My top priority is to reform the outdated and inequitable state education funding formula (Chapter 70) so students in every community receive their fair share of education aid. Both Stoneham and Winchester have taken great strides towards updating our schools with a new Middle School in Stoneham and a new High School in Winchester. We should not be burdened with the additional task of making up for education budgetary deficiencies because of a funding formula that has remained fundamentally unchanged since 1993.
I will build on the work started by Senator Jason Lewis and others who helped to secure funding for the Chapter 70 Education Foundation Budget Review Commission so that Stoneham and Winchester receive adequate funding levels. Together, we will also work to ensure that the state actually meets its existing commitment to provide a minimum level of state funding to public education, which will increase funding levels for our district.
Improving our Schools
As an alumnus of UMass Amherst and a father of three, I understand the importance of quality public education. From pre-K classes through college and continuing adult education programs, our public schools are the foundation upon which Massachusetts was built. I will advocate for universal pre-K for all children and fight to ensure that every citizen has access to higher education and adult continuing education opportunities across the state.
The MCAS is a one-size-fits-all standardized test that fails to tell us whether our schools are adequately educating our children. We can do better. Our teachers must have the opportunity to teach and innovate in the classroom. I will fight to allow teachers more freedom to adapt to their students’ needs and do what they do best – encourage and guide our children so they learn the value of hard work and the importance of social justice.
A Public Health Crisis
While the Legislature took a great step forward with recent legislation at the end of this past session, our Commonwealth’s current response to the scourge of drug dependency is ineffective and costly. Too often in my practice as an attorney I am forced to petition an overburdened judge to intervene in an individual’s life when that person is in the height of addiction. The measures available at this stage are reactive and limited. I will be a relentless advocate for new alternatives to treat drug dependency and ensure our local communities receive the funding they need to combat this growing public health crisis.
I will champion the extension of drug court diversion programs that allow our court system the flexibility necessary in dealing with crimes resulting from drug dependency and provide individuals with a true path to recovery instead of incarceration. I will push to re-examine mandatory minimum sentencing laws to gauge their effectiveness in drug cases and, where appropriate, implement improved guidelines for the efficient and just operation of our criminal justice system.
Community groups like the Substance Abuse Coalitions in both Stoneham and Winchester offer invaluable education, advice and resources to our residents. I will bolster and partner with these Coalitions to help the state remain vigilant and updated on what is happening in our neighborhoods and schools, to provide the information necessary to properly reshape prevention and treatment approaches, and to advise the Legislature, treatment facilities and law enforcement on best practices in combatting drug dependency.
Prevention & Treatment Initiatives
Drug dependency is often the end result of the self-treatment of mental health problems. I will advocate for extended insurance coverage for mental health evaluation, treatment and access to specialized facilities and programs.
Painkilling drugs, like oxycodone, are powerful and highly addictive. They also act as a gateway to other opiates. I will strengthen and increase the Commonwealth’s ability to audit the frequency and quantities of prescriptions for painkillers and empower the proper authorities to discipline physicians who routinely over prescribe certain pharmaceuticals.
I will advocate for the implementation of harm reduction programs and the authorization of new treatments that can counter, or even eliminate, physical dependency on opioids and other highly addictive drugs. We must increase the availability of overdose reversal drugs so that our first responders are well equipped with these life-saving treatments that have already saved thousands of lives.
Preserving our Neighborhoods
I grew up in these communities, and Megan and I are raising our three sons here because of the natural beauty and open air resources our neighborhoods offer us.
As your State Representative, I will work tirelessly to preserve the natural charms of our towns and to combat the rising tide of urban and suburban sprawl by utilizing Smart Growth initiatives designed to improve our neighborhoods without damaging their unique character. I will work to pass legislation that updates antiquated zoning laws and enable our cities and towns to reduce unwanted sprawl. I will also use the power of my office to oppose developers who refuse to work cooperatively with neighbors and town officials and to support those who seek to redevelop our existing inventory of commercial and residential properties so that we can repurpose dilapidated and abandoned properties.
Additionally, we can (and should) expand mixed use housing options in our downtowns so that our seniors can choose to stay and enjoy the towns they have built and the next generation of residents can raise their own families here.
Combating Pollution and Climate Change
Massachusetts has made great strides in proving that sound environmental policies can also be highly beneficial to the economy. We can do more. I am in favor of the Commonwealth’s march towards zero waste and will sponsor legislation to update the bottle bill and increase our recycling efforts.
As your State Representative, I will work to enact legislation forcing manufacturers to shoulder an increased share of the growing burden of e-waste recycling and disposal. Additionally, I will work to improve and adequately fund our public transportation system and infrastructure. Investments in both of those measures will not only save us money, but will also curb significant air and water pollution.
Climate Change is real. Global Warming is real. We must remain a national leader in the fight against climate change and its potentially devastating effects. I will use my experience and relationships on the federal level to advocate for increased incentives for initiatives that will reduce our carbon footprint and will allow us to redevelop hazardous “brownfield” sites in our towns.
I will be a staunch advocate for the renewable energy industry and will promote our state as the most attractive destination for start-up companies in the burgeoning “green economy” space. Together, we can support the phasing out of coal in Massachusetts and commit to expanding clean and renewable energy sources across the state.
Small Business Assistance
As a small business owner, I know the stranglehold that burdensome legislation and state regulations can place on the individuals and families who own and operate our local businesses. I will oppose cumbersome and unnecessary red tape that keeps budding entrepreneurs on the sidelines and drives others out of business. I will sponsor legislation that will reduce the filing fees for small businesses, provide meaningful tax credits and incentives to small businesses that actually create new jobs, and encourage companies to hire individuals currently drawing unemployment assistance from the state, thereby moving those individuals back off of welfare and back onto the taxpayer rolls.
Tomorrow’s workforce will face dramatically different challenges than those of today. We must ensure our working-class families remain equipped to compete. I will continue to invest in the future by working for increased funding for job training programs that truly prepare workers for jobs in the modern, global economy.
I will increase job stability and support our middle-class workers through dogged advocacy and by sponsoring legislation requiring companies to provide their workers with reasonable paid/earned sick leave so that working parents have the ability to care for sick children. I believe in equal pay for women and men and support legislation promoting equal pay for equal work. I support the right of workers to mobilize and advocate for their own fair treatment, and I will be a stalwart champion of collective bargaining rights.
I support recent legislation increasing the minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2017 and will work to index future minimum wage increases to the Consumer Price Index, so that our workers don’t bear the brunt of inflation.
Too often we provide tax credits to industries and corporations without accountability or appropriate oversight. We fail to monitor their effects or recover funds when the recipients do not honor their commitments. In some cases we are literally giving away money, receiving nothing in return and compromising our tax base. Hard working individuals and families are forced to fill the gap with higher payments to the state.
A deal made must be a deal honored. As your State Representative, I will introduce legislation mandating “clawback” provisions are included in all tax credits and incentives given to private organizations. Similarly, I will support legislation requiring the Executive to report on the effectiveness and impact of existing and future incentive programs.
We must make sure our seniors are able to continue to live in Stoneham and Winchester. I am committed to providing our senior population with the assistance they need to remain here and enjoy the communities they helped to build.
Our seniors have already made a lifetime of tax payments in support of our towns. They should not have to bear the brunt of cuts in government services and assistance. I support fuel assistance for seniors who need the help during the cold winter months. I will work to extend the senior circuit breaker tax credit, which provides much needed tax relief to those living on a fixed income.
I will also fight to honor the pension, health care and related commitments we made to our seniors and safeguard essential resources such as ride sharing programs and our senior centers.
Ensuring a High Quality of Life
I believe it is the role of government to protect our senior population and allow them to continue to live their lives with dignity. As your State Representative, I will relentlessly pursue increased home care services and programs that allow individuals who need vital care to remain in their homes. These services help highly skilled health workers provide care in a more efficient manner, thereby cutting down on expensive and lengthy hospital stays.
Elder abuse is abhorrent and, sadly, more prevalent than we would like to admit. It can take the shape of physical or mental abuse, or simple neglect. Seniors are also vulnerable to financial losses from sophisticated scams and predatory lending practices. I will push for increased criminal penalties and fines for those who prey on our senior population and for the equitable resolution of unfair lending practice claims.
Protecting Our Heritage
One of the fundamental tenets of our American way of life is that all individuals receive full and equal protections before the law. I am honored to have been chosen to serve as co-chair of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Section of the Boston Bar Association. In that role, I work with leaders on the front lines of the ongoing battles waged for the protection of our civil rights and civil liberties. I will continue to fight for their protection as your State Representative.
Safeguarding Our Civil Liberties
My legislative actions will reflect my beliefs in the sanctity of our civil liberties. I believe our citizens can decide who they can love and what they want to do with their own bodies. I support marriage rights for all individuals and will fight for the rights of all families to receive full state and federal benefits regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe each individual has the right to make their own reproductive decisions, and I believe women must have unfettered freedom in making their own personal health choices.
I am very concerned with the rampant intrusions into our private lives, and believe unchecked data gathering by both the government and private industry will chill our rights to free speech and free association. I will work to enact limits on the type and amount of private data that can be gathered and reviewed. I will also support legislation that regulates civilian and domestic government drone operation, which can be used to gather audio and video information on private citizens.
Checking Corporate “Rights”
Corporations are not citizens. I will support legislative and, if needed, constitutional measures that affirm the fact that corporations are not entitled to the same freedoms guaranteed to individuals in the Bill of Rights. Corporations must not be allowed to treat individual protections and rights like an a la carte menu. I will also work to ensure that we know the source of all money spent in elections and that groups spending money in an attempt to influence campaigns abide by the same regulations that apply to the candidates themselves.
I believe in the axiom that the best disinfectant is sunlight. Transparency in government allows our citizens to educate themselves and to trust and participate in our government. The criminal convictions of Legislators and other government officials abuse the public trust and often foster suspicions into the motivations behind certain legislation. I will work to ensure that all levels of our government are open, accessible and accountable to our citizens and will work to restore faith in our government.