THE ISSUES

Transportation

Years of apathy and empty promises from our current legislators and governor have led us into a full-blown transportation crisis.  From employment to education to healthcare and almost every need we have, we are dependent on our state’s infrastructure for reliable transportation. Furthermore, with global climate change looming on the horizon, we can no longer delay the transition we all know we need away from our current highway centric and fossil fuel dependent system to a more sustainable option. As we navigate the road to economic recovery after the COVID-19 crisis, public transit will be vital. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on public transit, we gain four back in economic growth. In these times, we can no longer afford to ignore the right to mobility through affordable, accessible, and sustainable public transportation for everyone.

Priorities:

  • Fully fund and expand the MBTA and other current public transportation options
  • Pass a Massachusetts Green New Deal to help transfer away from our current fossil fuel-dependent system
  • Establish transportation as a right by increasing the funding of our public transportation and transitioning to a fare-free system
  • Build the East-West Rail Line which would spur economic growth in Western Massachusetts, while also easing traffic and housing problems in and around Boston

Housing

As someone who has experienced homelessness, I know that housing is a right. The lack of affordable housing is a crisis in this state. Massachusetts has a lot to offer, but that does little if people can’t afford to live here. It has led to expanding economic inequality, increased homelessness, and damage to our economy, as talented workers often leave the state for less expensive regions. More importantly, it means our children can’t afford to build a life here with their families. This is a complex problem that needs to be addressed from many different angles, but here are a few of the reforms I would like to see implemented

Priorities:

  • Address homelessness in our state, by adopting a housing-first model that provides permanent housing and support services for people experiencing homelessness
  • Stabilize rent increases in our state by enacting a statewide percentage increase cap, similar to that of California or Oregon
  • Introduce a comprehensive Tenants’ Bill of Rights, which would include the right to organize, the right to counsel, and protection from unjust fees and evictions to name a few among others
  • End the decades of restrictive zoning practices in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods around our state, and fight for new zoning rules that encourage the development of projects like the construction of mixed-income or multi-family housing 
  • Ensure that all development projects are built by local, union labor that protects wages and ensures the highest safety standards

Healthcare

In these times, we see how important access to equitable healthcare really is. As someone who lives with a chronic and rare genetic disorder, I’ve experienced how life can be derailed by crushing medical debt. I’ve seen first hand how often our current medical system fails those who need it the most.  Amidst the current global pandemic, now more than ever we need a state that treats healthcare as a right and guarantees good affordable care for every resident regardless of socio-economic status.

Priorities:

  • Fight to establish Medicare for All in our Commonwealth
  • Work proactively to combat health crises by using the science-based recommendations of public health officials
  • Establish safe patient limits and regulation to ensure privately owned hospitals and healthcare providers prioritize the wellbeing of patients and frontline healthcare workers over cutting costs
  • Publicly fund and stop closing down essential services. We must ensure all communities have access to healthcare

Transparency

Currently an undemocratic, centralized, unaccountable power structure on Beacon Hill makes it easier for lobbyists to target the top and undermine the system and erects  barriers to participation. A truly democratic legislative body is accessible to all voters and is transparent in its business. Despite recent reforms, a weak public records system impedes government accountability and MA is one of only two states where all three branches of state government claim to be exempt from public records requests. In order to obtain this, we need strong leaders who will stand up to implement accountability measures, paving the way for more diverse candidates, and who will be proactive in addressing the issues. As a State Representative, I will work to build a broad coalition with my colleagues, activists, and allied groups to obtain these goals.

Priorities:

  • Make the rules of the State House more transparent so voters know how their representatives are voting
  • Create an open office which is accessible to all community members, fosters relationships with the underserved and marginalized communities of the district, and actively encourages citizen participation
  • Make public all committee votes and testimonies
  • Stand for all roll call votes regardless of the bill and partisan affiliation of the member who calls for the roll call

Revenue and Economic Justice

For years, we have watched as income inequality has risen to its current, staggering levels.  When addressing state revenue my philosophy is actually quite simple, people need to pay their fair share.  Meanwhile, our tax system, on both the state and national level, has either failed to keep up or, in some cases, actually fallen further behind when it comes to dealing with the wealthy and corporations. Corporations and the ultra-wealthy benefit from public services like schools, infrastructure, and public health just as much as everyone else. Despite this, the legislature has drastically cut taxes on the wealthiest income earners and large corporations in our Commonwealth. This has led to the bottom 20% of earners now pay just under double of their annual income in state taxes than the top 1% of earners. Only 2 other states in the Nation have recently cut their taxes more than MA. This discrepancy has blasted a 4 billion dollar hole in our state budget according to reports from the Mass Budget and Policy Center.

Priorities:

  • Work to enact the Fair Share Amendment and reform our upside-down tax code so that the wealthy pay a higher share of their income than working class families
  • Stop the accumulation of economic and political power by corporations and the wealthy by restoring the taxes on wealth, C-corps, and the financial elite
  • Work to reform the regressive flat tax Massachusetts currently has which allows billionaire CEOs to pay the same rate as a service worker on a sub-minimum wage

Social and Racial Justice

For far too long, lawmakers have ignored the most effective approaches for deterring crime and have prioritized policies that lead to high convictions and harsh sentences which has led to high recidivism and deep poverty.  Our criminal justice system has focused too much on punitive action rather than real rehabilitation. From 2011 to 2016, spending on prisons grew faster than any other part of the Massachusetts budget, while funding for necessary services, such as education, languished. The average cost per year to house an inmate in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections is more than $60,000. This approach must change, and we need leaders who will prioritize true justice over harsh punitive action.

Priorities:

  • End mass incarceration and the structural racist policies which lead to it
  • Reallocate the resources that have been diverted to police budgets to more community-based resources for mental health and trauma-related incidences
  • Address the legacy of structural racism by equitably funding our public schools, implementing Medicare for All, ending the affordable housing crisis, and closing the wealth, income, and power gap between communities of color and white communities
  • Protect the rights of all Massachusetts residents regardless of race, gender, orientation, or documentation status

LGBTQ+ Rights

There have been impressive advances in LGBTQ+ rights in recent years and at the same time, we must remember how much work there is still to do in advancing those rights into policy and action. Massachusetts’ LGBTQ+ community is diverse, disproportionately young, and second in the nation when measured as a percentage of the state’s population. However, they face widespread discrimination and are at greater risk for depression, homelessness, and food insecurity. Many people in Massachusetts have a tendency to see our state as a leader on progressive policy, but it was only last year that Massachusetts finally banned the harmful practice of conversion therapy. We need to be doing more to protect the health and well-being of our LGBTQ+ youth and seniors, and to build into our policy the intersectional thinking that recognizes that affordable housing, food security, mental healthcare, and decarceration are important LGBTQ+ issues. It is disappointing that there are individuals who refuse to understand that LGBTQ+ rights are basic human rights.

Priorities:

  • Ensure access to full health care for all genders and orientations.
  • Guarantee the rights of all members of the LGBTQ+ community to exist in public places free from discrimination.
  • Provide social services with a more intersectional emphasis
  • Increase LGBTQ+ representation at all levels of government and policy making

Public Education

Public education is an investment into the future of our Commonwealth and to be able to compete in the global marketplace of innovation and industry. As a mother, improving the education system is a top priority for me. Every child deserves a high-quality education regardless of race or socioeconomic status and yet our school system remains one of the most unequal in the country. Aggravating this disparity, districts are routinely given directives from the state, such as teacher-to-student ratios for special education classes and computer-only MCAS testing, but not the resources to implement these changes.  While the Student Opportunity Act passed this last year was a good start to solving this problem, that is all it is.  Despite the promise of increased funding, many school districts will still receive “minimum-aid-only”, which means they will have below inflation budget increases for the coming years. I firmly believe that we need to make sure that all our state’s towns and districts are at the very least maintaining their current quality of education, and not be put in a position where they are forced to either cut municipal services or raise local tax burdens to fill this funding gap.  Additionally, Massachusetts has been disinvesting from higher education and shifting the cost burden onto students for decades.  This has led to higher tuition costs, putting students at risk of long-term debt or making higher education out of reach for them entirely.

Priorities:

  • Ensure all education mandates are accompanied by the necessary funding to enact them
  • Increase funding to support small class sizes and fully fund programs for special education and English Language Learners
  • Place a moratorium on high stakes testing and transition to more effective and comprehensive means to asses are students and school districts
  • Guarantee universal access to high-quality Pre-K education
  • Ensure all students of public universities graduate debt-free

The Climate Crisis

Nothing is more important than the air we breathe and the water we drink. Every year more than 100,000 people die from illnesses attributed to air pollution. Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, addressing this issue has become all the more urgent. Recently, a study showed that even a slight increase in air pollution could increase a country’s mortality rate by 15%. A report released last year by the American Lung Association showed that air quality has become worse in the Commonwealth over the past three years due to power plant emissions and rising temperatures from climate change. Also last year, the Environmental Working Group noticed many chemicals in our water supply in levels now known to be harmful even within legal limits. We know the law and regulations have not caught up to science and it’s time we make this a priority.

Priorities:

  • Pass a Massachusetts Green New Deal which prioritizes transitioning the state away from fossil fuels by 2030
  • Increase funding for the MBTA and other public transportation to ensure affordable and sustainable mobility for Massachusetts residents
  • Promote environmental justice policies and work with communities to ensure that everyone has a say in the environmental impact decisions that will affect them
  • Update state environmental regulations with current scientific knowledge

The Opioid Epidemic

There is an addiction epidemic ravaging our Commonwealth because of the wide availability of deadly and highly addictive opioids. We know that criminalization and incarceration is not working in battling this crisis and is only starving programs that do work for funds as the cost of incarceration rises with the population of addicts in our prisons. If we are to take anything away from the drug policies of the past, including the “War on Drugs” and tough on crime stance Democrats took in the 90s when passing substance abuse laws, it is that these methods have failed and we need a new approach.

Priorities:

  • Enact legislation to treat addiction as a mental health disorder and prioritize treatment over incarceration.
  • Invest in medical treatment, counseling, and community based initiatives
  • Educate doctors and patients on the dangers of opioid use and prioritize alternative therapies for pain remediation.

Nichole is known as the person to go to in order to get things done, and that’s what she’s going to Beacon Hill to do!