As part of our Election 2022 coverage we asked both candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee for the 21st Middlesex State Representative District. There are currently two candidates running against each other in the September 6 State Primary – incumbent Ken Gordon and challenger Timmy Sullivan. For these Candidate Profiles we asked each candidate a set of five questions to get their thoughts on a variety of topics.
Here on Ken Gordon’s responses:
- What is your motivation to seek another term?
I am seeking another term as your State Representative because I have demonstrated an ability to solve problems. And this surely is a time we need a problem-solver in the legislature. Our problems range from our local and state-wide emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic, to challenges arising from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Many of our residents’ faith in government has been shaken. We need an experienced, steady hand to lead Burlington, Bedford and now precinct 6 in Lexington in the House of Representatives, and over 10 years I have proven to be that person.
2. What are the top priorities you have that you would continue to focus on if re-elected?
I filed the Common Start bill that will create near universal access to pre-school and early childcare for our families. This bill has been referred out favorably by the Joint Committee on Education as part of an overall committee bill, and the policy portion of this bill was used as the basis for a bill released by the entire Senate. The House, meanwhile, has passed programs that will provide the funding for these important policies. I am working to bring the policy and financing together this session, and I will continue to work on this until it is passed.
I co-sponsored many of the bills that are being put together to create a Climate Change bill that I hope emerges from committee soon. While there may be stumbling blocks to negotiations, we must work to protect our environment and our children’s future.
I filed a bill called the Defense Against Abusive Waivers Act (“DAAWA”), that was included in the House version of the Economic Development Bond Bill and sent to the Senate just last week. What this bill will do is protect workers who are employed by out-of-state companies from being forced to agree to the employment laws of the employer’s state, thus waiving important rights provided by Massachusetts law. One example of why we need this now, more than ever, is what we are seeing from the states that are (1) taking steps to criminalize abortion care for women; and (2) backpedaling on civil rights for people such as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Without this DAAWA protection, a woman in Massachusetts could be fired because she underwent legal health care, and there is little we could do. A person could be sexually harassed or discriminated against on the basis of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and other than relying on a weak federal law, we could not help. I am committed to seeing this bill become law.
Many of you know that I filed the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, that helped Massachusetts become one of the first states in the country to begin this public program from the start. But there are bugs in any system. Just this week, I was able to file legislation that passed the House and Senate and went to the Governor that will make this law better, but allowing employers to combine other programs to result in a greater benefit to their employees than is paid through the program, if they choose to do so.
In the district, we have seen tremendous growth in the life-sciences industry. It is our economic engine. I have supported this field by providing funding to our towns for lab space, research, internships, infrastructure and more. I have worked directly with our life sciences neighbors to address their needs, including challenges with water infrastructure and utilities. I will continue to address this important economic leader in our area.
Finally, I will continue to be available to help our constituents with issues that arise from state government. I am proud of the assistance we gave hundreds of constituents managing a complicated unemployment insurance system. I have held in-person or virtual public office hours every month since taking office, and I will continue to be available. I will continue the cable show I have produced on BCAT, because I think it is important for our residents to have a first-hand view of what goes on in the State House.
3. What do you think the state should do in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe.v. Wade?
Even before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, we were pro-actively seeking to protect the women in Massachusetts. In 2020, we passed the Roe Act, which removed anti-abortion laws from our books and essentially codified the protections of Roe v. Wade into our Massachusetts laws. Once the Dobbs decision was published, we passed legislation that will protect providers in Massachusetts from civil liability for suits stemming from other states. It will also protect women who come to Massachusetts for legal abortion care from civil liability from their states, to the extent possible. It makes sure that Massachusetts’ civil servants, like sheriffs, cannot be co-opted to do the work of other states to punish people for engaging in conduct that is legal here. Another way we can protect our Massachusetts residents is to pass DAAWA as explained above. It is a bill that was important when I filed it, and it is more important now.
4. How do you think the state should proceed with firearm legislation in light of changes at the federal level?
The Supreme Court in the Bruen case did not strike down Massachusetts’ strict gun protection laws. Our police chiefs can, and must, still determine if a person is a suitable candidate for a license to carry. The most important test for the police chief to apply is the suitability test, and that has not been disturbed.
Massachusetts’ red flag law has not been weakened, and in fact the federal government just passed a measure that will provide funding for states willing to advance such protections. This is the law that allows a person who believes that a licensed gun owner is behaving in such a way, or has experienced a condition, that may make access to a firearm a threat to that person or another person, to report the observation to a judge. This law may have prevented many of the recent mass shootings we have seen, as we hear from witnesses who explain that person was acting differently, or social media posts show a proclivity toward violence.
There is more we can do. We can ban what we call “ghost guns”. These weapons are put together by people who order parts over the internet, or print plastic parts on 3-D printers. This type of weapon has no serial number, and cannot be traced by law enforcement. It has no place in our society and should be banned.
Most important, we can provide social service, education, support and health care to young people, so that they do not fall between the cracks and become involved in crime. We can provide service such as the Middlesex County Restoration Center, on which I have been working, which will serve as a treatment center for people with undiagnosed mental illness or substance abuse, who are found by police on our streets with no place to go. I have supported, expanded, and funded Restorative Justice, to help keep young people out of the criminal justice system, and help them become successful adults. I think the best way to keep guns off our streets, is to provide opportunity for people so they will not be attracted to them.
5. How would you help the district recover from lingering effects of the pandemic?
I have been hard at work helping our district recover from the effects of the pandemic. Through one recent funding bill I was able to bring $100,000 to each of Burlington’s People-Helping-People for the town’s food pantry, as well as the Bedford Food Pantry. I brought $150,000 to the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce and $75,000 to the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, because our small businesses suffered immeasurable loss during the pandemic and coming out of it.
Two of our recent economic recovery packages impacts our residents directly. In March of 2022, $500 checks were paid to residents earning $38,640 or less (a higher ceiling for larger households). This was followed by a proposal release just this month for people who did not qualify for those payments. This package will entitle filers to $250, or $500 for joint filers, but more importantly it permanently changes the tax code to provide more money in people’s pockets. It increases the child tax credit by $130 per child and removes the cap. It increases the earned income tax credit and the rental deduction. It increases the senior circuit tax breaker credit from $750 to $1,755 annually, and doubles the estate tax exemption to $2 million while removing the “cliff” caused by taxing dollar one after the exemption is exhausted.
Just as important, I have worked with colleagues from nearby districts to support the MBTA bus lines that come into our district. These routes have been cut by the administration, and we must defend them. Rep. Michelle Ciccolo of Lexington and Rich Haggerty of Woburn have joined with me not only to pressure the MBTA to keep these bus lines running, but also to put funding into a recent transportation bill so the T cannot use funding as an excuse.