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

Different situations require different tools.

When the city of Lawrence needed help from the Legislature, we required all the employees to go into GIC, which saved the city $6 million. In other communities, there have been creative solutions where employees went into a self-insured plan that saved their communities money. We need contracts that are sustainable and affordable, not only in the good years, but also in the down years as well.

I do believe that there needs to be shared sacrifice as when revenues are declining public employees need to be flexible and willing to do what is necessary to make ends meet. This is why I personally gave up my pay raise and per diem due to the difficult economic situation the state is in.

Independent

Yes. We have to look at all ways to control costs and maintain local control.

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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

I supported pension reform, which removes the "one day, one year" provision that allows elected officials to claim an entire year of service for working one day in a calendar year.

It also removed a provision that allowed elected officials with 20 years of public service to claim a "termination allowance" based on the failure to be nominated or re-elected.

The reform also includes accidental disability retirement benefit so that it is tied to the 12-month average of compensation received prior to the date of injury.

It also redefines "regular compensation" to specifically exclude certain monetary benefits like housing, lodging, travel, automobile usage, or annuities for the purposes of a pension benefit calculation.

Pension reform also strikes current provisions that allow certain officials to establish pension credit for service in positions that have no compensation, like serving on a local library board or as a town moderator. Officials and employees currently serving in a position earning $5,000 or less in compensation will be ineligible for credible service after their current term expires, or by July 1, 2012, whichever occurs first.

Reform dual-service pensions so that an individual cannot combine the compensation from two positions to artificially increase one's pension. An individual who is a member of two or more systems will receive benefits as if retiring separately from each system, unless they are vested in both systems before January 1, 2010.

It also extends the "vesting" requirement of elected officials from 6 years to 10 years and eliminates a loophole that allows individuals receiving pension benefits to return to work and receive a full salary in addition to pension benefits if the individuals are classified as "consultant" or "independent contractor."

Independent

I agree we need pension reform.

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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

Exceptions should be made for children who have special needs. However, our focus should still be on smaller class sizes, as that will improve the quality of every child's education.

Independent

Yes. Our kids need to receive the best education possible, and to make sure they have reached that level, MCAS serves that purpose.

I am against changing to a national standardized test. We cannot lower the standards for our kids - we should raise the bar.

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Public records

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

Democrat

No. I voted for ethics reform, which required increased responsibility and transparency across state government. Among other measures, this comprehensive legislation tightened rules on gifts given to public officials, expanded the definition of "lobbyist" and the disclosure requirements that lobbyists are subject to, and increased the penalties for the violations of lobbying laws and other ethics laws.

Independent

No. No one should be above the law.

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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

Gaming, rules reform, term limits for Speaker, doing away with certain holidays, and clean elections.

Independent

Being an Independent, I am not ruled by party agenda. I make decisions based on facts and common sense and as your senator, also from the input of the voters in my district.

Republican

The party's leadership was split on gambling, so I differ with some of them.

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Endorsements

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

Independent

I have not filled out any PAC questionnaires - I have no special interest group endorsements. I couldn't accept their support knowing that I would owe them favors once in office. I don't see how it would be possible to effectively represent the people.

Republican

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Legislative audit

Should the Legislature be subject to a full audit?

Democrat

Yes. I think increased transparency and accountability are very important in government.

Independent

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Formal sessions

Is the Legislature holding enough full formal sessions?

Democrat

Yes. The focus should always be if the body is responsive to the public's needs.

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Term limits

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

Democrat

Yes. As a member of the House, I supported term limits for the Speaker.

Independent

Yes. All public officials should have term limits. If they are in office too long, they become complacent and stop being concerned about We The People as we have seen time and again.

Republican

Same term limits as everyone else.

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Responses gathered through e.thePeople