse, undiagnosed mental health conditions, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Currently the only interventions available are through juvenile court, which most often results in parents losing custody of their children. I also support reforms of DCF practices that remove children from their homes as a measure of first resort, rather than of last resort.
I Will Champion the Health and Safety of Our Children
We can be proud of the fact that a 2014 study by the Ann E. Casey Foundation found that Massachusetts ranked number one in overall well-being of children. Our State came out on top in education and second in healthcare. However, all is not well for our children. The same study also found that Massachusetts children ranked 13th on the measure of economic well-being. It found that 30%, or 414,000 children, were living in homes where their parents lacked secure employment in 2012, up from 26% of children in 2008. And at school, 45% of eighth graders in Massachusetts were not proficient in math, and 53% of fourth graders were not proficient in reading, compared to 66% of children for both measures nationwide. We must do better, and I will champion legislation that will help our youngest residents stay healthy, safe, and able to reach their full potential.
I Will Fight to End Food Insecurity
Hampshire County is better than most counties in the state when it comes to food security. However, 10% of individuals and between 12-15% of children do not have adequate access to food. We must continue to build on our strong network of food pantries and public health agencies until no one goes hungry.
Poor nutrition leads to many adverse effects, including chronic disease, depression, poor mental function, obesity, and general poor health. This impacts not only the lives of those who suffer directly, but the rest of society as we all live with the diminished capability of our community members and the expense of their care. Therefore, I support the recommendations of the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative, which includes, among other things:
- Expansion of the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit.
- Supporting a living wage.
- Supporting the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Healthy Incentives Program to provide SNAP doubling at farmers markets and CSAs statewide.
- Expanding nutrition education.
- Educating consumers about how to add healthy food to their diets, from shopping and budgeting to storage and preparation.
I Will Fight for Children’s Nutrition
Food insecurity is especially harmful to children. It can cause lifelong health consequences such as a compromised immune system, higher risk of frequent illness, higher hospitalization rates; iron deficiency anemia, higher numbers of chronic health conditions, mental health disorders, and poor health in general.
I will work to provide increased resources to the agencies that support people who are food insecure, including the Departments of Transitional Assistance, Public Health, and Education, with special attention to SNAP, WIC4 and school meal programs.
I Support the Breakfast After the Bell Program
Breakfast After the Bell is a federally funded program. I support the legislation that has passed in the Senate and is pending a vote in the House that would require all public K-12 schools with 60% or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins. Benefits of the program include improved academic achievement, improved student health, increased attendance rate, and increased federal funding for high poverty schools.
One hundred Massachusetts schools have already implemented the Breakfast After the Bell model. In total, 600 schools and more than 260,000 children statewide could benefit from the program.
I WILL WORK TO UPHOLD LGBTQIA+ RIGHTS
In this current political climate, the LGBTQIA+ community is particularly vulnerable. I support the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals and will work to uphold them. Massachusetts has always been a leader for LGBTQIA+ rights and was the first to legalize gay marriage as a result of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health on May 17, 2004. We must work today to protect LGBTQIA+ people around issues of marriage and family-building, health care-—including mental health care, and youth homelessness.
I Stand for the Protection of Transgender Rights
The Transgender Accommodations Law (Bill S.24027), which was signed into law a little over two years ago and took effect on Oct 1, 2016, prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations. It allows individuals to utilize gender-segregated restrooms or locker rooms based on their gender identity.
There is a referendum on this year’s ballot that seeks to overturn this law. This step backwards on transgender rights is not the right move for Massachusetts. A "yes" vote on this referendum ballot will keep this law in place.
This is taking place in an environment in which almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Massachusetts’ transgender people report experiencing discrimination in public spaces in the past year, and 17 percent of transgender people were living in poverty in 2015, compared to 11.5 percent of the general population.
I will lend my support to protecting this law during my campaign, and after I’m elected I will support the protection of transgender people.
LGBTQIA+ Couples Have the Right to Adopt Children
I am proud that in our state adoption agencies are explicitly prohibited from discriminating against prospective adoptive parents based on sexual orientation. I will resist efforts from any sources or at any level of government to impinge on the rights of LGBTQIA+ couples to adopt children.
I Will Advocate for LGBTQIA+ Homeless Youth
A new report from Boston Indicators and The Fenway Institute finds that young Massachusetts residents are much more likely to self-identify as LGBTQIA+ than in previous generations, but they still feel many of the social pressures and discrimination of the past. The report, Equity and Equality: Advancing the LGBT Community in Massachusetts, released in May of this year, found that despite the remarkable positive momentum for LGBTQIA+ communities in public and social spheres, LGBT youth in Massachusetts were more than twice as likely as their non-LGBT peers to say they have extended periods of sadness or helplessness. Nearly half of LGBT youth say they have considered attempting suicide, 35% had devised a plan, and 25% of LGBT youth say they had attempted suicide—5 times the rate of non-LGBT youth.
According to the 2013 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, approximately 14.5% of LGBTQIA+ were homeless, compared to 3.3% of their peers. Further, 68% of homeless LGBTQIA+ were unaccompanied, meaning that they do not live with a parent or legal guardians. Findings point to LGBTQIA+ youth of color being particularly at risk, with national studies showing 65% of homeless individuals identifying as a racial minority.
To address these and the other serious concerns of LGBTQIA+ youth, I will work to implement the recommendations of the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQIA+ Youth. I support the greater investment in programs focused on providing needed supports for LGBTQIA+ youth of color, and continued training, policies, and advocacy efforts needed to protect and improve the lives of transgender people in the state.
I Will Fight For Access to Health Care for Transgender People
Nationally, 20-25% trans/gender non-conforming people have been denied health care, report being subjected to harsh or abusive language from a health care professional, and report being blamed by health care professionals for their own health care conditions. Transgender people report the highest rates of discrimination and barriers to care among LGBTQIA+ people. Outside of Boston, transgender people in Massachusetts have difficulty finding sympathetic healthcare providers and experience being turned away from emergency rooms. They are often afraid to disclose their transgender identity to insurers for fear of facing exclusion in or loss of their health care coverage. Federal and Massachusetts law prohibits discrimination in health services on the basis of gender. I will fight to make sure these laws are enforced and that all people have equal access to health care.
I will work to Pass laws that enforce our State's Environmental Justice Policies
In 2001, Dr. Daniel Faber, Director of the Northeastern University Environmental Justice Research Collaborative, and his colleagues released a report that found that communities of color in Massachusetts bear over twenty times the environmental burden of predominantly white communities. This report prompted then Governor Paul Cellucci to introduce the state's first Environmental Justice Policy, but a second report released in 2005 found that the disparities were actually getting worse. In 2014, responding to the failure of policy to precipitate action, Governor Patrick Duval issued an Executive Order on Environmental Justice, which requires state agencies to dedicate efforts toward protecting communities most endangered by environmental hazards.
Even so,, a report by Clean Water Action dated October 25, 2017, states, “Unfortunately, despite a solid Executive Order on the books, progress on environmental justice has been almost invisible in Massachusetts.” Bills S426 and H2913, which constitute the Massachusetts he Environmental Justice Act, continue to languish in committee.
I will work to get these bills out of committee and into law so that the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is given a deadline for creating an actionable plan to carry out the state’s Environmental Justice Policy. I will closely monitor their execution of that plan as well as the actions of other relevant agencies such as the Departments of Environmental Protection, Public Health, Public Utilities, and others, to ensure that they are in compliance. I will work to make sure that the state takes long overdue action to protect our most vulnerable communities from environmental hazards..