Do you support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education? Are you committed to funding associated reforms, and if so, how?
Cooper: I support the Kirwan Commission. I agree with The Commission’s recommendations and stated goals. The State’s trajectory (e.g. that Maryland is listed as #1 in Student Achievement Growth) has been generally positive in moving Maryland closer to those objectives listed by The Commission. It is true that new challenges are arising throughout the State. Montgomery County has a majority-minority population, a rapidly expanding student population that is growing at a rate of 2,500 students per year, and an Achievement Gap that persists between Caucasian/Asian and African-American/Latino populations. The result of these and other challenges is that the MCPS budget has experienced increasingly difficult budgetary strains. More school construction funds are required to serve our students; greater funding is required for Free And Reduced Meals; there is a greater need in MCPS for pre-K instruction, special needs resource teachers, and English as a Second Language courses. As a member of the Montgomery County Delegation in the Maryland House of Delegates, I will work to ensure that adequate state funding continues to be allocated for public education across the state. As our State begins to emerge from the Great Recession, our legislature needs to actively manage our financial and human resources. I therefore believe that we need to maintain funding at Thornton levels so that we continue to support our pupils, Maryland’s future work force, while continuing to reserve constrained resources for other priority areas.
Is Maryland’s transportation spending appropriately balanced between roads and transit? Does the state have the resources to meet its transportation needs? With the cancellation of the Red Line and the advent of BaltimoreLink, is the Baltimore region adequately served by transit?
Cooper: We need to invest more in mass transit while maintaining the roads we already have. Baltimore should continue to expand bike sharing and bike lanes in the City.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Cooper: I support the use of medical marijuana and its decriminalization. I am still under the impression that marijuana remains illegal according to federal law and though the federal government is not enforcing this law in states such as California and Colorado, I believe that any attempts to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Maryland would still be preempted under federal law.
At a time when the federal government’s commitment to Chesapeake Bay restoration is questionable, what new steps should Maryland take to protect this resource?
Cooper: Maryland should prohibit the export of liquefied natural gas from Cove Point and should halt all current efforts to construct a LNG pipeline under the Potomac River. If such a line were to burst it would contaminate a significant portion of the Chesapeake Bay and would result in egregious damage to the Bay ecosystem. Additionally Maryland should continue to increase its Renewable Portfolio Standard to wean our power supply off of carbon-based fuel and we should invest more heavily in the development of powerful battery technology to store and use power from renewable energy sources.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Cooper: I have introduced the Healthcare Equity, Access, Reliability, and Transparency Act (H.E.A.R.T. Act) because Taking care of the vulnerable is not only morally correct; it’s fiscally responsible. We need to stop using Emergency Rooms to provide primary care to the uninsured, stop using prisons to care for the mentally ill, and start using a Public Option through universal Medicaid eligibility to cover every Marylander with whole body coverage, which will improve health outcomes and will have a positive impact on health insurance premiums for everyone else. We need to create a public option through Medicaid expansion. We need universal means tested eligibility for such a plan that would reduce premiums below market rates and introduce economies of scale seen in public plans. The creation of this plan should pool the current Medicaid population with all 500,000 public employees in Maryland by requiring state employees and incentivizing municipal and county employees to join the basic plan with whole body coverage. This plan has been endorsed by former Maryland Health Secretary Van Mitchell and two former Governors of Maryland.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Cooper: Maryland should expand Mental Health Courts and Drug Courts across the state. Marylanders in a mental health crisis who present no risk to others deserve the chance to get their lives back on track through these special courts. Maryland also needs to begin stemming the tide of illegally procured firearms that flow into the city. Gun owners should be held criminally liable for crimes perpetrated with a gun registered to them regardless of whether they were involved with the crime. If gun owners sell their gun on the black market and that gun ends up being found at the scene of a homicide then that gun owner should be held criminally liable for straw purchasing a gun.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Cooper: Maryland’s business climate is somewhat attractive because of the thriving communities, high quality of life, and superior public education infrastructure that we provide to business owners and their employees. I will fight for Montgomery County to bring back our fair share from Annapolis. Each year we send our tax dollars to the state and each year we get back only 20 cents on our tax dollar. It’s important to use our resources to help raise all boats in Maryland but we can and should do better when it comes to procuring state funds for school construction, mass transit, and utility infrastructure due to the greater burden posed by our high population density. 2. Public Childcare 1. Childcare can post a significant financial burden to new families that often results in one parent leaving the workforce. Providing public childcare for children ages 0-5 will allow both parents to continue to contribute to the economy. 3. Opposing Corporate Welfare a. Revoke tens of millions of dollars in tax-credits for corporations with thousands of employees.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Cooper: Yes. I oppose gerrymandering in all of its forms. Ensuring that districts are drawn fairly in a non-partisan manner will translate into improved representation. Redistricting reform will do much to restore voters’ confidence in our electoral democracy.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Cooper: Many legislative solutions to the opioid crisis focus are reactive after someone decides to use opioids. Clean needle exchanges, the prescription drug monitoring program, and methadone clinics are fine but we need to address the underlying problem leading people to use these drugs. In addition to reducing the over prescription of pain medications by medical professionals we need to find ways to build communities that do not result in social alienation and loneliness. We need improved mental healthcare to prevent addictive behaviors.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Cooper: We should have free access to community college across the state and we to invest more heavily in vocational training to produce a workforce with hard skills that they can use to earn income in a new economy.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Cooper: Declining press coverage in Maryland has led to diminished accountability of lawmakers. We should investigate the creation of a BBC-like network that is funded by a dedicated sales tax on computers, phones, and televisions (devices used to access news) that would create an independently funded investigative news organization.