US SENATE — DEMOCRATS
Occupation: State Legislator & Attorney concentrating on litigation on behalf of consumers, workers and the environment.
Family status: Wife- Juliet Brown, Daughter- Darcy
Do you believe the federal government has struck the proper balance between protecting civil liberties and providing physical security?
No. In the effort to protect security, our government has gone too far in compromising our civil liberties. As examples I would cite to two specific overreaches by the federal government: the 2001 Patriot Act and the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. I oppose major parts of the Defense Authorization Act of 2011 including provisions that allow for indefinite military detention without charge or trial. I would vote to repeal those provisions today. I am also against major parts of the Patriot Act. These provisions allow government agents to spy on citizens and monitoring their activities bypassing the normal subpoena process. Law enforcement agencies now have too much license to intercept private communications and search financial records of both the guilty and the innocent alike. The Patriot Act also wrongfully authorizes the indefinite detention of non-U.S. citizens. We need to uphold the Constitution including the Fourth Amendment liberty from unreasonable seizures and the Sixth guarantee of a trial by jury. We cannot guarantee American safety by compromising our freedom and liberty.
Do you support a cap-and-trade system of greenhouse-gas limitation?
Yes. I would support a cap-and-trade system, a cap and dividend approach, a carbon tax as long as the law was well-designed to avoid any undue impacts. I am familiar with the climate science and feel that climate disruption will soon prove to be among the most critical challenges facing humanity. I believe that we need U.S. leadership to achieve a rapid, global shift away from carbon intensive energy and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The government should adopt a target to reduce CO2 emissions to 350 ppm in the atmosphere. I have already worked for public policies to reverse climate change. In 1997, I was an official NGO delegate to the Kyoto Convention with the delegation from Greenpeace International. I have prioritized strategies to improve energy efficiency and limit reliance on carbon-intensive fuels.
As a member of the Maine Legislature, I championed an aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and encouraged Maine to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). I believe the priority for allocation of public resources should be directed toward energy efficiency. I have sponsored or co-sponsored a whole series of energy efficiency measure in the Maine legislature. Among other things, I have collaborated to substantially increase weatherization efforts in Maine, to improve industrial and commercial energy efficiency and to decrease vehicle idling. I have also voted to advance renewable energy. I sponsored and passed a bill to promote solar access (including "the right to dry" on clothes lines).
My summary of what we should do in energy policy is this: 1) Get hyper efficient: 2) take no generation off the table; 3) require all generation to avoid or internalize its costs (pollution, waste, the possibility of accidents, harm to wildlife and nuisances of all kinds); and 4) shift all subsidies from generation to efficiency.
Adhering to such guidelines, coal and nuclear power would soon become prohibitively expensive. Natural gas would be a "bridging fuel," and genuinely clean and renewable resources would become cheaper, more competitive, and more readily available. Offshore wind power, solar power, tidal energy, biomass, and other renewable sources will not only compete favorably in energy markets but will provide jobs and more rapidly come to power our economy.
Do you believe the federal government should do more to help students afford college?
Yes. Students and young people burdened with massive debt from student loans need educational debt reform. We should be making Pell Grants and Stafford Loan on favorable terms more widely available. It should be a priority to provide greater student aid assistance at public universities. It should be a national priority to contain skyrocketing costs at our public educations institutions, and encourage innovative financing and debt management programs so that those entering the workforce or looking to start their own business are not saddled with unmanageable debt that restricts their opportunities. These are challenging budget times, but student debt is also a drag on our economy. There is a point where enabling those young people most burdened by unmanageable debt to free themselves to seek the employment that will be most fulfilling provides a net benefit to the economy and the budget.
Do you believe health-insurance plans should cover contraception without co-pays?
Yes. Enabling women (and men) to choose when and if they want to start a family works best for everyone. The legitimate government interest here is in protecting the right and opportunity for people to access modern health care and family planning. What the individual chooses is not governments business. I am not opposed to modest co-pays but they should not present a barrier to anyone and should be waived for people who cannot afford them. In light of recent policy debates over contraception, it is important to note that more than 98% of Catholic women use contraception and that women already pay 50% more for health insurance. No one should be denied basic health care services as a result of someone else's views. Limiting access to contraception is bad policy and wrong for other reasons.
Will you vote to end the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans?
Yes. I strongly favor ending the Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. I believe that the tax code should be simpler and fairer to middle class wage earners. A corporate CEO or hedge fund manager should not pay a lower tax rate on his income than do folks who drive a truck, clean office buildings or work in cubicles answering phones.
Today the gap between the super-rich and the rest of us is wider than it has been in four generations. America thrives when there is common ground and shared experience. Our national identity, which includes what we call "the American Dream", is built on a promise of equal opportunity. That promise has already been severely eroded. Our kids learn of the lives of the super-rich – the private jets, the exclusive schools and clubs, extravagant possession – even while their school cannot afford enough books for every class. It is past time to make rules that are fair to ordinary people and eliminate special benefits for the most prosperous. Ending the Bush tax cuts will move us toward tax fairness, and demonstrate that everyone must contribute to balancing the nation's budget.
In 10 words or fewer, please express your view on Congressional compromise.
Compromise requires everyone give up something for the common good.
As the House Chair of the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, along with co- chair Senator Barry Hobbins, I repeatedly found ways to build consensus and find common ground while still making progress. We ended up with not only bipartisan, but unanimous votes on 95% of the legislation we considered. Moreover, during the 2010 Legislative session, our committee worked 37 bills and reported each one out with unanimous votes. That was seven Democrats and six Republicans voting together on 37 often highly contentious issues after we worked on them together. We made progress in energy efficiency for not only homeowners, but businesses and industry as well. We passed the first in the nation Community Renewable Energy program and started PACE loans to reduce our reliance on foreign fossil fuels. We extended broadband infrastructure to parts of Maine that had little or no connectivity, and we did it in a way that was fair and agreeable to consumers, the union workers, and businesses. It was not always easy, but we were able to achieve compromise and move Maine forward in a number of ways.