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?
Paul: Yes. The Kirwan Commission is the single most important reason to send me to the House of Delegates. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape our schools, and it’s coming in the next 2-3 years. We need experienced teacher-activists to shepherd us through the process and help push for desperately needed changes in teacher recruitment/retention, pre-K, career/technical education, STEM offerings, arts, and more. The underfunding of schools is clear throughout the United States, and Maryland is no exception. The devastation of property values during the financial crisis greatly harmed government coffers and made an already-bad school funding situation in the United States still worse. The extent of that funding crisis was made evident here in Montgomery County by the legal hoops county officials jumped through just to prove they had the right under state law to shirk their maintenance of effort obligations. We are finally starting to recover from those darkest of dark times (at least financially), and we face a serious risk of underestimating what our spending levels on education should be because anything will seem like a big improvement compared to where we have been. The case for tax increases has always been a tough one to make, but we need a one-two punch of new revenues and robust economic growth to get our economic furnace burning again.
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?
Paul: Though maintenance of state roads is important, I believe investment should focus on transit. Baltimore desperately needs transit investment that will spur development, draw residents, and connect the city. I do not support Governor Hogan’s splashy but substance-free proposal to expand I-495, I-270, and the BW Parkway. All experience shows us that building more highways can hollow out communities while inducing further traffic demand. For this reason, transit expansions would instead be a much better use of limited state funds. My priorities specifically would be: all-day, two-way MARC service an infill MARC station in the White-Flint area true bus-rapid transit via the Corridor Cities Transitway, Route 29, and Route 355. I have been a consistent supporter of BRT in Montgomery County, most recently advocating for a study of the BetterBRT plan for 29. That is all not to say that we should not invest in roadways. Cars in suburban Maryland are not disappearing anytime soon. I, however, would want to make sure that existing repairs are prioritized before adding even more road infrastructure. Any additional freeway lanes should come from repurposing existing median space, not widening; I would like to see that new lane space devoted to dedicated transit, such as bus-rapid transit or HOT/HOV lanes. We should be extremely wary of Virginia’s model in this regard, where the PPP leading to 66 toll lanes actually forbids expansion of the orange line. I would vehemently oppose any such deals that hamper transit infrastructure to prioritize roads.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Paul: The time has clearly come to legalize marijuana. States throughout the country have accomplished this, ensuring that no one will be punished for using a substance that is much less dangerous than alcohol. Maryland should be one of those states. That said, Maryland should also be a leader in the design of its marijuana legalization policies, recognizing that just because marijuana isn’t as destructive as alcohol or heroin doesn’t mean that it can’t be harmful to its users. As marijuana policy expert Mark Kleiman points out, alcohol policy in this country has largely been a failure, with more than 90,000 people dying as a result of their own or someone else’s drinking. One way our policies differ on these two controlled substances differ is the business we have allowed to grow up around them, he explains. While tobacco companies have been (rightfully) villainized and banned from advertising, we all laugh along with the ubiquitous funny commercials produced by beer companies. If we end up with large conglomerates running marijuana business in Maryland, our state will be much worse as a result. Imposing a requirement that legalized recreational sale would be limited at most to non-profit producers should be a starting point for legalization, as should a ban on advertising on mass media. While recreational marijuana should definitely be legal, I am not eager for Maryland to embrace the Philip Morris or Anheuser-Busch of cannabis.
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?
Paul: The Bay matters both emotionally and economically. I hope that Clean Water Commerce Act’s credit trading scheme will show real pollution reductions, but I do have some concerns about how the massive size of its Western Shore/Eastern Shore/Susquehanna region might not create enough pollution reduction in the places that need it most. If this does not lead to noticeable decreases, we should tighten up the plan with more restrictive caps. We need to take a hard line on the Conowingo Dam license renegotiation. Though upstream sediment and nutrients are not the only threat to the bay, they are certainly important challenges. With the dam full a decade ahead of schedule, post-storm nutrient washover sets back the work of cleaning up the Bay. We have a once-in-a-generation moment to demand that Exelon bear more of the burden and not leave the taxpayer to pick up the entire tab for expensive and temporary dredging operations. Long-term, the other part of the solution has to be working with Pennsylvania and New York to control sediment and nutrient pollution at the source through cooperation with the whole watershed. Also, we will have to continue to work with our federal delegation both to pressure the EPA into demanding more aggressive nutrient limits upstream in Pennsylvania and to stand up to President Trump and protect the EPA itself, whose crucial Bay cleanup program is perpetually at risk due to looming agency budget cuts.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Paul: I believe that Maryland should explore options for single-payer health care within our state. To create a single-payer model that meets the unique needs of Maryland, we will need to work together across multiple stakeholders. From health care providers, to employers, to policymakers, to the wealth of health care experts we are fortunate to have located right here in our state, we will all need to come together to research and determine the best ways to both finance and implement an innovative single-payer model in Maryland. We are already spending far too much on health care, so in implementing a single-payer system in Maryland, upfront investments in the system should pay off in the long run. I am committed to exploring a single-payer system and other innovative, forward-thinking ways to reform our health care system to lower costs and expand access. In the short-term, though, Maryland must take drastic action to stabilize our statewide insurance marketplace; the bipartisan one-year plan to charge insurance companies a one-time fee or $380 million in order to start a reinsurance fund would hold off premium increases. Likewise, it should hopefully stop CareFirst from leaving the state’s market. A statewide individual mandate would also help in the absence of federal individual mandate enforcement. This is the bare minimum we can do as we explore the possibilities for statewide single-payer or await a resurgent national Democratic wave to deliver single-payer in 2020.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Paul: The state should inject extra resources (for instance, state police resources for high-priority warrants) and set the stage for long-term crime reduction via social investments. The state should not play the entire role envisioned by Governor Hogan; we should resist the urge to further militarize police or to return to the tired, zero-tolerance, mandatory-minimum approaches of the past. Longer sentences may feel cathartic to levy, but certainty – not severity – of punishment is what actually deters future punishment.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Paul: My parents were small business owners, and I spent a fair amount of my childhood helping out at the register or just reading a book and watching my parents run their shop. It wasn’t easy for them. Now, as a computer science teacher, I give kids the technical skills they need to go start businesses of their own – perhaps business that will someday grow into something larger. With a growing/aging population and growing need, the only way to pay for everything our community needs is to supercharge our business sector. We have to grow our way out of this squeeze. The state should use the Kirwan Commission to renew our commitment to middle-skill, new-collar jobs with high-quality apprenticeships so that we can fill gaps in our economy. We should work to improve transit and education infrastructure to draw large businesses. And finally, we should work with business community members to identify points of friction in their interaction with the state.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Paul: I enthusiastically support non-partisan redistricting measures like independent commissions for both state and federal lines. I am sympathetic to the desire to elect more Democrats, but this is not the way to do it. At the same time, the past several decades of American politics have made one thing abundantly clear. While not all Republican legislators are unreasonable or disingenuous, Democrats are not, in general, bargaining with good-faith partners on the other side of the aisle. For this reason, I am nervous about unilaterally disarming. To do so would be both morally right and a pleasingly cathartic gesture of commitment to strong, representative democratic institutions. It would be a statement of confidence in the power of our side’s ideas. But I worry that unilateral disarmament would be a strategic blunder and would forfeit the one bargaining chip that we do have in the fight to get Virginia to draw better maps. That’s why I favor regional compacts that use interstate cooperation to trigger structural reforms, like then-Senator Raskin’s national popular vote compact.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Paul: We should abolish the ten-day waiting period before questioning an officer suspected of excessive use of force. Hearing boards should review decisions rendered by superiors rather than serving as the first step in the discipline process. Civilians should have some say in the review process.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Paul: 1. Change the way healthcare providers prescribe opioids to require a medical history and a pain treatment plan and limiting initial acute pain prescriptions to a 5-day supply. When that runs out, prescribers may issue a 30-day resupply. Prescription painkillers are a critical gateway to street opioid addiction, and we have to reform our use patterns. 2. Invest in schools as the site of early access to health resources. Young people struggling with addiction should be able to access services in the places where they are most comfortable and where they spend the most time. 3. Treat addiction as a public health issue, not a criminal issue; bring people struggling with addiction out of the shadows so they can get help. 4. Tackle issues of broad alienation and isolation via education and economic revitalization.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Paul: 1) World-class public schools. The Kirwan Commission’s recommendations will arrive in late 2019, and the Assembly has one shot to make a series of funding and operational decisions that will govern an entire generation’s experience in our schools. I’ll fight for funding increases that especially serve kids with need. I’ll also weigh in on implementation and funding of statewide universal pre-K, career and technical education programs, new teacher recruitment/retention/promotion mechanisms, and the expansion of computer science courses to every high school in the state. 2) Transit investment. We have to invest in public infrastructure that can move people to jobs and cultural institutions as safely, quickly, efficiently, and greenly as possible. I’ll support Baltimore investment and DC Metro accountability measures (along with dedicated funding, which we achieved this session) and will also push the state to invest in BRT, strategic state road maintenance, and all-day, two-way MARC service. 3) Employment law. Economic growth does not have to be framed as a zero-sum game between management on labor. Everyone benefits from robust wage growth; when we all do well, we all do better. I’ll support measures that encourage both small and large businesses, and I’ll advocate for laws that keep our workers healthy and balanced. 4) Healthcare. Healthcare costs and unexpected medical expenditures can ruin wage-workers’ lives. Against the backdrop of the national dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, Maryland should implement its own individual mandate and take swift action to expand rate-setting to prescription drugs.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Paul: As advocated by Common Cause, the Public Information Act needs a pre-litigation appeal process. And we should resist the urge to carve out exemptions under the law – for example, police body camera footage.