WHITMAN — State Rep. Alyson Sullivan, R-Abington, said that “time management” is the key to her success during a wide-ranging interview Monday, Feb. 4, with the Express. The busy final-year New England School of Law student, 30, who has been a working student for the better part of her adult life, is now also officially a full-time legislator.
Sullivan was sworn in Jan. 2 as the representative for the 7th Plymouth District which includes all of Whitman, Abington and several East Bridgewater precincts.
“I’m still new at this,” the lifelong Abington resident said, but has already sponsored several bills, co-sponsored dozens and has set clear priorities, such a tackling the opioid crisis, criminal justice reform and responsibly dealing with school budgets.
Sullivan has been appointed to several legislative committees for the 2019-2020 session by house leadership. She will be a member of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery as well as the House Committee on Personnel and Administration, according to her office.
In Whitman in particular, which is facing tough school budget cuts, she said she is meeting with local officials, including selectmen, to see what she can do to alleviate the crunch, although she admits she doesn’t have all the answers.
She said she has also reached out to lawmakers, both state representatives and state senators from both parties to work on local aid and school district issues.
She says that bipartisanship is important to her, in order to get things done on Beacon Hill, and that she will work closely with state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, who represents the 6th Plymouth District, which covers all of Hanson, Pembroke and most of Duxbury, and shares the Whitman-Hanson School District with her.
Sullivan has said that she wants to work to change the formula, known as Chapter 70, by which state aid is distributed, using the state’s budget surplus and rainy-day fund to pay for school funding.
“I ran on a platform of not raising taxes,” she said, but wasn’t sure where to make tough choices when it came to spending, yet. “I’m still only four weeks into my role; I’m still learning really how to be a state representative.”
“We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem,” she noted.
Sullivan also addressed the opioid issues affecting the state.
“One issue in particular, the opioid epidemic is affecting every corner of our commonwealth. It is impacting so many communities and I look forward to get to work on this critical issue right away,” Sullivan said through a statement.
She highlighted legislation she sponsored that would allow Plymouth County Outreach (PCO), the county-wide coalition of police and health care workers that provide support to those that suffer from substance use disorder, their family members and loved ones to be able to be trained immediately on and have access to Naloxone, known under the tradename Narcan, the life-saving opioid-blocking nasal spray, in the immediate aftermath of an opioid overdose.
Currently PCO only refers those in need of Nalaxone to a social services organization, she said, such as Brockton Area Multi-Services, Inc. (BAMSI) which trains people on and distributes the medication for free, or to local pharmacies, which depending on one’s insurance situation, charge for the medicine.
“This will [eliminate] a step,” she said.
Sullivan addressed questions both about supervised injection sites, which she is noticeably cautious and “on the fence about,” arguing that they don’t address the underlying issues of substance abuse disorder, as well as medically assisted substance abuse treatment in the corrections system, both of which she said she wants to look more into before taking a position.
Sullivan said she had already toured the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, as part of her interest in substance abuse and criminal justice reform and spoken with officials and inmates there, including those in detox units.
Regarding the issue of money and politics, her campaign committee raised significantly more money, almost half from the state GOP, than her Democratic opponent, Alex Bezanson, which she did not dispute.
“You have to raise money to get your message out there,” she said.
During the election Sullivan was working as a legal assistant in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, she said.
“During the campaign I [personally] could not raise any funds … I was a state employee … other people raised money for me,” she pointed out.
The state Republican Committee donated $37,163.95, consisting mostly of funds from outside the district, out of $88,235.30 raised for her during the election campaign, according to state filings. That represents about 42 percent of the total funds raised.
There were also 15 $1,000 donations, the maximum donation amount allowed by law for an individual. Without the donation from the Republican Committee, Sullivan would have had $51,071.35 in the bank.
Bezanson received only $1,000 from the state Democratic Committee, and five $1,000 donations. He raised $54,464 in total. (He donated $1,000, as well, to his own campaign.)
“The support from outside the district doesn’t concern me,” she said. She added that her family is well-known— her father, Michael, is a former acting Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives director under President George W. Bush, a former Plymouth County district attorney, former federal prosecutor and in fact held his daughter’s 7th district seat in the early 1990s— and that people believe that she has the best interest of the commonwealth at heart.
Sullivan said her priority was to be an independent voice for the district and the state as a whole.
She said she is not a particular “type” of Republican, although she acknowledged that she was a minority as one in Massachusetts. She said she supports President Trump, calling him “my president” with a slight grin on her face, and that she respects anyone who runs for office, but doesn’t agree with him on everything. Nor does she agree with Gov. Charlie Baker or the Republican Party on everything, for example, tax increases, she added.
“I’m trying to look out for everyone within the district,” Sullivan said. “I’m here focusing on Massachusetts, I’m here focusing on my district, so that’s where my focus remains.”