State Sen. James Timilty and challenger Jeff Bailey had their differences, but they kept the discussion civil Thursday night during an election debate at Attleboro High School. A range of topics were featured during the 50-minute session hosted by The Sun Chronicle and the United Regional Chamber of Commerce, including jobs, state spending and government transparency.
Timilty, a Walpole Democrat who has represented the Bristol and Norfolk District (which includes most of Attleboro and several other communities) for eight years, and Bailey, an Attleboro Republican pastor, agreed on some issues. Both said they were against the November ballot measure that would legalize medicinal marijuana and another referendum that would allow physician-assisted suicide. They also opposed the recent federal court decision that called for the state to fund a convicted murderer's sex change operation.
But there were also several differences between the candidates. On the issue of health insurance mandates, Timilty said at times they are needed because some Massachusetts residents would otherwise not receive certain services.
"The insurance companies who are all too willing to take your premiums every month are so unwilling to provide you with a service that you need," Timilty said. "Sometimes, legislatively … you're the one who has to put the mandate on them. You have to fight for that individual who can't."
Bailey said there must to be more choices for the residents, and that some of the mandates are not needed.
"We have to be good stewards over the resources that we have," he said. "And as much as we would like to do everything, we cannot ... allow us to choose more. I don't have a problem with requiring insurance companies to pay for these things, but give us the choice to opt out of that coverage."
Regarding employment in Massachusetts, Bailey said the state could improve on its No. 16 national ranking by being more business friendly. He said Massachusetts has a tendency to overregulate. Timilty looked to government intervention that has been successful, such as a $1 million grant that kept jewelry maker Leach and Garner in Attleboro.
Bailey was critical of Timilty's vote in 2010 approving the $35 million bailout package for the city of Lawrence. He said even if this was a loan, the money would never be returned and there was no guarantee the bailout would help turn around the struggling city.
"State government cannot be run on hope and prayer, it must be run on sound fiscal principles," Bailey said.
Timilty said he voted for the bailout because if the state let Lawrence collapse, the city would go into a receivership and the state would have to take control of it. So, he said, it was matter of either helping or taking ownership of the city.
"We hope that they will somehow get out of the mess that they're in," Timilty said.
On the issue of government transparency, Bailey said he would like Senate committee voting results released to the public. Timility said this might be something he would support, but he did not consider it to be a major issue, especially because the voting results of these meetings are usually not tight.
"Nobody has really said, 'Jimmy, the thing I need the most from Beacon Hill to make the quality of life for my family and my town [better] is those committee votes,'" Timilty said.
The senator called Beacon Hill "a very transparent place." Bailey said the opposite was true.
"All you have to do is watch the Senate on the Internet and you know there is nothing transparent and open," he said. 'You have hundreds of bills that are being bundled and voted on. You've got voice votes everywhere."
Speaking directly to Timilty, he continued, "Your party has fought this kind of transparency and openness for year after year … and I believe it is time for that to change. And I believe we need a senator that is going to bring attention to these things. And I don't feel that you've done that over the eight years you've been there."