Issues

Many of my policy positions stem from two foundational ideas that have guided my career: everyone’s basic needs should be met, and people’s voices should be heard on the issues that touch their lives. 

If I can accomplish one thing on Beacon Hill in the coming years it will be to insist that small towns, local leaders, small businesses, workers, students, people of color, teachers, nurses, farmers, and all others have a voice when policymakers are debating public policy and setting a direction for the Commonwealth. For too long those with significant financial resources have leveraged and controlled too much of the agenda in the corridors of power and that must change.

I’m already talking to local leaders, knocking on doors, visiting local businesses, and attending community events to hear what’s on people’s minds in Holliston, Hopkinton, Millis, and Sherborn. My constituents can count on me to address close-to-home issues like addressing unfunded state mandates, meeting the needs of our seniors, and making sure small towns have a voice when decisions are made at the state level. I look forward to partnering with local leaders to learn about specific projects they deem important to their towns and help secure funding. 

I’ll also work with fellow Democratic legislators to address issues of concern across the Commonwealth and the country like climate change, economic justice, reproductive freedom, racial justice, and voter suppression.  

Below is a sampling of my position on issues I’m especially passionate about and that matter to my constituents. If you’d like to know where I stand on something not covered here, please feel free to email me at james@jamesforstaterep.com. 

Issues Affecting the 8th Middlesex District 

Here are just a few specific issues that are relevant to our towns that I am committed to working on with our communities and local officials:

Local Aid/Aid to Education

Quality education is a strength of our towns, but state aid to education has remained relatively flat while costs are increasing. The same is true for general local aid. While the State Legislature is debating general tax relief, I would rather see that funding given to communities to address the priorities they deem most urgent. I know from my days on the Holliston Finance Committee the care that goes into managing town budgets and would like to see more state resources entrusted to responsible people at the municipal level.

PFAS Mitigation

PFAS (or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) pose a real threat to public health. To the state’s credit, we now have some of the strictest PFAS regulations in the nation. However, the new regulation and enforcement have been enacted with too little regard for their impact on communities and on a very tight timeline. Some residents in smaller towns, including Hopkinton and Millis, could face hundreds if not thousands of dollars in surcharges. We should fund the PFAS Remediation Fund recommended by the PFAS Task Force to help impacted municipalities and homeowners. 

Chapter 90

Chapter 90 was intended to help all communities in the Commonwealth maintain roads. But now that our small farming and local manufacturing towns have become bedroom communities and commuter pathways, the outdated Chapter 90 formula does not take into account high volume traffic that results in considerable wear and tear on local infrastructure. Overall funding needs to be increased and the formula should be reviewed to adjust for traffic volume and road use, which would benefit every town in our district.

Challenge Slow Movement on Local Energy Projects

As small towns look for ways to improve their bottom line and be supportive of the environment by doing things like contributing energy to the public grid, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and utilities companies seem to be slow walking important projects. It is not acceptable to use a 20th-century approach of centralized control and delivery to address 21st-century challenges. Every year of delay in implementing local energy initiatives is costing Holliston alone almost $400,000 a year. We need to modernize decision-making and accountability processes.

Support for Seniors

The 8th Middlesex has some of the highest percentages of senior citizens in the state and the demographic is growing, but the tax burden is making it difficult for many to stay in their homes. As inflationary pressures continue to mount, the state needs to adjust the per capita formula for state assistance to seniors, double the circuit breaker refundable tax credit for fixed income seniors, and consider funding new construction for affordable housing earmarked for seniors and senior centers/multi-purpose centers.

Constituent Services and Full Time Representation

Our towns will miss the wonderful leadership provided by Representatives Carolyn Dykema and David Linsky. Both have emphasized to me the importance of providing local constituent services. Often a State Representative is the one person in government that a citizen can turn to for assistance. I pledge to serve in this role full time, make myself available for regular office house in each community, and maintain a rigorous constituent service program that will be responsive to individual consistent needs and help them navigate government bureaucracy as needed.

Statewide and Beyond

I believe that Democrats can and must better leverage our majority in the State Legislature to address critical challenges and opportunities that reverberate across our communities, Massachusetts, the U.S., and the world with implications for generations to come. 

Climate Change and Environmental Justice

Climate change is an existential crisis. We must reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 through a combination of green energy infrastructure investments and job development. At the same time, we must remember that communities of color and low income neighborhoods have been bearing the brunt of environmental degradation for a long time. I support creating an Office of Just Transition that will integrate social, racial, and environmental justice; incorporate the voices of labor; invest in green energy and job creation; and advance smart policy and enforcement of existing regulations. 

The fossil fuel industry has put forward a false narrative that clean energy hurts jobs. With the right policies in place, it can actually be a boon to job creation and the economy, especially with our unique geography and landscape. If we make the right investments, the Commonwealth has multiple opportunities in clean energy and jobs related to geo-thermal, off-shore wind, and solar. Specifically we need to fund these two programs:

Jobs With Justice: A program to retrofit a million homes to make them more clean energy efficient and help workers with the transition to a clean energy economy.

Off-Shore Wind: Massachusetts has the largest technical potential for offshore wind development in the country, a wonderful opportunity for good paying jobs and enough estimated Gigawatts to electrify Massachusetts.

Education

I believe in educating the whole child. Young minds thrive on a mix of academics, health and nutrition education, sports and physical activity, music and the arts, and social and community-oriented activities - not just being taught to take tests. Public schools should be funded accordingly.

We have an obligation to provide multiple educational pathways that serve the needs of all our families. Quality opportunities should be available to students who choose to pursue technical education, especially at a time when a whole generation of skilled workers is retiring and new workers will be needed to work in our communities in the years ahead. I would like to see us manage the funding of special needs as a state rather than at the municipal level, where they can overwhelm local budgets. 

Workers’ Rights

I am pro-worker and pro-union. I began learning about and fighting for workers’ rights just out of college, when I was trained in community organizing by the farm workers. I also organized and led contract negotiations as a member of SEIU. With young people’s economic security threatened by student debt, rising housing costs, significant shifts in the job market, and the staggering toll of the pandemic on low-income workers of color,  I’m happy to see a resurgence of unions and will do all I can to support them from Beacon Hill. 

I’ll be an advocate for workers on issues like protecting gig workers and stopping wage theft. As the economy shifts more toward service and information industries and gig jobs, we need to re-examine the difference between full-time workers and independent contractors. We can strengthen existing rules to maintain worker flexibility while protecting workers from abuses and misclassification that denies them important benefits. We also need a strong anti-wage theft law to protect workers from this billion dollar problem in Massachusetts. While most business entities are good faith actors, it is time to hold corporate entities accountable when wage theft occurs.

Housing

A troubling pattern is emerging. Seniors can’t afford to stay in the towns where they spent their whole lives, young people cannot afford to buy houses in the towns where they grew up, and many of the people working in small towns, especially young employees, cannot afford to live in the towns they serve. The entire Commonwealth has a severe shortage of affordable housing and we need multiple approaches that include investing in more affordable units, rethinking zoning, and incentivizing affordable construction.

 

Small towns want to contribute to the solution, but they need a voice at the table on Beacon Hill to ensure that new regulations take into account town size, infrastructure, and availability and access to town water and sewer systems. 

Healthcare​​

Covid-19 drew stark attention to the urgent need to address staffing shortages in health care. The burnout rate for nurses and health care workers is worse than ever, depleting one of the most important assets we have in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth needs to establish safe and appropriate staffing levels, and any review needs to include all parties, including front line nurses. We also need to improve workplace violence prevention to protect nurses and healthcare staff.

 

In general, I believe in a health care system that focuses on wellness and prevention. Systemic inequities that lead to differential health outcomes costs society billions of dollars in long term health care costs related to obesity, diabetes, and heart issues.

Reproductive Freedom

I am pro-choice and a staunch defender of women's reproductive freedom. With the Supreme Court gutting Roe v Wade, red states are going to make it increasingly difficult or impossible for women to have access to abortion. I support the work of the Beyond Roe coalition and efforts to make the right to an abortion unassailable in Massachusetts. We can learn from states like Connecticut that are trying to support the rights of women across the U.S. 

Thriving Families 

We need to embrace a pro-family agenda that supports paid parental leave, increased programming for child nutrition, equitable access to maternal/neonatal health care, access to family planning information, and the Healthy Start daycare initiative. I also support free universal lunch and breakfast that will help every student in the system.

LGBTQ+ Rights

The strike down of Roe v Wade is just the first of many threats to personal freedom from this Supreme Court. Hard won rights are under attack. We should review any of the national laws passed protecting LGBTQ+ rights and codify them into Massachusetts state law. Who to love and how to self-identify are among the most personal human experiences, and the government should not be dictating to people how to live their personal lives.

Racial and Social Justice

We can’t truly thrive as a society until we deliver on the promise of liberty and justice for all. We must address inequity in our state, where there is documented discrimination against people of color in many dimensions of life such as bank loans, health care access, and employment. I will encourage state programs to follow the example of the Racial Equity Data Road Map that the Department of Public Health is pioneering on health inequities and barriers. This process will collect data and inform programming that can help us address the root causes of inequities still present in our society.

Voting Rights

Even though much of Massachusetts reliably votes blue, we can’t take voting rights for granted. I am supportive of the changes under discussion such as mail in voting, that would make it easier for any eligible voter to participate. 

Policing & Criminal Justice

As someone who cares deeply about police reform, I support the important training initiatives underway. Police officers must be respectful and treat everyone equitably in the discharge of their duties. However, once again unfunded mandates and onerous timelines are hurting small towns. The new rules did not take into account the value of auxiliary police to small town police forces and the new training timelines are too tight for small towns to manage. We can and must make progress on police reform, but we have to pace differently for different size communities.

 

We also need to focus more on restorative justice and should look back at and expunge records for any minor possession crimes of substances  now legal. The so-called “war on drugs” didn’t accomplish much and incarcerated a generation of young men and color, most for very minor possessions. 

Common Sense Gun Control 

Massachusetts has strong gun laws in place, but it is time to ban the manufacturing of assault weapons in our state except for use by the military and law enforcement and consider greater liability for gun manufacturers in state court.

Economic Recovery & Development

We need to help small businesses recover from the pandemic. In the early rounds of Covid-19 mitigation funding, reports indicated a wide disparity in the amount of funding business received, and then the program ran out of money. Any small businesses who met the guidelines but did not receive a fair amount of support during the pandemic should have access to some of the new American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.  

Strategic Investments and Support for Business

Massachusetts has been a leader in business and manufacturing, but at times we have neglected to nurture and support nascent industries. We need to do all we can to enhance our role in technology, and bolster our leadership in Life Sciences and potential lead in Clean Energy Development. The Commonwealth should continue to partner with these industries, explore where we can offer incentives and tax credits to those companies willing to partner with Massachusetts and invest for the long term.

Tax Policy 

I support the Fair Share amendment to ensure that Massachusetts doesn’t leave anyone behind. With the rising value of real estate, we should adjust the estate tax exemption upwards so we don't hurt families whose major (and sometimes only) investment is their home. This is not the time to reduce corporate taxes, but I do support targeting tax credits and incentives for important strategic investment and collaboration with the business community in areas such as clean energy, local sourcing, technology, and life sciences. 

Veterans Services

We should always honor those who served in the military and provide them the support and care they need when they return home. I will always be there to help individual veterans or groups meet their needs and be a partner to Veterans’ Services and be supportive of their health care and any adjustment/mental health needs. 

Immigration

As the grandson of immigrants whose family experienced exclusion, I have no patience for hostility and discrimination aimed at immigrants and new Americans. We need a thoughtful approach to immigration policy, but xenophobia is not the answer. Each wave of immigrants has contributed to the country’s growth and I will work to make sure that opportunities for education, housing, health care and employment are open to all.

Transparency

Democracy thrives in the light of day. We are home to New England town meeting, and in small towns almost every aspect of local government is accessible to the public. During my career I have endeavored to work with everyone, from leadership to those in the other party. I plan to stay true to my ideals but hope to be a bridge builder in the years ahead. Our legislature ranks last in the country (along with states like Alabama and Kentucky) for openness, and the Governor's office is not subject to state records law.  For us to move forward, Massachusetts must have a legislature and Governor's office that are more transparent.