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Deb Busser, Challenger For 1st Middlesex House Seat Answers Groton Herald Questions

Challenger Deb Busser

1. What do you see are the biggest needs in the district right now? What are your legislative priorities?
     The next few years on Beacon Hill will almost certainly be centered around the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent recovery. Though I expect many challenges, we are also being presented with a unique opportunity to build our district back to be better and stronger than it was before this spring. We should not lower our goals and expectations of what our elected officials can accomplish.
     What I hear most consistently across in the district is that many towns, school districts, small business owners, and families, are struggling to make ends meet. This concern began long before COVID-19 and is the result of competing budgetary priorities with too little financial support coming from the state. My biggest legislative priority for the coming year will be to help ease that financial burden. I will be aggressively pursuing every opportunity for additional state funding for our schools and our towns to avoid municipal tax increases, something that historically has not been happening for our district.
     There are also countless gaps in our healthcare system that have become more apparent through the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies have shown a recent increase in isolation, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. We must continue to strengthen mental health parity laws, which would keep the costs of mental health services down. We need to expand insurance coverage of mental health services and encourage telehealth as a covered alternative to in-person care. We cannot forget about those who are struggling with addiction, many of whom have lost access to support groups and services as a result of the pandemic. I am deeply concerned about their access to care and am committed to fighting for additional inpatient and outpatient support.
     I also continue to hear about the rising cost of prescription medication and the potential for COVID-19 treatments to be too expensive for some to afford. While I understand the need for companies to fund innovation efforts around COVID-19 treatments, for something this important, whether an individual is insured or not, they should be able to access COVID-19 treatment. The same is true for other lifesaving drugs like insulin. I am in favor of improving price transparency, enhancing state negotiating power, and cracking down on price gouging.
I am an optimist, so I am hopeful that sometime soon we will all be able to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic as something we overcame together. With that said, we also need to continue preparing for what will likely be our next global crisis: climate change. I often hear complaints about traffic and the quality of our roads, about the rising cost of energy, and about access to clean drinking water. We can begin to tackle all these issues as we respond to climate change.
     I will be advocating for funding to repair our roads, improve our public transportation system, and reduce emissions. I will be actively supporting the expansion of clean energy across Massachusetts, including increased investment in solar and wind energy,
incentives to expand vehicle electrification, and expanded regionalization of climate change policy. I will also partner with our water departments and environmental leaders to clean harmful chemicals out of our water supply sustainably and efficiently.
While the road to recovery may seem daunting, I see this moment as a tremendous opportunity to move our state forward together.
 
2. Two years from now, how will you know your term was successful?
     a. I will have fought for funding for our towns our towns are struggling under additional budget pressures caused by new COVID-19 expenses and a loss of revenue. I am concerned about how that burden could be passed on to the taxpayers in our towns. There have been multiple opportunities for state funding this year where nothing has been requested on behalf of our towns. I will request and advocate for additional state funding for our towns, our schools and our small business owners at every opportunity.
     b. I will propose legislation that is focused on the needs of our district
The next few years will be a unique opportunity to make progress on many of the priorities of our community right now. Of the legislation my opponent writes, nearly all of it is focused on the operation of the courts or judicial matters. I won’t be a single-issue Representative. I will be leading on the issues I hear most about in our community: education, the environment, healthcare, and infrastructure.
     c. I will be accountable and accessible to voters. I’ll still be Deb Busser, your neighbor in Groton, who you see at local events, and patronizing our restaurants and small businesses. After my campaign ends and my work at the State House begins, you will continue to see me at Select Board and School Committee meetings and listening to our local officials, just as I have been throughout my campaign. I will have consistent office hours where you can drop in to share your views, learn about my position on issues, or ask for support, and you will always get a prompt reply to your email or phone call.
 
3. How are you different from your opponent?
     I believe my opponent and I have a fundamentally different view about what this job entails. To me, the privilege and responsibility of representing your community deserves full-time attention. It has become clear over the past year that the challenges facing our communities are greater, and part-time representation will no longer be adequate. I see a few main components to being an effective State Representative:
     a. An effective State Representative fights for and secures additional state funding for their communities.
Groton needs critical funding from the state to help support local projects and our town budget. We have missed a number of opportunities for state funding over the past few years. To provide a recent example, the state passed a supplemental budget that appropriated $1 million to be sent to cities and towns across the state for COVID-19 recovery projects.
     My opponent did not request funding for any of the towns in the district, and as a result, we didn’t receive any supplemental support. Wealthy suburbs like Ashland ($25,000) and Wayland ($75,000) got their fair share of funding, while our towns received none. I am not naïve enough to believe that there will always be state money available for our towns, but surely if you are never asking for that funding, you will never receive it.
     b. An effective State Representative is a strong voice at the table when important votes are being taken. My opponent ranked in the top five for most votes missed last year and voted with Republican party leadership 97% of the time. I am committed to working across the aisle to support what is best for our community, whether that aligns with how others in my party are voting or not. I’ll reverse the trend of missed votes in our district and I will be on the record with my vote, so you’ll always know where I stand on the issues.
     c. An effective State Representative is proactive, visible, and responsive. Representatives across the commonwealth hold open office hours where constituents can ask questions and receive support. They show up to Select Board meetings, and School Committee meetings, and not just in election years. I will hold regular office hours, be in frequent contact with our local leaders, and be accountable only to you, the voter.
    My background allows me to understand what is possible for this role and how a State Representative can make positive change in their community. I will bring a fresh perspective and a strong, bipartisan voice to Beacon Hill to advocate for our communities.
 
4. Is there a need for additional gun control on the state or local level? If so, what would you propose?
     I come from a family with a history of responsible gun ownership. We have hunters in my family and my father had a license to carry for his work. Although I support responsible gun ownership, I believe the state needs to do its due diligence before an individual is able to obtain a firearm.
     I support Massachusetts’ robust use of background checks in the firearm licensing process and would like to see law enforcement officers empowered to remove firearms when responding to suspected domestic violence or abusive situations. This approach allows law enforcement to temporarily remove any firearms until the situation can be mediated or cools off. Eighteen states have laws that allow law enforcement to make these decisions, including New Hampshire, which has otherwise less stringent gun restrictions. This commonsense approach could prevent loss of life in cases of heightened emotions or sustained abuse.
 
5. Where do you stand on abortion rights?
     When I first announced my candidacy for State Representative last fall, access to reproductive health care was not an issue I imagined I would be talking about. Roe v. Wade has been settled law since 1973, however with the passing of Justice Ginsburg, it appears more likely that the right to choose will be under attack, yet again. I am and have always been pro-choice, and I support swift passage of the ROE Act. Respecting a women’s right to choose is not a partisan issue. Our Republican governor is pro-choice, as are hundreds of thousands of Democrats, Independents, and other Republicans.
     I think it is important to note that our current representative is not only anti-choice but has repeatedly written and supported legislation that would undermineaccesstoreproductive healthcare in our commonwealth. My opponent wrote HB3322, a piece of legislation that is based on medically inaccurate language that would create additional barriers for women in exercising their right to choose. My opponent, in her role as ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, has worked to obstruct the ROE Act from advancing out of committee for consideration by the rest of the legislature.
     The ROE Act would ensure that the precedent of Roe v. Wade is codified into law in Massachusetts. It would remove medically inaccurate terminology from our current laws and remove existing barriers to reproductive healthcare. Again, the idea of upholding Roe v. Wade has broad support. According to a study from MassInc, 80% of Massachusetts voters want to see this precedent upheld and I would support this bill when elected.
 
6. Do you support the removal of statues, other public memorials or re-naming of any public buildings or programs? If so, which ones or what kinds?
     One of the things I enjoy about living in Groton is the rich sense of history that surrounds us. While this traditionally hasn’t been an issue that is on the forefront of many voters’ minds, recent events across the country have called for us to reconsider what and who we memorialize and honor. I believe that conversations about statues and monuments are healthy for our community and should continue to occur. Residents with whom I have spoken on this topic mostly have concerns about state overreach, which can often further polarize these types of conversations. I believe the decisions over removal and renaming are best left to our towns on a case by case basis.
 
7. How does your background make you qualified to be State Representative for First Middlesex State House District?
If you had asked me a few years ago if running for elected office was on the horizon for me in 2020, I would have told you no. However, when I went in to vote in the Democratic primary in 2018 and had no one to support for this seat, I began to take a serious look at what it would take to run a successful campaign and to be an effective legislator. I have come to realize that my background and experiences make me uniquely qualified for this office in several important ways.
     Academically, I have degrees in business and community social psychology. My education provides me with a broad lens through which to view both social and economic issues. One of the cornerstones of community social psychology is to bring diverse interests together to create positive change and sustainable solutions. This orientation will enable me to work in a bipartisan fashion on Beacon Hill. My training in management and business informs my ability to analyze and understand how to best invest our tax dollars, and to determine whether we are receiving an acceptable level of Professionally, I have been a small business owner and executive coach for more than 15 years. I work with organizational leaders to improve strategic thinking, build relationships, and plan for the future. I understand the challenges facing the public, private, and non- profit sectors because I work alongside their leaders every day as they develop proactive solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow. If elected, I believe I would be the only executive coach on Beacon Hill, and I know that we need more legislators with diverse professional experiences like mine. Lawyers, for example, make up 21% of the Massachusetts House of Representatives but only 0.6% of our state’s population. I am encouraged by the fact that many of the most effective legislators are those who use their experiences from unique career paths like public health, education, and small business to create policy. The State House is changing, and I believe my experience prepares me to be a better advocate for our communities.
     Personally, this work is very important to me. As I grew up in this district, there were times that changing circumstances in my family created a need for some support from the state. Sometimes we received that support, while other times we did not. It will be personal to me to ensure that everyone in this district has access to the resources that they need, when they need them.
Having lived in this district for much of my life, I understand the issues and concerns facing our community. I am committed to staying above the political noise and to delivering results for those that I have the privilege to represent. My path to running for office might seem unconventional, but my education, and my professional and personal experiences have prepared me to be a leader and consensus-builder in the State House, and I will work hard for our communities each and every day.
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