John Simmons is a member of the Town Council and is running for the 14th Bristol District state representative seat as a Republican. He is a former member of the Election Commission and has coached youth sports and is a member of the Bristol Masonic Lodge. He is also a founding partner of the Law Office of Weiner Jackson and Simmons.
Tell me about the challenges that await the district and how your skills/background can help.
The Governor released his updated budget recently and has indicated he would be willing to tap into the Commonwealth’s stabilization or “rainy day” fund in order to secure a level-funded budget. The budget will go to the House of Representatives and the Senate where there will likely be changes and possibly reductions. I will leverage my relationships, my ability to work with the Governor, and my negotiating skills as an attorney to provide much needed aid and funding to the 14th Bristol District. The economic issues will not end with this year’s budget. Prior to COVID, the Commonwealth was on pace for a budget surplus. As our present, temporary, economic decline is solely due to COVID we must remember the economic footing in the Commonwealth is strong. I will use my experience as a small business owner to advocate for legislation to assist our small businesses so we can turn the economic engine back on. Allowing local municipalities to reduce taxes on small businesses will allow business owners to do what they do best; innovate. I will advocate for funding so businesses can operate safely and put money back into the local economy through taxes and good paying jobs.
You have a lot on your plate, whether it be careers or work in different organizations. Being State Representative requires a total commitment. What are you willing to set aside if elected?
Being State Representative is a full time job and I am committed to being a full time State Representative. For me, my family is of the utmost importance but my first professional obligation is to the residents of the 14th Bristol District. I am fortunate to be blessed with a highly capable staff and business partner and I trust them entirely to manage our law firm while I serve the people. My children have reached an age, and if I am being honest a skill level, which has led me to hang up my coach’s whistle and just be a spectator. I loved coaching and being involved in youth sports and I enjoy watching the next generation of parents step up to the plate. My work with the Bristol Masonic Lodge and the North Attleboro Plainville Rotary Club were done in an effort to make our community better. I will continue that mission as a State Representative. All of our lives are busy but we all understand how to manage our time and prioritize. As I said, family is of the utmost importance and I will treat the residents of the 14th Bristol District as part of my family.
What is your take on police reform? Is it needed, and if so, what would your approach be?
We are fortunate to have highly educated, well trained, professional local police officers. I am honored to be endorsed by the Massachusetts Coalition of Police. While we can always improve, the current reforms contained in the House and Senate versions of the police reform bills go to far. POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) is an excellent idea, however, we need to ensure proper funding for POST to avoid yet another unfunded State mandate. Requiring additional training but then providing inadequate funding and training options is setting the system up to fail. I will ensure POST receives a sufficient dedicated funding source.
I support maintaining qualified immunity. I estimate we would lose approximately 30% of our most qualified officers resulting in a detriment to public safety if we get rid of qualified immunity. We would be exposing officers to lawsuits simply for doing their job. Officers who violate the law and our civil rights do not have the protection of qualified immunity.
I am in favor of banning chokeholds, the technique is not taught locally, however there must be an exception for life or death situations. Our brave officers deserve to go home safe at the end of their shift.
Public education has faced challenges with the COVID crisis, in some cases resulting in deferred hires and layoffs. How can you contribute to improving public schools so they can recover?
As the father of two students in the North Attleboro Public School system, providing quality public education is a personal concern. Fortunately, through the leadership of our School Committee and Administration, we have avoided layoffs and continue to improve our public schools. As a member of Town Council I have been impressed with Town Manager Borg’s transparency with our Capital Improvement Plan where we can now review the status of each improvement in Town, including in our schools. As the Town Council representative to the School Committee I was able to review the positive changes in our school curriculum and facilities, providing more options for our students resulting in less attrition. However, without revising the funding mechanism for public education, ensuring full reimbursement for charter school students, and continuing to improve our facilities, we will not be able to ensure equity in education. The Massachusetts Constitution guarantees a quality public education. I will work to revise the funding mechanism by using a more equitable formula which takes an accurate picture of our district’s financial capabilities. I will further work to ensure full reimbursement for students attending charter schools resulting in increased performance and therefore attendance in our public schools.
Will you cross party lines to benefit your district?
I want to help small businesses recover from COVID. I want to help properly fund education to benefit our children. I want to ensure we fully support our brave first responders. I want to ease the tax burden on our seniors and I want to help our most vulnerable citizens who may be struggling through hard times. Those are not Republican or Democrat issues, those are your issues and I share them. People are sick of party politics. The people want answers and they want help and that is what I am going to deliver. I am going to the State House to serve the people of the 14th Bristol District regardless of party and pledge to work with anyone who is interested in helping the residents of this District. If my time as a member of the Bristol Masonic Lodge has taught me anything it is that you can get anything done if you don’t care who gets the credit. Representative Poirier has consistently reached across the aisle to benefit our district and I will do the same.
Tell me about Rep Poirier’s legacy and how you would continue it.
I am honored that Representative Elizabeth Poirier and former Representative Kevin Poirier have endorsed my candidacy. Representative Poirier, like her husband before her, has served this district with distinction. She is ever present in our community and is one of us. She has worked tirelessly to ensure we receive funding for the World War II Memorial Pool, one of the few remaining memorial pools in the country, funding for the Children’s Advocacy Center, assisting Lenore’s pantry, assisting our Seniors through her Senior Spectacular and going above and beyond with constituent services. The job of a State Representative is not to seek praise for pieces of legislation, it is to help the people who need it most. It is about helping people find housing, helping people receive state benefits they are due, and advocating for the residents. It may not be flashy but helping people through the maze that is state government is what this job is all about. Being a State Representative is about serving the people and no one can argue Representative Poirier has served the people of this district. I look forward to carrying on her charitable work and I thank her for her friendship and support.