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?
Lewis Young: I agree with the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. There are a variety of funding sources available such as the lockbox legislation on gambling revenues just passed in the General Assembly ($500 million) and reforms such as closing corporate tax loopholes. In addition, should recreational marijuana move forward, those revenues should go to health care and education.
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?
Lewis Young: Depending upon where you reside, and how you prefer to travel, you might have a different perspective about the current balance between roads and transit spending. Also, the ratio that we have today, is probably not ideal for the future. As we address issues of affordability, efficiency, and environmental impact, we may need to shift more focus towards transit. It is clear that we are not adequately funding either today. I believe that some improvements were made during the past legislative session in that funding was allocated towards Metro and legislation was enacted to increase the return of state highway user revenues to local jurisdictions. I do not believe that the Baltimore region is adequately served by transit and other options need to be explored. Perhaps, light rail might be a more affordable alternative to the Red Line.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Lewis Young: Ultimately, I believe that this will pass. Public opinion is now in favor of recreational marijuana and that support increases annually. I would anticipate that it will be legalized within the next five years. Unfortunately, insufficient research has been done on the long-term effects of marijuana usage. The Federal Government should step up research efforts to better understand health outcomes as well as marijuana’s potential to lead to other drug usage. We can learn a lot from other states that have legalized marijuana and avoid many of their mistakes. I believe that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and it certainly is not as addictive or dangerous as opioids.
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?
Lewis Young: We need to increase our efforts to maintain the commitment of the federal government in restoring the Chesapeake Bay. It is a major natural resource and economic driver in our state. In addition, we should ensure the quality of the rivers and streams that feed into the Chesapeake so that the cycle of pollution is broken. Maryland must strengthen partnerships with other states so that neighboring states’ waterways do not continue to contaminate the Chesapeake. We must also continue our efforts to ensure that polluted runoff containing sediment and waste products is not entering the Chesapeake or any waterways that run into it.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Lewis Young: Ultimately, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the single-payer model may be the only real viable option for accessibility and affordability. However, a task of this enormity can only occur effectively with a well-managed transition. At this point in time, we are seriously challenged with access, affordability, and quality. The MD General Assembly continuously looks at scope of practice issues with the goal of increasing access and affordability. Also, we are looking to expand access in the rural areas. Incentivizing physicians and other providers to locate in rural areas has remained a challenge. A bill that I sponsored (HB1132-Access to Local Heath Departments) will require insurance providers to cover costs incurred at local health departments. This will be particularly beneficial in rural areas. Affordability has been challenged by the federal undermining of the Affordable Care Act. Without the individual mandate, this risk pool is smaller, thus increasing costs for those who want or need to have health insurance. MD has taken steps to maintain reinsurance in order to motivate providers to continue subsidies for the most challenged among us. Also, a fee has been instituted among insurers, who received federal tax cuts. This revenue will be applied towards sustaining the individual market and holding down rate increases. Some consolidation of the plan options might be necessary to hold costs down. Finally, we still have major work to do to ensure quality. Much more needs to be done to tie outcomes and patient satisfaction to payments and subsidies.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Lewis Young: The state needs to take on a greater role in addressing violent crime in Baltimore. Violence stems from a combination of poverty, family instability, and drug abuse. In addition, racist housing policies and bad, or non-existent policing exacerbates the opportunities for violence. Inadequate resources, recruitment, and training of police officers further allows for a climate of violence. According to a recent article in the Economist, “Where murderers operate with a sense of impunity, they are likely to commit more murders.” Programs such as “Safe Streets” appear to be having some positive results. A combination of former criminals turned social workers, community leaders, and streetwise locals have been somewhat effective at community intervention. Most Safe Street workers agree that the City needs four things: 1) better schools, 2) better preparation for jobs, 3) fewer prescription drugs, and 4) more and better policing. The state can play a major role in supporting all of these goals.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Lewis Young: According to the state’s website, “Maryland’s economy continues to outperform the country as a whole. Information technology, telecommunications, and aerospace defense are leading forces behind Maryland’s economic growth. In the biotechnology area, Maryland is a noted leader and is at the center in the mapping of the human genome and commercial applications that result from its research. Maryland continues to invest in education in order to prepare the State for growth in sectors requiring highly educated workers. In the nation, Maryland ranks first in the percentage of professional and technical workers and is poised to gain both defense and non defense contracts for medical research, aircraft development, and security. As of 2/16/18, Maryland still retains its AAA bond rating,. It is one of only eleven states to achieve this highest award. In 2017, U.S. News and World Report ranked Maryland no. 8 in their “Best States” list, which ranks each state based on seven categories: crime & corrections, economy, education, government, healthcare, infrastructure and opportunity.” Venture capital investment in Maryland has doubled in the past year. Nevertheless, there are still too many people being left behind. We need stronger policies for ensuring better access to quality education for K-12. We also need to continue our work on college and technical training affordability. Finally, tax incentives should be more closely tied to and evaluated on their ability and success in fostering the creation of more family-supporting jobs.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Lewis Young: I do support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census. Since this is a national issue, however, I would like to see a national solution. At a minimum, there should be regional agreements to address this challenge is a consistent manner. Otherwise, this effort will remain a partisan battle led by each individual state party that is not in power.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Lewis Young: In the summer of 2016, a task force came up with 23 recommendations to hold police more accountable. Numerous reports of police brutality in Maryland, as well as the rest of the country, caused our Judiciary Committee to strike a better balance between protections for police and the public. Some of the issues debated included the makeup of a three-member discipline hearing board, shortening the time an officer has to retain a lawyer, extending the time that a resident has to file a complaint, a proposal to require psychological testing for officers every three years, creating an independent Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission, and allowing anonymous complaints against officers. These recommendations were highly contentious. While we certainly want to respect our law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line, there is no doubt that vast improvements need to be made against discrimination and brutality. I certainly support better training and sensitivity to diverse cultural mores. Community policing practices will gain better trust and respect as well as stronger communications and information. The public needs to feel that when law enforcement over steps their protocols, they will be held accountable. Public participation is necessary in the trial board. While I understand the concept of, “You have to walk in their shoes in order to understand their challenges,” the public voice is needed in order to achieve buy-in.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Lewis Young: Addressing the opioid crisis requires a multi-faceted approach. Education is the first step so that our constituents are aware of the dangers and warning signs of addiction. We need to expand K-12 prevention programs. More education is needed for the prescriber community as well since decades of overprescribing has helped fuel this crisis. Education will assist in Prevention, which is the second most important step. The Medical Community and Legislators have taken many steps to ensure more reasonable standards and guidelines in prescribing, including limitations and proper disposal. Treatment is another major component of dealing with the opioid crisis and one that we are falling short on. There are simply not enough treatment beds and too many people are waiting weeks, if not months, for treatment. When beds are available, they are not always affordable or accessible. Finally, we must do a better job of dealing with stigma. Addiction is frequently closely associated with behavioral health challenges. This should be treated like any other health issue and patients should not be ashamed to seek help and support.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Lewis Young: Income inequality has risen in every state since the 1970s and in many states is up to the post-Great Recession era. In 24 states, the top 1 percent captured at least half of all income growth between between 2009 and 2013, and in 15 of those states, the top 1 percent captured all income growth. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual income of the top 1% in Maryland is $1,024,110. The top 1% takes home 14.5% of all of the income in Maryland.The average income of everyone else is $60,172. The top1% makes 17 times more than the bottom 99%. Maryland ranks #37 of the 50 states in income inequality. There are several solutions that have been offered to address this situation. Some of them are: promote trade in highly- skilled professions, make it easier to start and join unions, reform intellectual property law (especially for medicine), relax licensing rules, ease up on zoning restrictions, increase transfers, and the most important solution is to fund early childhood education.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Lewis Young: There has been much improvement to the state’s Public Information Act (PIA) and open meeting laws but more improvements are possible. In 2015, the General Assembly (GA) amended the PIA to reform the process by which PIA responses are issued and reviewed. At the same time the GA also directed the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to report to the Governor and General Assembly on a number of issues relating to the implementation of the PIA, with an interim report due at the end of 2016 and a final report due at the end of 2017. Those eight recommendations improve accessibility, efficiency and objectivity. The Open Meetings Compliance Board, under the OAG, provides an annual report on its activities to the GA. The report issued during 9⁄17 documents the number and nature of complaints received. However, I believe that there is insufficient attention provided to recommendations for corrective action. I believe that one of the greatest challenges of the PIA is to be able to deal with obsessive or nuisance requests but still be responsive to the public’s need for information and oversight. The Open Meetings Compliance Board has a similar balancing challenge in that they need to guarantee public observation while protecting sensitive personnel and contract negotiation issues. While there is a process for qualifying for closed meetings, the criteria could be communicated better. Also, wherever it is feasible to live stream meetings, that should occur.