Priorities

COVID-19: Platform

The spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is not only challenging us physically and emotionally, it’s exposing significant holes in the federal social safety net  policies designed to protect people. For workers at companies like Apple and Google, companies are implementing work from home policies to avoid the spread of the highly communicable disease. But what about workers and small business owners who can’t afford to do that? 

What happens to them and to us as they continue to work? 

That’s why I’m introducing my COVID-19 Platform to close the gaps in worker protection policies.  We need Medicare For All; Paid Sick Leave, Paid Family Medical Leave, and Fair Drug Prices. In addition, we need to protect people from price gouging and making sure people are covered by unemployment benefits when their work is shut down or they are laid off due to the economic impacts of this virus.  The passage and implementation of these proposals must happen swiftly and stay in place so that we can prevent the downsides of a pandemic like this in the future. 

 

Medicare for All

People without insurance or with high deductibles are not likely to get tested and they will likely go without care if they contract the virus.  This is not acceptable. It is not good for them and it puts all of us at risk.  

Healthcare is a human right. It is time for the United States to join the rest of the developed world and guarantee healthcare to every American. Right now, Americans pay more for healthcare than people in any other country, yet we see worse health outcomes. People go bankrupt because they get cancer. Others stay at jobs they would otherwise leave because they are afraid to lose their employer-based health care.

As a nation, we must demand a health care system that serves all of us, regardless of the job we have or the income that we make.  

Paid Sick Leave

One in 4 U.S. workers have no paid sick leave. According to the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of low-wage workers do not receive paid sick days. 

For many workers, this forces them to either clock in (risking the health of customers and co-workers), or lose their paycheck (and possibly their positions).

The United States is the only developed country without mandatory paid sick leave.

Telling people to stay home when they are sick is easy to say, but when it doesn’t pay the rent, put food on the table or take care of the kids.  When people face that choice – with no paid leave, they often have no choice but to go to work. Again, this puts workers at risk and then all of their coworkers and the people they love and live with. 

Having the ability to stay home and recover when you are sick contributes to better health, and economic productivity.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

I helped write the first FMLA in the country back in 1986, delivering economic justice to thousands of working families here in Maine.

That policy provides safety and job security for working people. But, it was just the first step, not the final destination as it must be paid leave in order for all people to access its benefits.. In three decades, we have still not moved on to paid leave and families are suffering for it. 

25 percent of mothers in the U.S. return to work just 10 days after giving birth. 17 percent of Americans spend more than twenty hours caring for sick relatives. In the richest country in the world, It is unconscionable that families in this country are still buried in debt and losing their jobs just to care for their loved ones.  At this time when we are going to need people to care for one another as our health systems are overburdened with this pandemic – the need for paid leave could not be clearer. 

We need to guarantee at least twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave. This would allow all workers to take paid time off after a new birth or to care for a sick loved one. 

 

Stopping Price Gouging 

Since 2019, more than 3,400 drugs have increased their prices, with the average price increase reaching 10.5 percent (five times the rate of inflation). 

Currently, there is no regulation preventing pharmaceutical companies from arbitrarily increasing their prescription drug prices. We see how the costs go up when there is great demand or a particular drug is desperately needed.  They’ve been getting away with this for years, and it is time to take a stand.

We must require drug companies to report increases in drug prices, and financially penalize drug companies that engage in unjustified price increases. We must also allow drug negotiations in Medicare and drug imports from other countries, which would lower the prices for Americans while discouraging abusive price gouging of drugs.

Green New Deal

It’s time for fearless leadership on climate action. The world is literally and figuratively on fire, and it is not okay to bring a watering can to the edges of this crisis and call it a solution. The world needs a Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal will be America’s biggest and most transformative initiative since our national mobilization for World War II. It calls for a fundamental restructuring of our nation’s priorities.

Fearless leadership on climate change includes:

  • Enacting a 10-year plan that leads to the United States operating on 100% clean and renewable energy
  • Ending the $20 billion American taxpayers give to the fossil fuel industry annually
  • Providing training for fossil fuel-industry workers to transition to a clean-energy economy
  • Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement
  • Investing in our roads, bridges and transportation infrastructures and planning those improvements in a way that encourages people to bike, walk, drive electric, or use public transportation
  • Supporting a system of public transportation that reinvests in an infrastructure that is safe, affordable and green
  • Promoting electric cars by ensuring charging stations, converting state government fleets and public transportation over time to all electric, initiating tax rebates for electric car purchases.
  • Adopting regenerative farming practices – no till agriculture, rotating cover crops and herd management. This could be accomplished in 2-3 years and would put carbon back in the soil where it belongs, help us build resiliency to extreme weather events and is one of the quickest solutions to the climate crisis.  

The science is clear: we have less than a decade to save our communities from further catastrophic climate disasters. In Maine, this crisis is happening in real time, affecting not only the backbone of our economy, but our collective connection to the earth. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99.9% of the world’s oceans. Warming of the Atlantic Ocean affects our lobstering, clamming, shrimp and oyster industries, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events and rising sea levels threaten Maine’s coastal communities as well as our tourism economy.

The good news is Maine is poised to lead the way in providing tidal, solar, wind, ocean and other renewable energy production. As a nation, we can use a portion of the 20 billion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies and direct it toward research and implementation of green technologies right here in Maine, making us a leader not only in production but in training the workforce for the Green New Deal.

Medicare for All

Healthcare is a human right. It is time for the United States to join the rest of the developed world and guarantee healthcare to every American. Right now, Americans pay more for healthcare than people in any other country, yet we see worse health outcomes. People go bankrupt because they get cancer. Others stay at jobs they would otherwise leave because they are afraid to lose their employer-based health care.

As a nation, we must choose people over profit. The quality of the healthcare we receive should not be based on our income or our zip code. We have to choose healthcare over keeping people in cycles of illness for profit.

Medicare for All means we:

  • Guarantee quality healthcare to every American
  • Reorganize our healthcare system to provide coverage for mental health care, dental care, eye care and hearing aids.
  • Pay caregivers in and outside of the home a living wage
  • Lower the cost of prescription drugs by requiring price negotiation

To be clear: Medicare for All means comprehensive healthcare for everyone. Any other alternative will not remedy our broken healthcare system. The scare tactics of the  medical, pharmaceutical and insurance industries have no place in American healthcare. “Medicare for those who want it” allows insurance companies to continue putting profits over people, and it will only lead to more complex payment structures and retaining the expensive bureaucracy and burdensome administrative paperwork  of for-profit systems.

Education

Education is a fundamental right a critical building block of our future. We need universal pre-k and debt-free higher education in this country and a K-12 education system that reflects the needs of communities and employers, not the needs of standardized tests. Right now, we spend more on fossil fuel subsidies than we do on public education. This needs to change.

In Maine, just like in the rest of the country, children in wealthier areas have access to better teachers, textbooks and facilities than do children in working-class communities. That is fundamentally unfair. The quality of a person’s education should not depend on their zip code or their family’s income.

Secondary education is a necessity in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven economy. However, we do a disservice to American students by saddling them with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars of debt just to go to college.

Investing in education means:

  • Universal pre-k and affordable childcare
  • Debt-free higher education, including vocational schooling
  • Paying teachers a livable wage
  • Changing the fundamental structure of our education loan system — no one should be making money off lending students money to go to college
  • Reducing standardized testing to allow teachers to teach and students to learn
  • Strengthening two-year and community colleges as well as technical trade schools

Money Out of Politics & Democracy Reform

The reality of our current political system is that we’re holding auctions, not elections, with our representation going to the highest bidder. Special interests and corporations enjoy a monopoly on influence and power in Washington, D.C. This must change. It is time to take back our government so that it is one of, by and for the people. Powerful and entrenched special interests are deeply opposed to this fundamental change, but Betsy believes we will win this fight because Americans know that their right to vote and be counted is the foundation of our democracy.

End the corrupting influence of money in politics
Getting money out of politics is the first and most ambitious step to reclaim our electoral system. We must end Citizens United. Betsy has also proposed enacting a small-dollar based clean elections system on the federal level. It is also time to implement a to a 12-week campaign cycle.

In 1996, Betsy helped author and pass the Clean Elections Act in Maine, and, in her 2018 bid for governor of Maine, she was the only Democratic candidate to run a Clean Elections campaign.

In order to ensure a more fair electoral process, in addition to the actions above, we must:

  • Require Dark Money organizations to disclose their donors
  • Upgrade online political spending transparency rules
  • Create a public financing system for federal elections that focuses on small-dollar funding
  • Strengthen oversight rules to ensure those who break our campaign finance laws are held accountable
  • Overhaul the Federal Election Commission to enforce existing campaign finance law
  • Prohibit the use of shell companies to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections
  • Require government contractors to disclose their political spending

Protecting and expanding voting rights
In democracies, voting is a fundamental right. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, voter intimidation and reducing the number of voting locations are blatant attacks on every citizen’s right to vote.

Our work to protect and expand voting rights means:

  • Implementing automatic voter registration, online voter registration and same-day voter registration
  • Making Election Day a federal holiday
  • Ensuring proper election security
  • Expanding early voting and simplifying absentee voting
  • Prohibiting voter purges that kick eligible voters off the registration rolls
  • Restoring voting rights on the federal level to people with prior felony convictions
  • Enhancing election security with increased support for a paper-based voting system and more oversight of election vendors
  • Ending partisan gerrymandering by establishing independent redistricting commissions

Human Rights

Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Too many Americans and too many Mainers are treated as second-class citizens. People with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, asylum seekers, new Americans, Indigenous peoples whose ancestral lands we occupy, and many more know too well the sting of unfair systems and laws, as well as personal aggressions from those with greater privilege. We must actively fight bigotry, racism, sexism and other types of discrimination. We must advocate for freedom from religious persecution. And our laws and treaties must ensure that Indigenous people are treated as sovereign nations with all the rights accorded to nation states.

Here’s how we strengthen our resolve to be a compassionate nation:

  • Fight for the Equality Act, which ensures that federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • End the ban on transgender service members in the military
  • End family separation at our borders
  • Fight for comprehensive immigration reform to ensure humane, fair and respectful policies towards immigrants’ rights.
  • End private detention facilities
  • Fight for a humane asylum process
  • Expand protections for DREAMers
  • Fight for a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States
  • Break down barriers to accessing employment, transportation, housing and health care with the Disability Integration Act
  • End sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.
  • Fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Protect Tribal Sovereignty
  • Pursue reparations for Indigenous people and African Americans
  • Honor Tribal Land and water rights

Women’s rights
As a nation we are poised once again to take up the fight for a woman’s right to choose. With conservative judges who have publicly stated they want to overturn Roe v. Wade, we must work to protect this right and to include comprehensive reproductive care in Medicare for All.

As a pioneer for women’s rights in Maine for the last three decades, Betsy has worked on every pro-choice piece of legislation that has been considered (and fought against any efforts to restrict that right).

We must:

  • Put the Equal Rights Amendment in our Constitution
  • Fight for safe and affordable abortion, birth control and family planning services as part of Medicare for All
  • Fight for affordable, high-quality pre- and post-natal care for all people, regardless of race, sexual orientation, income, zip code, or education
  • Close the gender pay gap by fighting for equal pay for equal work
  • Enact paid family medical leave
  • Ensure that women can lead safe and secure lives, free from the threat of violence
  • Fund the Violence Against Women Act including providing for Tribal Jurisdiction

Expand & Protect Social Security

Workers earn their Social Security benefits with every paycheck. Betsy will work to protect and expand these vital benefits.

For decades, corporate politicians have tried to cut, undermine, and dismantle Social Security under the guise of “saving” it. Social Security doesn’t need saving. It is the most successful program in our nation’s history. If we simply require the wealthiest among us to contribute their fair share, we can easily afford to protect and expand benefits.

We don’t have a Social Security crisis, but we do have a retirement income crisis. Due to decades of wage stagnation, working Americans haven’t been able to save for retirement. 61% of Seniors today rely on Social Security for more than 50% of their income and ⅓ of Seniors rely on Social Security for 90% of their income. Social Security is vital to the financial stability of millions of Americans.

We can make common-sense changes to Social Security to ensure it is operating at 100% for future generations. Due to a cap on taxable income, millionaires and billionaires pay the same amount into Social Security as someone who makes $127,000. If we’re going to fight for working Americans and put us on the right track, lifting this cap is a no brainer, and is a crucial step to keeping Social Security solvent until 2070.

Now is the time to increase Social Security’s modest benefits, as a solution to both the looming retirement income crisis and rising income and wealth inequality.

Common-sense Gun Laws

Common sense gun legislation has broad support across this country as well as in Maine, but our elected officials have continued to fail our children and our communities by hiding behind an old, false, gun lobby narrative that Americans—and Mainers—are not ready for laws that would save lives in their communities. In the meantime, 100 people are killed by guns every day in this country.

That is unacceptable.

The truth is that life-saving measures such as background checks, Red Flag Bills, safe storage and assault weapons bans have the overwhelming support of Americans and Mainers. And it’s time our elected officials stop playing politics and start leading on this issue.

As U.S. Senator from Maine, I will support measures that reduce gun deaths while honoring the 2nd Amendment and the hunting traditions that are important to many in our state. As many gun owners will tell you, the two are not mutually exclusive. And Mainers deserve elected officials who will tell them the truth about these life-saving measures, rather than repeating false talking points.

As your United States Senator I will:

  • Support a ban on the sale of assault weapons, bump stocks, and high-capacity ammunition clips
  • Support a federal Extreme Risk Protection Order, or Red Flag Bill
  • Support universal background checks for all gun sales, closing the loopholes
  • Support safe storage bills to ensure that children do not have access to loaded weapons
  • Increase access to mental health care and fight for anti-bullying reforms
  • Work with people across the country and across the political spectrum to find ways to protect our school children, police officers and fellow citizens while also respecting beloved rural traditions of hunting and target shooting

Let’s focus on the values we share, the foremost of which is keeping our children and families safe, to find common-sense solutions while maintaining time-honored traditions that many Maine families hold dear.

Legalize & Decriminalize Marijuana

Eleven statesincluding Mainehave legalized the recreational use of cannabis, and thirty-six states have legalized the substance for medical use. Yet, the damage caused by the criminalization of marijuana remains a national problem. Thousands of Americans are incarcerated due to minor, non-violent marijuana-related charges, and many more are suffering because they have lifelong criminal records with marijuana-related offenses. In order to create a fair future for all Americans, we need to eradicate the institutionalized oppression created by the War on Marijuana. The criminalization of recreational marijuana use disproportionately affects people of color and low-income individuals. 

In addition to the oppressive nature of marijuana criminalization, the issue of broader access to the lucrative marijuana industry must also be addressed and brought to the forefront. I believe marijuana legalization is necessary to end disproportionate minority contact with the justice system. It is also imperative that the legalization process ensures that the marijuana industry is accessible to small growers as well as the people and communities historically hurt by marijuana’s criminalization.

Here is how we repair the injustices caused by the criminalization of marijuana: 

  • Permanently legalize marijuana in all 50 states and declassify marijuana as a controlled substance
  • Vacate and expunge all eligible past marijuana-related convictions 
  • Review and re-sentence all current marijuana convictions
  • Ensure that the people and communities most affected by the criminalization of marijuana are not shut out of the booming and lucrative marijuana industry
  • Prevent marijuana from becoming Big Tobacco by banning tobacco companies from participating in the marijuana industry, supporting small growers, and prohibiting harmful advertising practices
  • Create start-up funding for those reentering society, who were previously convicted of nonviolent marijuana charges, who want to invest in the marijuana industry

It is possible to eliminate future damage to so many people and communities that the War on Marijuana caused. The state of Maine has positioned itself to lead the way in progressive criminal justice reform and legalizing marijuana for all.

Foreign Policy

It is time to reexamine our foreign policy and redefine national security.  National security today lies more in dealing with cyber warfare and working through diplomacy and negotiation than through threats and regime changes.  We must apply our shared values of freedom and dignity to our foreign policy. We must prioritize diplomacy over war. Congress must reassert its rightful role in foreign policy, and demand that the Executive Branch consult and get consent before entering into armed conflict.  And, we must stop intervening in other nations’ affairs in order to protect our access to natural resources.  

The United States needs a foreign policy strategy that relies on peace and cooperation, instead of imperialism and force. We must prioritize funding the Department of State over continuing to feed defense contractors by investing in huge weapons systems that will not protect us from 21st-century threats.  We must adequately fund support for our servicemen and women and expand the idea of national service to purposes other than just the military. Much of the nearly $1 trillion per year that we currently spend on military intervention and weapons must be spent securing peace and investing in the future of the American people. 

Taking a progressive stance on foreign policy means we must: 

  • End endless wars
  • Fully fund and staff the US State Department
  • Prioritize a diplomacy-first stance on solving international conflict, with a balanced approach to intervention
  • Hold ALL nations accountable for human rights violations
  • Ensure that Congress asserts its responsibility to provide constitutional oversight over the executive branch on matters of war and peace by repealing the AUMF and asserting the War Powers Act
  • Focus on rebuilding trust by partnering with our allies and the United Nations
  • Create a comprehensive national cybersecurity protection plan that will safeguard national, state and municipal systems
  • Enhance cybersecurity capabilities to protect our nation’s critical assets, including our election infrastructure
  • Immediately end funding to the Saudi war with Yemen which has cost the lives of tens of thousands of children and caused the largest cholera outbreak in history

By rethinking and redefining our approach to foreign policy, we can redirect money spent on harmful, aggressive interventionism and outdated weapons systems and funnel it into ensuring a more equitable future for the American people. 

Police Reform & Racial Justice

Criminal justice reform is the civil rights issue of our time. Black people are under siege all across this nation, not only by police departments, but also by centuries-long legal precedents and policies in our system that criminalize blackness itself. We know that African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested, and almost four times as likely to experience physical force in an encounter with the police. If we are to work toward creating justice for all people, we must begin by dismantling these racist institutions of power. We have no other choice.

We need change, and we need it now. As author and historian Ibram X. Kendi tells us, it’s not enough to simply not be racist—we must become anti-racist. We must actively push back against racial bigotry in our interactions, in our language, and in our legislation. That is why we are in this U.S. Senate race; to help deliver justice at the highest level for all those Americans who have not just been left out—but intentionally kept out—of the system.

It is time to redirect funding for police and criminal punishment into community-based initiatives and restorative justice practices. This includes counselors, trauma services, anti-violence programs, and community building. By replacing police officers in schools with restorative justice counselors and social workers, we can end the school-to-prison pipeline. By taking steps such as decriminalizing poverty and homelessness, we can work towards a more just society. 

As Senator I will:

  • Implement a federal standard that reserves the use of force as a last resort, after exhausting all other options and de-escalation skills; eliminate the use of force an option for punitive and retaliation measures; require the duty to intervene; mandate that all officers extensively and honestly report all uses of force. 
  • Prohibit all maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, including neck holds, chokeholds, and similar excessive force, deeming the use of such force a federal civil rights violation. Give the Department of Justice meaningful authority to investigate police department patterns of racism and excessive force.
  • Prohibit racial profiling, and require robust data collection on police-community encounters and law enforcement activities. 
  • Eliminate federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement.
  • End the qualified immunity doctrine which prevents police from being held legally accountable when they break the law. 
  • Develop a national public database that would compile the names of officers who have had their licenses suspended due to misconduct; as well as terminations and complaints against the officers. 
  • Provide for federal investigation of minority homicides by police.
  • Ban “for profit” prisons.
  • Abolish youth incarceration.
  • Release those incarcerated for non-violent marijuana crimes, expunge their records.
  • End the school to prison pipeline by replacing SRO with additional counselors, social workers and teachers.
  • Invest in education, mental health and substance abuse services and prevention with the money divested from militaristic police practices and equipment.
  • Requirement that all laws considered have a “racial impact” analysis.

I will partner with POC led community organizations to push forward the positive change that is needed to ensure safety for all in this country. Black lives matter, and as candidates, politicians, leaders, and community members we must confront and abolish racist policy and racist institutions of power.