Health Care & Prescription Drugs
Chellie believes fundamentally that access to affordable high-quality health care is a human right, not a privilege for the wealthy few. If one thing is clear, it’s that the system we use to deliver health care to our citizens in America is broken. Costs continue to spiral out of control, bolstering the bottom lines of insurance companies and drug makers while squeezing household budgets to the breaking point. Too many Americans are one serious diagnosis away from bankruptcy and too many others are forced to defer critical preventive care, often leading to costly emergency room visits and raising costs for everyone. Something has to change, and it has to change now.
The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was a major step in the right direction. More people with health insurance means lower costs and better care for everyone. When President Obama left office, the ACA was slowing the rate of health care cost increases and leading to positive patient outcomes. Obamacare made health insurance affordable to low and middle income families, often for the first time. It gave people the freedom to start a business or strike out on their own, knowing they would be able to find quality affordable care. But, with President Trump in the White House and Republican control of Congress, the ACA has been under constant attack. Chellie is determined to protect Obamacare from these cynical attacks, and to fix what needs fixing so everyone can access the quality care they deserve.
One of the biggest sources of pressure on household budgets, especially for seniors, is the unconscionable cost of prescription drugs. There’s simply no way that people living on a fixed income can keep up with the prices of medications that seem to increase month after month. Chellie has the courage to take on the big drug companies and to fight for consumers. She believes the federal government should use its considerable buying power to negotiate for Medicare patients. And she’s a introduced legislation to ensure that consumers can import their prescriptions from Canada if they choose, where drugs can cost much less than they do in the US.
Ultimately, Chellie believes that the time has come to pass Medicare for All. With a single-payer system, we can address unreasonable out-of-pocket costs and confusing administrative hurdles, and ensure that every American, no matter their age, income level, disability, or health history, can access the care they need when they or their families need it.
Choice & Women’s Health
We cannot compromise on a woman’s absolute right to make decisions about her own health care without intrusion from the federal government. Still, President Trump and the Republicans in Congress have made it a priority to attack that right however they can. Chellie is committed to protecting Roe v. Wade, an essential piece of Supreme Court precedent that has ensured access to safe abortions for more than forty years.
She’s also fighting every attempt to roll back access to basic care, including making sure that women don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for birth control, preserving programs that help low-income Mainers afford preventive care like STD and cancer screenings, and resisting efforts defund Planned Parenthood, an important and trusted provider in our communities.
A woman’s right to choose is, unfortunately, far from the only thing under attack by the Trump Administration. Time and time again, Republicans have shown they’re determined to remove protections for people with “pre-existing conditions”. We can’t go back to the days before the Affordable Care Act, when simply being a woman counted as a pre-existing condition — and could mean thousands of dollars in extra health insurance premiums every year. Chellie believes these consumer protections are non-negotiable and should be the foundation of our health care system going forward.
Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid
The social safety net – especially Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – is a lasting tribute to our American values. These programs are a statement that we take care of our elderly, our disabled, and our working families struggling to make ends meet. They are a promise to our citizens that, if you work hard and play by the rules, you will not be left behind.
It’s only fair that, after paying our share for years, we should be confident that these programs will be around to support us when we retire or fall on hard times. But President Trump and Republicans in Congress appear poised to weaken or kill these critical programs to pay for their tax breaks for the rich and huge corporations. That’s not right, and Chellie won’t stand for it.
We need to strengthen Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid so they are around for generations of Americans to come. That means no more gimmicks, no risky privatization schemes, and no breaking our promises.
Every child in Maine and across the United States deserves access to a world-class education. A child’s zip code or what her parents do for a living must not limit the opportunities she has in life.
Universal quality education, tailored to meet the rapidly changing needs of tomorrow’s workforce, is the absolute best way we have to break the cycle of poverty and to ensure America continues to lead the world for years to come.
But our public education system in this country unfortunately falls far short of that vision. Too many schools don’t have the resources they need to meet their most basic needs. In the richest country in the world, dedicated teachers routinely reach into their own pockets for needed supplies. Too many kids are coming to school hungry, unable to learn.
Yet, rather than addressing these critical needs, the Trump Administration, especially Secretary Betsy DeVos and her allies in Congress, seems determined to defund and hollow-out public education while ensuring more kids are forced into for-profit institutions that benefit shareholders over kids.
Higher education is facing a similar crisis. Tuition costs are rising across the board and student loans are now the second largest source of consumer debt behind mortgages. The burden is hurting Maine students and their families now and will continue to have an impact on their financial futures. Chellie believes the we must act — both to make higher education more affordable and accessible, and to make student loan payments more manageable for those who already have them.
The opioid epidemic has stolen more than one person from us per day in Maine — and scarcely a community in our state doesn’t have a personal story about how this crisis has affected them. We need to take serious action to support long term public health infrastructure and help people get back on their feet.
There’s no one solution to this epidemic, but the answers are there if we have the political will. Increasing access to treatment is critical to reaching people with substance use disorder, many of whom don’t have the means to afford private programs. That’s why Chellie has fought for and won increased funding for addiction treatment in Maine.
We also need increased access to life-saving drugs like Naloxone, smart law enforcement strategies that focus on getting drugs off the streets, research funding to develop non-addictive pain management strategies, and outreach to doctors, nurses and public health officials so they can effectively identify and intervene when they see people at risk.
This crisis doesn’t care if you’re young or old, rich or poor – and we all have a responsibility to do everything in our power to end it.
Jobs & The Economy
America used to be a place where everyone had a fair shot and everyone paid their fair share. Where if you worked hard, you could get ahead.
But while large corporations are reporting record profits and unemployment is low, far too many Mainers are still struggling to make ends meet.
Companies are using their profits and huge windfalls from the Trump Tax Plan to pay their CEOs even more or to buy back stock. Meanwhile wages have been stagnant for years while costs, especially for health care, continue to rise rapidly. That combination is wreaking havoc on household budgets across Maine. People who were once able to support a family or save a little for retirement are now forced to choose which bills they can pay each month.
We need an economy that works for everyone. Where anyone who works hard at a full time job is paid a livable wage. We need policies that support working families, like access to affordable child care, and paid sick and family leave. We need a tax code that asks the rich to pay their share, rather than giving them more massive tax breaks on the backs of working families. And we need to support the right of workers to form unions that will fight for safe and fair working conditions.
Environment & Clean Energy
Maine’s natural resources are not only precious, they are the backbone of our economy. Our farmers, our fisherman and lobsterman, our tourism industry all depend on the protection of the lands, woods and waters for which Maine is rightly known around the world.
But climate change and backward public policies are putting these incredible resources at serious risk.
The effects of climate change are already being felt in our state. The Gulf of Maine is warming more quickly than 99 percent of the world’s large bodies of water. It may soon be too warm to support the fish and lobster that have always been a vital part of our economy. We are seeing more hot days, less rain, and more flooding when the rain does fall on parched soil. Farming in Maine has always been difficult, but these changes may soon make it more so.
But rather than accepting the scientific fact of human-impacted climate change, the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are working to prop up dirty fossil fuels, shut out renewable energy sources, and open some of our most treasured lands and waters to drilling. We must not let them succeed – for the sake of our climate and our economy.
Chellie believes that quickly transitioning our power and transportation systems from dirty fossil fuels to clean, job-creating, renewable sources like wind, solar and hydropower is critical. She knows that Maine can be a worldwide leader in renewable technology, and that Mainers will be among the biggest beneficiaries if we take on the challenge. Chellie is opposed to opening our coastal waters to offshore oil drilling, and to the Trump Administration’s attack on the laws protecting our clean air and water.
There is perhaps no bigger challenge facing our country and our world today than rapid climate change. Chellie is leading the fight in Congress to face this crisis head-on with bold, decisive action.
Maine has a long and proud hunting tradition that connects family members and provides an important food source for many Mainers. Chellie respects that tradition and firmly believes in a citizen’s right to responsibly own and carry firearms.
At the same time, the specter of mass shootings, especially devastating when they occur at schools, has become all too common. Our current laws allow too many people with criminal histories or serious mental illness to acquire weapons that are better suited for the battlefield and can inflict unimaginable carnage on innocent people in an instant.
That’s why Chellie favors common sense gun safety measures to keep weapons of war out of the hands of dangerous people. That includes a ban on bumpstocks, which essentially transform semi-automatic into fully automatic weapons; a ban on high-capacity magazines; and the closing of the “gun show loophole” that enables potentially dangerous people to avoid criminal background checks when purchasing firearms.
Though mass shootings certainly garner the biggest headlines, the tragedies surrounding gun violence take many other forms as well. Chellie believes we must take measures to ensure all firearms are kept securely and out of the reach of children to avoid accidents. We must also find ways to lower the gun suicide rate by keeping firearms out of the hands of those considering harming themselves or others.
Gun violence is a problem we can solve – virtually every other developed nation has – while respecting American traditions.
Our nation’s veterans have put their lives on the line to defend us. They deserve our thanks, our respect, and, most importantly, the care and services they have earned.
We need a Department of Veterans Affairs that provides world-class care to veterans of all ages, including our returning servicemen and servicewomen. That means eliminating long wait times for treatment and effectively diagnosing diseases like PTSD and depression before they contribute to the epidemic of veteran suicide.
We must also ensure that our veterans are able to smoothly transition from the armed forces into civilian life. From higher-education to starting a new business, we owe it to our vets to give them every opportunity to succeed.
Food & Farming
Farming is in Chellie’s blood – her grandparents were Norwegian immigrants who first came to Minnesota to work the land. As a teenager in the early 1970s, she came to Maine clutching a copy of Helen and Scott Nearing’s “Living the Good Life” and became an organic farmer.
In the 70s, farming was becoming big business. President Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, famously told farmers to “get big or get out.” But Chellie chose a different path. On the tiny island of North Haven, Maine (population 381), Pingree became an organic farmer. Her door-to-door egg delivery business expanded, and she began selling produce to summer visitors and raising sheep for wool. Eventually she founded North Island Designs, a yarn and knitting business that grew to employee ten people year round and sell products through mail-order catalogs and retailers nationwide.
Today, Chellie has put the Turner Farm on North Haven back into production, working to restore production levels to what they were in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, they raise organic crops and animals and provide nearly all the food for Nebo Lodge and Restaurant, which Chellie opened with three partners in early 2006.
In 2011, Chellie introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act. This landmark legislation contained dozens of provisions aimed at leveling the playing field for small, organic and local farms. When President Obama signed the Farm Bill in 2014, a majority of Chellie’s proposals had been incorporated into this legislation. Thanks to Chellie’s strong advocacy for these provisions, the last farm bill increased access to local and fresh food for SNAP (food stamp) beneficiaries, increased funding for farmers markets and local farmers, and for the first time ever created crop insurance that works for diversified farmers growing a variety of fruits and vegetables.
In 2017, Chellie introduced the Local FARMS Act, bipartisan legislation that builds upon the progress made to support local and regional food systems in the last farm bill. One innovative provision in the bill would direct USDA to start a produce prescription pilot, which would allow doctors to prescribe fruits and vegetables to low-income patients. As a Co-chair of the Food is Medicine Working Group, Chellie believes that federal policy should better reflect the link between nutrition and health. Another provision would consolidate multiple local food programs into one streamlined program called the Local Agriculture Market Program, creating a one-stop-shop for farmers, organizations, and other stakeholders seeking support for local food projects. She has actively pushed these provisions during the ongoing 2018 farm bill reauthorization and many of the provisions were included in the Senate farm bill draft.
Chellie has become a national leader on food waste reduction. In 2015, Chellie introduced the Food Recovery Act, the first federal legislation to offer comprehensive reforms aimed at reducing food waste. She has also introduced legislation to standardize food date labels and reduce consumer confusion around expiration dates. In 2018, she launched the bipartisan House Food Waste Caucus and continues to increase awareness about costly effects of food waste.
In 2018, Chellie was honored for her commitment to sustainable agriculture with a James Beard Leadership Award. In 2014, Food and Wine and Fortune Magazine released a list of the 50 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink, and Chellie was #2 on the list, behind the head of the UN World Food Programme.