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

I do not support the first proposal because I believe that teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other municipal employees should have a seat at the table when dealing with something as important as health care benefits.

As the Senate chair of the Joint Committee of Municipalities and Regional Government, and the co-author of the Municipal Relief Act, I worked very hard this year to reach a compromise on municipal health insurance that would have lowered health care costs for cities and towns, allowing money to be saved that could be dedicated to delivering municipal services or public education, while also protecting collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.

However, the compromise that passed the state Senate twice did not make it through the House of Representatives.

On the matter of placing all public retirees into Medicare: yes, I do support this, and this provision was in the original Municipal Relief Act that I co-authored. I will continue to fight for this provision in the next legislative session.

Republican

Yes. In light of the state's pulling back on local aid and Chapter 70 distributions, towns should be given all reasonable tools to manage their health care expenses, as well as other expenses, in a reasonable fashion.

I genuinely believe that the authority is needed to save municipal jobs and critical services that would otherwise be cannibalized by significant year-over-year premium increases.

While some towns, such as my hometown of Westborough, have had recent success bargaining the issue, it took us years to reach the point of success, and the issue is too significant to be left to the random possibility of success at the bargaining table.

Finally, although the state Senate passed a "compromise" version of design review authority, the compromise was more symbolic than substantive, and its enactment into law would have triggered more layoffs as opposed to protecting jobs when compared to giving municipalities the full power to execute this task.

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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 and voted for the changes in the Legislature's pension reform bill this session, but would need more information on the benefits and disadvantages of increasing the retirement age.

I would not support capping annual pensions at $100,000 because I believe the figure is arbitrary, and I'm concerned that would be a disincentive to get the most qualified persons to work for state government, but I did support the changes in the pension reform bill that was signed into law this year.

Republican

I agree with increasing the retirement age, but I reserve the right to actually support bringing the cap for annual pensions below $100,000.

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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

I support the requirement that a student must pass the MCAS to graduate from high school, but believe that the current MCAS exam is too simplistic and not what was anticipated when the Education Reform Act passed in 1993.

I think that the test needs to be more comprehensive, as I am deeply concerned that the MCAS has caused public school districts and teachers are just focused on "teaching to the test."

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Public records

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

Democrat

I believe that the Legislature should be more accountable to the state's public records law, and would support changes to open up meetings such as conference committees, making the votes on bills in committes public, and providing public access to legislative correspondence and electronic communications.

As the leader in the fight to make government more transparent, including fighting for the strongest ethics reform legislation during this session, making refundable tax credits to companies public, and putting the state's budget online, I will continue to make state government, including the Massachusetts Legislature, more accountable and transparent to the general public.

Republican

No. The state Legislature should have to function under the same rules that it requires municipalities to function under. I am convinced that it will improve the Legislature's performance and accountability.

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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 have been an independent Democrat since I was first elected to the Massachusetts Legislature as the state's first Clean Elections candidate elected in Massachusetts history, and showed my independence by casting my first vote as a legislator against Thomas Finneran as Speaker of the House.

As a senator, I opposed the casino bill because I believe that expanding gambling in Massachusetts would hurt small businesses, hurt communities, and increase crime and social problems throughout the state.

Republican

I'm not a student of the votes of the Republican Party "leadership" on Beacon Hill ... since there are so few Republicans on Beacon Hill!

If I had to guess ... they probably would not have been wild about me endorsing Sen. Eldridge (D-Acton) two years ago (explained in the "Why Are You Running for Office" response).

I also supported the imposition of the "telephone pole" tax, since it was a matter of equity and long overdue.

Finally, I supported giving towns the choice to accept or reject the ability to increase their local meals and hotel taxes. I concluded it was better that towns have the authority to exercise the choice as opposed to leaving it up to a State House dominated by one political party.

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Endorsements

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

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Legislative audit

Should the Legislature be subject to a full audit?

Democrat

Yes, including making public how the House of Representatives and the Senate use their legislative accounts. This is extremely important to help restore the public's faith in its government.

Republican

Yes. It is long overdue. The sooner the better.

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Formal sessions

Is the Legislature holding enough full formal sessions?

Democrat

No, I think that the Senate needs to have more formal sessions so that we can pass legislation such as the paid sick leave bill, fair taxation to better fund public education, universal health care, safer alternatives bill, establishing innovative programs to reduce poverty and help the poor have a better quality of life, and expanding civil rights for the LBGT community.

Republican

No. It is shameful that they left Beacon Hill for several months while the state approaches a fiscal year that will be the most challenging in decades.

They "kicked the can" down the road in order to put their political campaigns before the best interests of the state.

People and businesses are suffering. They should be working at finding practical solutions.

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Term limits

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

Democrat

Yes, I believe that both positions should have a term limit of 10 years, in order to reduce the concentration of power in the legislative leadership.

Republican

Yes. I would extend them to the leadership of committees as well.

I believe that the best legislator is a citizen legislator. I have pledged not to serve more than 8 years in the state Senate if I am elected.

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Responses gathered through e.thePeople