Health costs

The Mass. Taxpayers Foundation recently recommended that local officials be given the power to design their own health plans without having to negotiate with the unions, and that state retirees use Medicare for their primary health care coverage. Do you support these proposals?

Democrat

City and town administrators of the Commonwealth negotiated contracts in good faith with their employees, and elected officials approved them.

Instead of granting plan design power, I suggest employee union leaders and administrators return to the bargaining table as soon as possible to negotiate new health care agreements that are fair to their members and ease the burden on the taxpayers.

As a last resort, if an impasse is reached, the municipalities should seek a mandate from the Legislature to help control the cost of health care benefits.

Independent

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Republican

I support allowing cities and towns design their own health plans as well as joining the state GIC without union approval.

Health care costs are out of control for municipalities, and I've watched first-hand as a selectman how health care is a budget buster. We need town managers and leaders to be able to design plans that will be offered to employees. This is no different than the private sector and can save municipalities, taxpayers, and employees significant money.

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State pensions

The foundation also proposed changes in state and municipal pensions, such as increasing the retirement age and capping annual pensions at $100,000. Do you agree?

Democrat

Pension reform is necessary in these difficult economic times, but must be performed fairly for current and future public employees.

The Legislature must be cognizant of the fact that 7 out of 10 public employees earn a pension of $30,000 a year or less; the outrageous amounts where changes are needed involve mostly executive and senior management personnel.

Possible reform provisions should include raising the minimum retirement age for certain groups, setting a pension cap, and limiting "group jumping" to higher classifications near the end of one's career.

Current retirees' pensions should not be affected by these adjustments.

Independent

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Republican

I absolutely agree. The pension system is Massachusetts is absolutely broken.

An additional change that needs to be made is the way pensions are calculated. Currently only the top 3 years of pay are used to calculate pensions and that needs to be expanded to consider a longer period of time.

Also, elected officials should not be eligible for pensions.

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MCAS

Do you believe in keeping the requirement that a student must pass the MCAS or an MCAS-like test in order to graduate from high school?

Democrat

Minimum educational standards must be in place for our students to achieve in order to receive a public high school diploma.

However, the MCAS system seems to be too restrictive for teachers, who in many cases are forced to teach specifically to the MCAS tests instead of being free to use their creativity to better relate themselves and the curriculum to their students.

The MCAS system is slow and outdated already, not providing results for parents to review until the next school year is beginning. Any new standardized testing for our public school students should be computerized for immediate results, identifying early the areas where our students need improvement.

Independent

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Republican

I believe that the MCAS is an important tool in education that promotes accountability for students, teachers, and parents.

The governor's decision to abandon the MCAS for a less stringent federal standard is a huge mistake. Massachusetts should aim to lead the country in education standards, but the governor has now chosen to instead be held back with an inferior system.

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Public records

Should the state Legislature be exempt from the state's public records law?

Democrat

No, transparency is necessary at all levels of government.

Independent

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Republican

No - government should be open to the people since government is here to serve the people. Failure to make government transparent and open is unacceptable.

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Party leadership

Cite any votes (if an incumbent) or positions (if a challenger or newcomer) you have taken that disagree with the stance taken by your party's legislative leadership.

Democrat

I am a strong proponent of the Perry Bill, which was sent to committee for study last spring by a mere seven votes.

The bill requires the State Department to perform a background check on all immigrants requesting any type of state services to first ensure they are in our country legally.

The same bill received spotty Democratic interest in the House in 2009, but did gain considerable more support this year before being sent to committee for further study.

Independent

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Republican

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Endorsements

Will you make public any questionnaires you fill out in pursuit of the endorsement of unions or other groups?

Democrat

If the groups to whom I submitted questionnaires are willing to release the information, then I, too, would be agreeable to make those answers public.

Independent

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Legislative audit

Should the Legislature be subject to a full audit?

Democrat

Again, to provide the public with more transparency regarding its government, I would agree to a full audit of the Legislature.

Independent

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Formal sessions

Is the Legislature holding enough full formal sessions?

Democrat

The business of the Commonwealth is not being completed before the arbitrary July 31 deadline the Legislature places on itself - such as the expanded gambling bill.

Perhaps the formal session should start before the new calendar year and certainly extend past the last day in July should important issues still hang in the balance.

If a business in the private section ran like the Legislature does, it would certainly go bankrupt.

Independent

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Republican

No. The "full-time" Legislature met only approximately 40 times last year. This is not allowing for the people's work to be done in and open and honest fashion.

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Term limits

Should there be term limits for the jobs of House Speaker and Senate President?

Democrat

Term limits for speaker and president already exist in both chambers of the General Court by way of a vote of the bodies. If legislators believe their leader is serving them faithfully and honestly, then change for the sake of change is not necessary.

Independent

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Republican

Yes. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and the bullying of legislators by Beacon Hill leadership has hurt the public interest.

Term limits on leadership position will allow legislators to be more open and honest with their votes without fear of long-term retaliation from leadership.

Leadership on Beacon Hill is taking Massachusetts in the wrong direction and major changes are needed.

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Responses gathered through e.thePeople