Maggie Jo Hilliard | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Maggie Jo Hilliard

Political party: 
Question 1: 

What’s your vision for Kentucky? How will the lives of Kentuckians be improved as a result of your time in office?

In my practice, I hear individuals’ stories about the effects of government inefficiency, systemic discrimination, corporate corruption, consumer fraud, financial distress, injustice and healthcare policy every day. Our Senator ranks number one in legislative seniority, but Kentucky is 45th in the nation for high school graduates, 47th in the nation for the number of bachelor’s degree-holders, leads in opioid and cancer deaths, and it is home to over 30 sites where drinking water has tested positive for PFAS and PFOA cancer-causing toxins. Kentucky is also home to corporate pollution leftover from coal extraction methods that have toxified our environment. Kentuckians need to feel heard and understood, but 58% of registered voters do not vote. Mitch is not advocating for election security, universal healthcare, free college education, net neutrality, raising the minimum wage nor acting on the environmental crises here at home. Kentucky deserves a fighter that will bring the people’s many issues to the forefront and seek to address them in democratic fashion. Senator McConnell’s cynical viewpoint is not helping everyday people, but I hope to bring innovation, optimism and empathy to Washington.

Question 2: 

How would you create a more equitable federal tax structure – where everyone pays their fair share – that raises adequate revenue, fights poverty,  and invests in under-resourced communities and the services we all need?

I favor many existing proposals to tax extreme wealth to fund individuals’ childcare needs, college education and resolve the student loan crisis (Sen. Warren’s proposal). I also find Andrew Yang’s VAT (Value Added Tax) to work similarly, yet more directly, to combat corporate tax avoidance and pay citizens directly for corporate exploitation of our shared resources. Bernie’s plan acknowledges the more urgent need to close the wealth gap by reducing billionaires’ wealth by half over 15 years. All these plans acknowledge the problem – Mitch McConnell’s promises to deliver a trickle-down of wealth to the people have been broken. In McConnell’s office, money talks and people are ignored, so I would also approve plans to tax lobbyists at high rates when spending over $500K to influence government policy, similar to Warren’s plan. Federal taxation policy must consider America’s past errors and correct the many complex results of systemic inequity.

Question 3: 

What would you do to make sure that every Kentuckian has quality, affordable health care? What are your top health policy priorities, and what approaches to health care coverage do you support? Do you support Medicare For All?

I support any plan that makes it possible for every American to receive affordable, adequate and accessible universal health care coverage, including preventative care, dental care, eye care, mental health treatment, emergency treatment, annual exams, medicine and physician-guided treatment. Too many people do not get medical assistance because of economic hardship and administrative mazes. Medicare For All is a very viable solution to eliminate the administrative headaches of private insurance eligibility, enrollment, renewal, coverage, deductibles, benefit/coverage confusion and would not prevent Medicaid coverage extension for vulnerable populations against the high out-of-pocket costs. Some MFA proposals would eliminate nearly $200BN in state spending on Medicaid, saving state’s the trouble of administering 50 different systems across the nation. The Affordable Care Act was created so we all would fund a national plan to assure everyone was covered by all choices, but provisions (i.e. the mandated funding, for example) have been chipped away leaving sick Kentuckians in limbo. Kentucky’s health is poor and we rank 47th in poverty, with far lower median incomes and higher income inequality than other states. Healthcare workers’, families’ and patients’ voices are being ignored, and I would fight to change that by inviting more people to the table to discuss all the ways to heal sick people and prevent early deaths while fighting to mute corporate interests in our common health.

Question 4: 

Do you support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for young people and adults? What are your plans to expand support and resources for immigrants and refugees, undocumented or otherwise?

Yes, we need reform and a pathway to citizenship for everyone living in America. Human DNA is over 99% similar, so there is no reason to deny kindness and compassion to everyone regardless of their heritage. I am disturbed that post-9/11 racism and the extreme-right’s lack of compassion for non- citizens have seeped into 2020 politics as though it were the 1940’s. President Trump, similar to Hitler,seeks to blame immigrants for the many problems Americans’ face today as a result of governmental, corporate, environmental, economic and international policy disasters. Torturing asylum-seekers, preventing resident reentry, complicating lives for Dreamers, forbidding immigrant employment, denying healthcare to children or any denial of civil rights to any human being is wrong. A wall will not fix our lack of jobs due to automation; disallowing Muslim Americans does not assure anyone’s safety; separating a child from her mother will have no positive societal nor psychological consequences; and American citizens commit more crime than non-citizens. If I were elected, I would vote to modify policies to reflect actual data, not racist traditions and restore funding to the many existing government administrations and nonprofit entities which lost federal support after the 2016 elections.

Question 5: 

Is dealing with the climate crisis a high priority for you, and if so, do you support federal legislation for a Green New Deal? How would you ensure that solutions to the climate crisis benefit all Kentuckians – no matter the color of our skin, income, immigration status, or zip code?

The climate crisis is my highest priority because Earth is our only home. Poor farming practices, pesticides, corporate pollution and our dietary preferences are causing the destruction of our natural resources, killing wildlife species, eroding beaches, melting polar ice, polluting water and contaminating food. Citizens alone cannot fix the problem, as 71% of the problem is corporate-caused. Smart voters acknowledge that blame games aren’t fixing problems, and The Green New Deal will require our sacrificing of many spoils of the industrial age like convenient plastics. We must work together to change the way we live so resources will sustain future generations. During WWII, Americans made sacrifices for the war effort to defeat fascism and genocide, and we can, again, acknowledge our common evil and join together to resolve it. To deny science in the face of floods and fires is foolhardy. I would like to see a growth in worker cooperative companies, which would grant ownership rights, voting rights and fair pay to employees. These entities, which are common throughout the world, consider human and planetary needs over corporate profits.

Question 6: 

What is the role of the U.S. Congress in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, Latinx people, immigrants, those who are undocumented, and all people of color in our country? Please identify at least two policy initiatives you would propose while in office to address racial and systemic inequalities.

Systemic racial injustice was built into American government and corporate systems through centuries of government-sponsored slavery, discrimination, criminal injustice, and separatist policies. American jurisprudence is based on white supremacy; thus, economic and societal equality will require a moral change in Washington. Elected leaders must be leaders – to tell constituents the truth about our gross history and move forward with plans to correct past errors and prevent future ones. Mitch McConnell should be loudly protesting racial injustice at all levels, yet he supports a hateful and discriminatory president and administration. Unfortunately, these are the cynics that have appointed judges which will determine Constitutional interpretation for years to come. If I were elected, I would like to work on bills like Cory Booker’s plan to require the FBI and DOJ to allocate resources to fight white- supremacist-inspired-violence at the same level as international terrorism funding. Our government needs to respect and defend indigenous lands and heritage against harmful corporate behavior and set the record straight on the true positive consequences of fair immigration when discussing our borders, instead of inciting violence, exclusion and hate. Equal protection under the law should be afforded to everyone, especially those which have, historically, been underserved or excluded from governmental fairness and economic prosperity.

Question 7: 

Kentucky has the ninth highest incarceration rate in the nation, is second in the nation for incarcerating women, and has the second-highest rate in the country of children separated from a parent due to incarceration. In addition, Black Kentuckians make up 8.3 percent of the state population but 21 percent of the state’s incarcerated population. Are you committed to ending mass incarceration in Kentucky and in the United States as a whole? Why or why not? If elected, what will you do to make strides toward ending mass incarceration and reinvesting resources into the communities most impacted by this system?

After 15 years working in criminal courts, I am moved to run for office to provide an insider’s look into our criminal justice system, its many injustices and economically wasteful processes. The death penalty is ineffective at deterring crime, expensive for taxpayers, unequally applied and can unfortunately kill innocent people awaiting court action. I am moved to run for office to fight addiction stigma and encourage rehabilitation for those that need a hand-up, not a jail cell, to cure the root causes of their criminal behavior. Incarceration should be reserved for violent offenders, not PTSD-sufferers or Cancer-patients using cannabis. I believe solitary confinement should be banned. Citizens need a vote in local criminal laws and procedures by way of “citizen review boards” and more pathways to post- conviction relief for victims of injustice. All too often, our slow criminal system leaves taxpayers footing bills to incarcerate harmless and innocent people, or those in need of medical, not penal, attention. Americans are growing more savvy on matters of criminal law with the emergence of social media, video technology, genetic testing for the masses, documentary films and news stories, yet the system works frustratingly show to release the innocent, heal the ill, punish elite offenders, repair family separations, restore civil rights and correct bad laws. We cannot afford to continue funding a criminal justice system that hurts society; it does not make sense.

Question 8: 

Do you support restoring voting rights to Kentuckians with felonies in their past? Specifically, do you support the Democracy Restoration Act to restore voting rights to people upon release from prison for purposes of voting in federal elections? Do you support restoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure strong federal oversight of state and local governments with a history of voter suppression aimed at communities of color? Please explain.

No human should ever be voiceless in their governments’ decisions. I support Universal Suffrage for people over 16-years-old and will create a beta-version online voter platform during my candidacy to offer a survey to all people who may wish to voice their opinions on pressing political issues, not media headlines nor political figures; and provide citizens information to connect to elected leaders and organizations to assist with emergencies. At age 16, each American should be automatically registered to vote without any restrictions or preconditions and granted a government-issued email address by the U.S. Postal Service through which their votes would be cast and validated. A democracy is “a system of government by the whole population”. Technology is available to create a more democratic country. Our current system is fraught with politics and data insecurity, old machines and varied laws by jurisdiction as to who may vote, and who may not. Antiquated American election traditions which exclude voters for one-reason-or-another have proven to cause social disruption for lack of trust in the process. It will take all of us to tackle the climate crises and correct historical errors, and all voices should be heard.

Question 9: 

Do you support proposed Just Transition bills in Congress to take care of coal miners and communities by investing in abandoned mine land reclamation (H.R. 2156 and H.R. 4248) and extending current funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for another 10 years (H.R. 3876 and S.3171)? Why or why not?

Yes, absolutely. Expediting $1BN from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund to clean-up abandoned coal mining sites must be done to address the scars of mountaintop removal mining (MTR), valley fills and toxic pollution. The RECLAIM Act would grant miners access essential healthcare, fairer pay for their work and secure retirement funding while also employing thousands of Kentuckians in efforts to restore damaged land and water resources. MTR causes contamination to groundwater, streams and the air around topped mountains, resulting in lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and the loss of fish and other wildlife. In 2016, federal laws required mining companies to monitor and restore the more-than-500 mountain regions impacted by MTR, but McConnell and Trump got rid of the Stream Protection Rule early in the Trump administration. Such rules will need to be back in place to protect Kentuckians.

In 2018, McConnell neglected The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax, allowing it to revert back to 1978 levels; then the rate was extended for just one year. Now the rates are set to expire in December of 2020 without government action to extend care. Communities impacted by coal production deserve consistent support, not political rhetoric. Central Appalachia is facing a regionally unique rise in black lung disease, younger miners are getting sicker at higher rates and the region has a rate of infection double the national rate for coal miners with similar years of exposure. As coal runs low, miners face increased levels of fine silica dust exposure leading to more severe forms of black lung disease, such as PMF.

Since the 1870’s, Kentucky’s coal fueled the nation’s growth at the cost of our citizen’s health and land. Corporations and land agents in the 1900’s paid low prices to Kentuckians in exchange for rights to land that produced billions of dollars in profits for them, not us. They left, and they left Kentucky taxpayers and injured workers with a toxic mess to clean up. Mitch McConnell stood by corporations, not union workers, the past 34 years, allowing mining companies through the 1980’s and 1990’s to hire non-union workers. In turn, Kentucky’s miners became powerless to demand safe conditions, fair pay and adequate long-term financial and healthcare assistance. Kentucky has been under attack by greedy and powerful interests too long, and the costs to heal people and environments are increasing day-by-day.

Question 10: 

What will you do to support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) Kentuckians? What will you do to protect people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

I will support the LGBTQ community in every way possible to ensure equal access to all privileges of American life regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation or other traits. I am an ardent supporter of inclusion at all levels of society and government for the LGBTQ community, including marriage equality, military inclusion, public accommodations, universal healthcare, hate-crime enhancements for violent acts against the LGBTQ community, and the federal Equality Act to give nationwide legal protections to the LGBTQ community. Leaders should fervently speak-out against discriminatory acts we see on our news daily, and equally represent their constituents regardless of the color of their skin, where they are from, whom they wish to love and associate, the God they worship or other differences. Fueling ignorant acts of hate or ignoring it, is wrong. The majority of Americans do not hate people at first sight nor seek to harm people that are different from them. The extremists that hurt people because of their differences should be punished, not endorsed, by our leaders.