Massachusetts has long been a welcoming and inclusive community for all and has always made protecting its residents from discrimination a top priority. I believe that all people should be given equal opportunities in our Commonwealth regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religious identity. At a time when many people’s rights are under attack by our federal government, we need to band together, stand up against hate, and protect our neighbors. I fully support the Safe Communities Act and other legislation that seeks to promote equal rights under the law for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and immigrants in Massachusetts.
Our current criminal justice system’s pretrial incarceration rate is disturbing and has a disparate impact on poor people and minorities who cannot afford to pay their bail, and as a result, must spend weeks or even months in jail awaiting trial. At any given time, up to 5,000 people in the Commonwealth are sitting in a jail cell, not because they’ve been convicted of any crime, but because they simply cannot afford to post bail. Today, 60% of those in the prison system in the United States have not been convicted of a crime. This is morally reprehensible and economically irresponsible. The availability of money should not determine whether someone is released from jail before trial. We need to move the Commonwealth away from a cash-based bail system to a system where the court would determine whether a person is likely to return to court based upon an objective risk assessment tool.
Statewide education funding has steadily declined for nearly two decades, forcing communities to cut school programs or further shift funds from local priorities. As a former public school teacher and parent, I am committed to fully funding our public schools (as recommended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission), because I understand that access to quality, free, publicly-funded education allows all of our children to reach their full potential.
At a time when our environment is under unprecedented attack at the federal level, the responsibility for protecting and preserving our precious natural resources is now being left entirely up to the states. No state is better to take the lead than Massachusetts, but it takes real investment. Although Governor Baker and previous administrations have pledged to dedicate at least 1% of the state budget (approximately $40 million) to environmental agencies, they have repeatedly reneged on their promise. As state Senator, I am prepared to be a vocal proponent for a clean environment and sustainable future and will support bills to promote green infrastructure, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to combat climate change, to defend the EPA, to restore funding to the Community Preservation Act trust fund, and to create 21st century Massachusetts clean energy jobs. I will also support allocating 1% of the state budget to support environmental agencies, because investing one penny of every state-operating dollar to protect our environment is not too much to ask.
More: Read my statement on how Massachusetts must respond to the President’s decision to withdraw from the international Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Mental Health and Addiction
Massachusetts lags far behind many states in its treatment and services for those who suffer from severe and debilitating mental illness and substance use disorder. For most, treatment options are determined by insurance companies or insufficient state funding levels. This, in large part, has created the condition where our courts, jails and correctional facilities have become the de-facto treatment providers for many of our most vulnerable and sickest residents at a huge cost that serves neither them nor the Commonwealth. We need to do a better job of providing greater resources for mental health care, implement laws that provide real treatment to those who suffer from severe mental illness and addiction, and divert those individuals who interact with law enforcement away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment.
Healthcare costs continue to rise while levels of care continue to fall, especially for those who suffer from mental illness and substance use disorder. Everyone deserves access to high-quality, affordable healthcare that offers a flexible choice of providers and eliminates excessive administrative fees like premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. Attempts to control healthcare costs within the present private insurance system have failed, and costs have steadily consumed more state, municipal, business and household budgets. We must search for alternative options – like single payer systems, which have a track record of reducing inequities in healthcare, improving access to care and reducing costs for families, businesses, municipalities and states.
Our communities are stronger when all families have access to clean, affordable, high-quality housing options – options that allow people to remain living where they work or grew up. However, our state is facing a housing crisis that is making this more and more difficult for working families. We need to increase housing production (especially affordable housing) to keep pace with population growth, address gentrification so that revitalization doesn’t lead to displacement, and reform our zoning regulations to better streamline the housing production process.
Labor and Workforce Development
Workers must have an opportunity to earn a living wage in order to care for themselves and their families. More and more of our jobs are service jobs that do not pay enough for people to put food on the table and pay rent. We continue to see strong growth at the top of the economic spectrum and stagnation and wage loss at the lower end. We must do everything we can at the state-level to provide access to affordable, quality training and educational opportunities for our under-employed and unemployed workers so they are able to get good jobs with competitive wages. As state Senator, I will take the lead on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, fight to pass the Fair Share Amendment, and protect those affected by wage theft in the workplace.
Our senior community currently represents 22% of the state’s total population and that percentage is growing. As more seniors enjoy retirement and look to downsize, we must continually ensure that we are providing them with access to affordable housing, steady retirement incomes, quality community services, and timely health care. As state Senator, I will work hard to ensure that safe and affordable housing options exist for our seniors, and that senior benefits such as Medicare and Social Security are protected and expanded. I will also focus on policy initiatives that seek to establish greater economic security for our seniors and their families.
Our residents deserve a transportation system that is safe, reliable, and equitable. We need to make greater investments in infrastructure to improve services for our commuters and protect our workers from the threat of privatization. The decision to privatize the MBTA would not only put our workers’ jobs and benefits at risk, but it would also reduce the overall quality of our transportation service. We cannot continue to try to “save money” at the expense of our workers and riders, while making no effort to invest in our transportation system to improve service. It’s time we invest now and put our riders first.
I have been a strong advocate for women’s reproductive rights since I was 18. I marched in the 1970s for a woman’s right to choose and have continually supported causes and candidates that are strong proponents of reproductive rights. I worked with Planned Parenthood staff to defeat the 1986 referendum that would have allowed the state to regulate or prohibit a woman’s right to choose. I believe that all women should have access to birth control and other forms of preventative health care, regardless of economic status, to ensure they have the resources they need to live safe and healthy lives.
It is essential that we have programs in place for our veterans when they return home from service. Those who make the ultimate sacrifice to serve on the front-lines to protect our country deserve the utmost care and support from our Commonwealth. As your state Senator, I will make it a priority to combat veteran’s homelessness and unemployment, expand benefits and support services, and ensure that our veterans are getting the treatment they need to manage their physical and mental health and well-being. I look forward to serving as a powerful voice for our veterans and their families on Beacon Hill.