Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal Justice Reform
End Mass Incarceration. Eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, allowing judges discretion in determining sentencing. When appropriate, the justice system can use community service or treatment programs as alternates to prison time for non-violent, low-level crimes which do not pose a threat to public safety. These programs work to minimize repeat offenses by addressing some of the underlying causes of criminal activity. Decreasing over-incarceration allows criminal justice officials to focus on violent offenders and high-level drug traffickers, which ultimately will reduce systemic criminal activity.
Require Fair and Constitutional Incarceration Standards. Ensure that time served is consistent, safe, and does not “punish a person for his poverty,” which is unconstitutional. Incarcerated people and their families are exploited with unreasonable monetary bail, exorbitant costs for communicating with their families, and fees in order to comply with probation and parole terms that are often unmanageable due to employment restrictions on individuals with past convictions. Solitary confinement for juvenile offenders should be prohibited due to the potential long-term mental health consequences for developing adolescent brains. The high cost of punitive sentences can be minimized by rehabilitation programs, especially for youth offenders.
Prevent and Reduce Recidivism. Support and expand re-entry programs, including job training, GED attainment, post-secondary educational opportunities, mental health care, drug treatment, and faith-based programs while incarcerated. Preparing incarcerated individuals for rejoining the community reduces recidivism and gives them an opportunity to become productive, contributing members of society. Legal rights for housing, employment, and civic engagement, including voting should be reinstated for those who have served their time.
Support Law Enforcement. Provide 21st century resources including body cams to record encounters, sophisticated data tracking to clarify arrest and conviction metrics, and training on use of force, implicit bias, and police misconduct to create efficient and effective law enforcement efforts. Transparency and accountability through these measures will enhance community support and trust and effective policing.
I was the healthcare staffer for Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN-09; Memphis) for a year; I saw first-hand how big a mess health insurance really is. We can fix it so that everyone can have accessible and affordable health insurance.
There are three major fixes to the ACA that need to happen.
The first is allowing insurance to be sold across state lines. This creates larger risk pools and thus reduces insurance premiums.
Second is to allow Medicare to negotiate drug pricing. This will result in controlled prescription drug pricing.
Third is restructuring of the federal insurance supplement. At present, the very poor and the very rich can afford insurance, but those in the middle class are facing absurd insurance premiums.
It is time for Medicare for all so that everyone can have affordable health insurance
The federal subsidies need to be restructured to help the middle class. The only effective long-term solution to the problem is a single-payer system like Medicare for all. The version of “Medicare for all” put forth by Senator Bernie Sanders is sound and workable, but will be fiercely opposed by the health insurance lobby. Making record profits off sick people cannot continue unabated. Though the insurance industry will fight against single-payer insurance, some in the insurance industry are starting to realize that the current system is unsustainable. The CEO of Aetna recently told his employees that “we should have a debate” about single-payer health insurance coverage.
Currently, 1/5 of all prescriptions for medications go unfilled because patients do not have the money to fill them. This cannot continue and would be resolved if we had Medicare for all, with fixed pricing for both medical procedures and prescription drugs. I’m willing to fight the health insurance industry for you, because I understand what you are going through. Healthcare in this country can be changed if we have the political will to do so.
Repair of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a stopgap in us getting to Medicare for all. If the ACA is repealed by the Republicans, costs for both healthcare and drug pricing will skyrocket. The biggest lie often repeated about the ACA is that it led to a rise in insurance premiums. In fact, it kept them down compared with pre-ACA increases, for eight years. Some folks did see a steep rise in premiums because they had “mall insurance,” which was often sold at kiosks in shopping malls and was worthless. Those kinds of insurance policies covered almost nothing. For example, most didn’t cover hospitalization! The ACA eliminated them, and made policy coverage uniform so that you couldn’t be tricked into buying a worthless policy anymore. That is but one of the many important provisions of the ACA that need to be protected.
The failure of the state of Mississippi to expand Medicaid was a disaster for everyone in the state. Medicaid expansion would have let our most impoverished citizens have health insurance that they could use to regularly visit a doctor and, importantly, to stop using emergency rooms as primary care facilities. Instead, the expansion was blocked by the Governor. It was a cold, cruel political prank played on the poorest of us. All of us here ended up paying for it due to the resulting state pool of those needing health insurance. Because of the lack of Medicaid expansion, Mississippi has some of the highest insurance premiums in the country. Even worse, the Republican repeal of the ACA would take away Medicaid from 289,000 people who presently do receive Medicaid in Mississippi, with 71,000 of those being in the first congressional district. Kicking that many people in the state off Medicaid alone will result in skyrocketing premiums for Mississippians.
It is time for Medicare for all so that everyone can have affordable health insurance regardless of geography, pre-existing conditions, or employment status.
The United States became the world leader in science and technology because of strong federal funding in scientific research. When the Soviet Union successfully launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957, the US government felt the urgent need to improve science and technology education as a matter of self-defense. In 1958, Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed into law the National Defense Education Act. This Act provided the funding to improve education in science, math, and engineering in public schools and at colleges and universities.
The United States became the world leader in science and technology because of strong federal funding in scientific research.
When I was growing up in Iuka, I went to a high school that had received funding from NASA to provide high quality education in science and engineering. I took every advantage of the opportunities given to me to succeed. Because of the exposure I had to the sciences in high school, I knew that I wanted to pursue studies in a related field. When I went to college, I started out as a pre-med student but eventually gravitated towards chemistry. I graduated from the University of Mississippi with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1986 and a Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1990.
Federal funding was not just an important boost to my education, it is essential for pursuing research. My research focuses on developing improved anti-tumor drugs to treat cancer. I could not do this research without money provided by federal agencies such as the National Institutes for Health. The money pays for things like lab supplies, equipment, and salaries for graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows. The research that we produce helps further the understanding of how cancer drugs work.
Much of the scientific research that comes out of universities is funded by various federal agencies such as NIH, the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and more. The result of this federal funding can be seen in cures and treatments for various diseases; understanding environmental phenomena and our impact on the environment, advances in amazing personal technologies, and so much more that affects our lives every day. It is critical that we continue to spend federal dollars on scientific research. Our health, our environment, our technology, our future all depend on it.
The protections created by the EPA have cleaned up the waterways of America
On June 22nd, 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire—for the thirteenth time. National outrage over the pollution of the river led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The protections created by the EPA have cleaned up the waterways of America so that no such fire should ever happen again. The air has been cleaned as well; one only needs to look at photos of Los Angeles or New York City from the 1960s-1970s to see the difference. EPA protections are important in Mississippi too. Despite EPA protections, the dumping of the carcinogen trichloroethylene onto the ground and into the waters in Grenada, MS and Water Valley, MS have created an environmental crisis in our state. Without EPA protections, the crisis would have been even more widespread.
As a professional chemist for 27 years, the first thing I teach students is safe handling of chemicals. I teach them how to protect themselves and the environment from the things they are working with. That knowledge of chemical safety is an important reason I’m running for congress. The recent firing of scientists from the EPA advisory board by the Trump administration does not bode well for the rivers, lakes, forests, and ocean that are so important to Mississippi’s culture and economy.
As your congressman, I will fight to keep EPA protections intact, because I understand what’s going to happen if we lose them.
Jobs and the Economy
In 2016, we saw a perfect example of why we need to invest in new technology jobs. That year, the Mississippi Department of Transportation awarded a million dollar contract to an information technology company from Illinois. There was not a single company in the state of Mississippi that could provide the technology that our state needed.
I’m not surprised by this. For the past 14 years, I have attended the annual graduation ceremony at Ole Miss. Every year, I see too many of our best and brightest students walk across the stage, pick up their diplomas, and then keep walking into well-paying jobs in other states. We need to provide the jobs that keep our educated workers in the state where they can help build our economy.
I am thinking about the future of jobs in MS, because the future is now.
My Republican opponent’s only idea about job creation is to parrot the GOP’s stance on corporate taxes and regulations. Worse yet, he will rubber stamp the President’s budget. That budget eliminates the Delta Regional Commission and the Appalachian Regional Commission. These federal agencies support business incubators, job training, and workforce development. They are crucial to attracting new business investments in MS, especially those that offer high paying jobs. The economic devastation that will be caused by cuts to these agencies alone cannot be overstated.
Instead of eliminating these agencies, I want to enhance them so they can make additional investments in job training for 21st century jobs. We need to invest in workforce training for familiar jobs like electricians and plumbers, but we also need training for new jobs like robotics technicians or database managers. As your congressman, I will support legislation and funding that invests in this kind of job training and entrepreneurship.
Renewable energy, aerospace industry, internet applications, and medical care are the jobs of the future. As someone who has spent 27 years working in science and technology, I am going to go to Washington with a vision of bringing these 21st century jobs to North Mississippi. I want to see Mississippi companies replacing old roofs with solar shingles. I want to see more companies like Orbital ATK moving to Mississippi to build equipment to take us to Mars. I want to train workers to write innovative computer code to accomplish tasks on your smartphones. I want to build the biomedical workforce needed for new hospitals in north Mississippi. All this can be done. We just need someone with vision in Washington to bring it about. I have that vision.
Republicans in Mississippi have been saying for decades that high corporate taxes and unnecessary and burdensome regulations are keeping jobs out of our state. We already have one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the nation, tort reform, and some of the laxest regulations, and yet we are not the nation’s job growth leader. We still have some of the highest unemployment in the country. To fix this, we need to bring 21st century jobs to North Mississippi. It’s time for a new congressman with new ideas.
US / Israel Relationship
The US and Israel have a special relationship grounded in democratic values, common security interests and a shared passion for innovation. Since President Truman’s recognition of Israel in 1948, the US has been Israel’s most dependable global ally. I am proud that the US has provided military support and taken a bold lead in brokering peace between Israel and its neighbors. As a member of Congress, I will do everything in my power to further the bond between our two countries and continue the US tradition of leadership in this critical region.
Bilateral efforts to enhance Israeli security and funding military defense to insure the safety and security of the Israeli people.
Continued US support of funding to the Palestinian Authority which is critical to the PA’s state-building and security efforts in West Bank, and which help foster cooperation.
A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which will result in an internationally recognized border with a future state of Palestine living side-by-side with Israel in peace and with robust security guarantees.
The complete and unobstructed implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Iran which has so far proven effective in blocking each of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and represents major progress for the security of the United States, Israel and our allies in the region.
Continued US financial commitments to international institutions that promote peace in the Middle East, such as the United Nations..
The longstanding connections that our country has on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, combined with our deeply vested interests in the region, uniquely positions the US to lead in achieving a two-state solution. Ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the difficult choices to achieve peace, yet the United States remains indispensable to any viable effort to achieve that goal.
Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy. Most people are now in favor of reforming federal and state marijuana laws. It’s not hard to see why.
Sick patients are unable to access beneficial medical marijuana treatment. Marijuana has the potential to relieve chronic pain as well as opioids but without the addictive properties.
Current laws waste billions of dollars criminalizing marijuana users, even for low-level offenses.
African Americans and Latinos are arrested more frequently for marijuana even though white people use marijuana at similar rates.
Prohibition creates an illegal marijuana market that benefits organized crime, drug cartels and gangs.
As shown by states like Colorado where marijuana is legal, tax revenues from legal sales are a boost to state coffers.
As your congressman, my priorities regarding marijuana laws include:
Enacting legislation that provides and protects access to medical marijuana.
The elimination of criminal penalties for the adult use and personal cultivation of marijuana.
The creation of a legal regulatory market for the responsible production and distribution of marijuana to adults.
I strongly support our US military and the security of the United States, and I always have. When Saddam Hussein was building his chemical and biological weapons stockpiles in the 1990s, I was at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, developing technology to protect our military from these horrors. Later, as a professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, I was awarded a grant from the US Department of Defense to find new treatments for prostate cancer, a disease that many of our Veterans suffer from. Also while at Johns Hopkins, I received a NATO grant to prevent East European scientists from flowing into Iraq and Iran to work on their nuclear programs. While I never served in the military, I’ve done everything I could as a civilian to protect and heal our service men and women, our veterans, and to secure the United States of America.