No Arkansan should feel shut out of the healthcare system. No parent should fret over when - or if - to take a sick child to the doctor. And no one - regardless of age - should forego insulin for fear of being unable to pay a utility bill. No veteran should spend months waiting for an appointment or the filling of a much-needed prescription. Resources should be available and affordable to those who suffer from mental illness or are battling addiction. But the fact is, the skyrocketing costs of medications and premiums keep many Arkansans from seeking medical - let alone preventative - care.
I believe that all people - regardless of their age or income - should be able to obtain high-quality and affordable healthcare. I believe that Americans with pre-existing conditions shouldn't have live in constant fear of losing their coverage or being unable to find an insurance plan that ensures they receive proper care that doesn't force them into bankruptcy.
If elected, I will work to address the inhumane price-gouging that occurs due to the drug companies to which our government caters.
All people need insurance that will cover conditions and illnesses that are specific to their genders.
As a woman, I am a strong and passionate advocate for women's reproductive health. Women need accessible and affordable access to annual exams and care.
For that reason, I will not support any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on women's ability to access quality services. I believe in sex education. I believe that all women should be able to easily obtain and afford contraceptives. Lastly, I believe in the evidence that shows that affordable healthcare and access to contraceptives dramatically decrease the number of abortions - decisions about which should be limited to discussions between a woman, her family, and her doctor.
We need to make changes to the current healthcare system and move steadily toward Medicare for all. We need provisions for home- and community-based services and long-term services and supports, with no income or asset limitations. Omitting such provisions would further marginalize and oppress people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, I will work to defend and strengthen the Affordable Care Act, Medicare for our seniors, VA care for our veterans like me, and Medicaid for the least fortunate among us. Every step along the way should meet six criteria:
1) More people, not fewer, should be insured.
2) Out-of-pocket expenses, including premiums, should be lowered.
3) Coverage should be equal for everyone, regardless of age, income, gender, or pre-existing condition.
4) Mental and behavioral healthcare should be readily accessible and affordable.
5) The specific health needs of women must be equitably addressed.
6) Medicare, Medicaid, and Medicaid Expansion should be preserved.
Middle-class families should not lose their health insurance to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. No one should ever have to risk death because she cannot afford the co-pay on an Epi-pen or risk bankruptcy for necessary medical procedures.
I believe in a transparent economy that holds everyone accountable. I believe in security and equity for all. I believe that women - many of whom are the primary breadwinners in their households - should be paid equitably, and that they should have access to affordable childcare. I believe that paid family leave creates and nurtures stronger and healthier families - and a stronger and healthier workforce. I believe that our veterans, after completing their service to our country, should be able to count on employment that offers a fair wage.
I pledge to work for an economic fairness plan that will turn minimum wages into living wages. I also am in favor of providing four years of income as well as the funding necessary for college tuition or trade school tuition - not only for our youth who come from low-income backgrounds, but for those who find themselves displaced by declining industries or layoffs.
I also want to ensure that women are not only protected in the workplace but also receive equitable pay by 2025. I believe this is possible via a combination of tax incentives and stronger standards where enforcement is concerned.
My goals for my female constituents include securing equal pay for equal work; requiring employers to provide paid family and sick leave; ensuring that women have access to high-quality and affordable childcare. I believe that childcare expenses should consume no more than 10 percent of a family's income.
As a union educator who grew up in a family of union members, I believe in workers' rights. I believe that immigrants also should have strong representation in order to ensure fair wages and treatment.
No one who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty while CEOs rake in a fortune. The minimum wage needs to be a livable wage of $15 an hour and tied to inflation.
In Arkansas, where our minimum wage is above the federal rate, a person must still work 54 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
A 40-hour workweek consumes nearly 25 percent of our total time. A need to work beyond that is unconscionable. Children should be able to know their parents. Working Americans should be able to enjoy the prosperity this country has acquired. The pursuit of happiness must not be stifled by the poverty many families face due to low wages.
Workers are the backbone of our economy and deserve to share in the benefits of the increased prosperity created by improved productivity, including the opportunity to support a small family in reasonable comfort. As it is, wages have not kept up with inflation, but innovation, productivity gains and low wages have helped push corporate profits to record highs.
Unemployment is at a 17-year low, and the stock market and corporate profits are at an all-time high. If ever there was a time for productivity gains to be shared with workers - instead of a corporate tax cut paid for by the middle class - this is that time.
When people don’t earn a living wage, it promotes a culture of dependence - personal and corporate welfare. Multi-billion dollar companies depend on taxpayers to subsidize their ability to pay less, and families are forced to rely on government subsidies, undermining a culture of work and personal responsibility, not to mention self-worth. Paying livable wages promotes family well-being and marital stability.
When a system rewards people for not being married, then people are less likely to make that commitment, which has lifelong consequences for children. Parents, especially single parents, who by necessity have to work two or three jobs, are unable or unlikely to provide necessary parenting to their children, which creates additional burdens to the school system, judicial system and society.
Lastly, I believe that Social Security and military retirement must be preserved. Ensuring that retirees can live out their years with dignity after decades in the workforce is the right - and fair - thing to do.
K-12: Because I am a teacher and the parent of a college student, another high priority for me is education, beginning with universal pre-K and all the way through employability.
As an elementary school teacher, I cannot emphasize enough the need for kindergartners to be prepared with necessary skills before they arrive on campus. Many of those skills cannot be built without exposure to language and other resources that are too often missing from impoverished homes. But if children from those homes had access to pre-K, they would pick up those skills before becoming elementary students. And their parents would be able to work without worrying about exorbitant daycare costs.
So much of K-12 learning is dependent upon background knowledge, and the variations found between a child who has been to the zoo, a museum, a beach, or a camping trip and a child who has never left the streets of her neighborhood create an uneven playing field from the start.
We, as a nation and as a state, must recognize the value of - and fund - universal pre-K. It’s in our best interests. More importantly, it’s in our future students’ best interests.
All students deserve to learn every day, and all students deserve first-class schools in their neighborhoods - no matter where they live.
In the past, our nation has provided less expensive college options for its citizens, which means businesses and society have enjoyed the benefits of an educated workforce. We must continue investing in our human capital. That means we need to be fair to our current and future students. We should provide them with the same support we’ve provided previous generations.
The Federal Pell Grant program should be expanded to the point that students’ unmet needs are covered without the need for debt.
One of the critical flaws I see in tuition-free programs (and even in the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship - which is funded by a state lottery) is that, at 2.5, GPA requirements are set too low. Remember that not every student will be successful. Raising that GPA bar to 3.0 would be reasonably attainable for any student who truly exhibits college potential. For students whose GPAs are lower, other options such as community college, technical training, and youth job programs may be a better fit and a sounder investment. I also believe that banks should not be making exorbitant profits on the backs of our struggling youth.
Trade and Technology:
When college costs exceeded my funding, I pursued the only career option that I believed to be attainable at that time - the military. I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. I am grateful for my experience as an American service member. At the same time, I regret that, at 20 years old, I saw college only as something beyond my reach.
High school seniors and graduates need to know that they have options. They need to feel able to pursue dreams and goals.
I do, however, feel it important to note the importance of the GI Bill, which remains a vital resource for veterans. Too often, military training doesn't translate directly to the civilian certifications that are necessary to apply decades of work experience to civilian-sector employment. In other situations, such as infantry, there are no comparable civilian jobs. We must preserve the GI Bill as an educational option to help veterans transition from military service to civilian life.
That said, military service isn’t suitable for everyone and success in college is not a guarantee. However, given our rapidly evolving technology and economy, we are in an ideal position to build an educational system that is capable of creating and nurturing a workforce that will thrive in the current dynamic environment.
Our current educational system demands that a person invest years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare for a specific career that may not turn out to be a good fit. The sooner we can enable someone to apprentice in a work environment before committing the time and money to pursue that as a career, the less we will spend as a society on finding the right people for the right jobs.
There are employment options that don’t require military service or a college education. However, the conundrum of needing experience to get a job and needing a job to get experience limits many of our young adults’ options to food-service and retail jobs, often with little room for upward mobility. Programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration put people to work after the Great Depression. Today, we have programs - like Americorps - that do the same, but they require expansion and investment to accommodate the vast numbers of young adults who need to become employable. Further investments in trade school opportunities for young adults in rural communities would benefit young Americans and employers alike.
Finally, we need to get beyond the vision of a liberal arts degree for everyone and return to offering practical vocational instruction to high school students who are better suited to careers that match their talents and temperaments.
I believe we need legislation that invests in the infrastructure and jobs of a 21st-century modern economy while avoiding ecological harm and protecting the natural systems necessary for our lives and civilization.
I believe that all American communities have the right to clean air, water and the ability to access public lands. Unlike many third-world countries, we have the means to ensure all of these rights, and yet our current Congress refuses to acknowledge those rights, let alone protect them.
During our best times, our nation has recognized the skill and competence and bi-partisan leadership of our scientists, whether they work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA or the National Weather Service.
Historically, we have placed our trust in our scientists and researchers to act for us and to guide us. And right now, these very individuals who have dedicated their lives to study and knowledge and expertise tell us we face very serious consequences as a result of how we engage our environment. In deference to their hard-won authority and knowledge, we must recognize that the future health of our planet must underscore all that we, as a nation, seek to accomplish.
Failure to trust science risks the acceleration - rather than the slowing - of climate change. It puts public health at risk when people refuse to vaccinate their children. Lastly, it creates variety of dangerous scenarios in which we put our planet and health in unnecessary danger even though we have the information to help us do right by both.
I believe that even those most skeptical of climate change must realize that the dire outcomes predicted by scientists must be considered in order to ensure a healthy environment for their children, grandchildren and the generations to follow.
I believe that expanding renewable energy infrastructure will create jobs related to those efforts. Reliance on foreign energy sources has been reduced by fracking into our natural gas reserves - but at an environmental cost felt in the tremors beneath Arkansas. Deregulation of energy companies means short-term, higher profits for a few - and devastating, long-term effects for future generations. Strict regulations and constant monitoring must be enforced on oil and natural gas companies while investments in renewable energy sources must become the priority.
As our infrastructure is replaced, outdated practices and materials should be updated with cutting-edge options. These updates should include the availability of universal wi-fi access to internet and protection of net neutrality.
Many Arkansans feel overburdened by taxes, but the financial burden we face to maintain our vehicles on broken highways and exposed railways pales in comparison. We must immediately invest in our interstates, bridges, railways, airports, and public transportation systems, many of which are past their expected lifespan, before we reach the point of no return and public safety is endangered.
The current White House Administration and Congress have made it clear that our president, his advisors and our elected representatives and senators are set on eroding Americans' civil rights. At best, they are ignorant of the impact of their actions - or non-actions. At worst, they are intent on further marginalizing the most vulnerable of Americans.
Too many groups have fought too long and too hard for us to silently stand by and watch this happen.
Voting rights. Freedom to worship without fear or intimidation or harassment. Freedom of speech. Protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability.
All of these rights have been openly attacked by Trump and his administration. Meanwhile, Republican congressmen, including U.S. Representative French Hill, have shown no interest in protecting their constituents from this hostile infringement on their rights.
The fact is, our congressmen feel no obligation to us - those they committed to serve. They answer only to wealthy organizations, banks and lobbyists.
The very fabric of American history is patterned by battles waged by various marginalized and oppressed groups - people of color, women, people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, and members of the LGBTQ community.
All of these groups are entitled to the inclusion and independence promised to us by our founding fathers.
No one should be bullied or brutalized, raped or assaulted, because of their gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Members of the LGBTQ community should be able to work and secure housing without fear of discrimination or harassment. Violence against the transgender community should not - cannot - be tolerated.
We all deserve to live full lives that are free of discrimination and violence. We all deserve to have faith in a criminal justice system that is equally free of discrimination and violence.
As your congresswoman, I will be the voice for those who, in the past year, have either been unheard or attacked just for existing.
Those who come to this country - whether fleeing violence or searching for a better future for their families - deserve to be welcomed and treated fairly. We should be helping our DREAMers to become citizens. They have grown up here, been educated here and are part of our next generation that will make up a 21st-century workforce.
I believe that immigrants should have the right to legally drive and purchase insurance. I believe their children should be able to attend K-12 schools, college and/or vocational schools. I also believe that immigrants should have access to healthcare and legal representation.
I will stand up for their rights. And I will fight any efforts to undermine previous court rulings that served to protect the civil rights of ALL who call the United States home.