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?
Gibson: I support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. As a Delegate in the General Assembly, I have a once-in-a-generation opportunity and reasonability to establish a world-class education system for all Maryland students. The number one problem our schools face is the chronic deficiency in funding. According to state analysts, Maryland public schools are underfunded by billions of dollars. In order to bridge this gap in funding, I supported legislation mandating casino revenue be placed into a ‘lockbox’ to go towards spending above and beyond the state’s K-12 educational funding formulas. In addition, the last time the school funding formula was updated was 2002 and I support updating the school funding formulas, with a focus on schools with high concentrations of students living in poverty, for example, most public schools located in Baltimore City, and for special education students.
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?
Gibson: I recently supported and voted for legislation requiring the Governor of Maryland to allocate an extra $178 million over three years to Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), the state agency that operates the subway in Baltimore. In addition, this bill instructs the MTA to report its needs to the legislature over the next four years and develop a much-needed long-term plan for services in its “core service area” in the Baltimore region over the next 25 years. In my opinion, this should included revival of the canceled Red Line project. Both the State of Maryland and Baltimore City needs to stop subsidizing personal vehicles and parking garages over smart growth, public transportation and alterative transportation alternatives such as bicycles, walking and ridesharing. Baltimore City must embrace a viable transportation network, which levels the playing field between personal vehicle transportation and walking, biking, and public transportation. Unfortunately, due to economic and racial discrimination and prejudice, many our City’s residents have been left behind when it comes to economic opportunities and the transportation required to economically prosper in our City. Only when we embrace smart growth and transportation options that all residents can easily have access to, will we have a City where economic and personal health is not exclusively tied to what neighborhood you were born in or currently reside
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Gibson: I support the legalization of recreational marijuana. If it is controlled by the government perhaps it would minimize the quality of life crimes that occur .
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?
Gibson: The Chesapeake Bay is a vital natural, economic, recreational resource for all Marylanders, including the residents of the 41st District. I support funding, on the federal, state and local level that is directed towards improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay and reducing various sources of pollution. As Delegate, I am proud of my support of various measures passed by the General Assembly to fight President Trump and Congress’ assault on the Chesapeake Bay and the environment. For example, I voted for legislation that prevents Maryland from being withdrawn from a regional partnership to fight climate change known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative without legislative approval. I support the recently passed Maryland Healthy Soils Program and former Governor Martin O’Malley’s regulations requiring all new septic systems to use the “best available technology” (BAT) to reduce nitrogen pollution from septic tanks that harms the Chesapeake Bay by creating “dead zones” in the Bay. I oppose the expansion of large and industrial size poultry farms on the Eastern Shore. These farms are not family farms, but large corporate conglomerates and should be regulated appropriately. In addition, I support a moratorium on chicken farm construction on the Eastern Shore until the environmental effects of these farms on local communities, the Chesapeake Bay and waterways can be adequately researched and studied.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Gibson: Despite the Trump Administration and the Republican’s repeated sabotage of Obamacare, Marylanders have been signing up for coverage in record numbers. Maryland’s uninsured rate has dropped to 6% this year, after being as high as 14% prior to 2010. I am proud to state I fully back our leadership’s plans to protect all Marylanders’ right to quality and affordable health care. I support the Affordable Care Act Workgroup, which is working to lower premiums in the individual market by seeking a federal waiver for flexibility to use federal funds to help create a state-run reinsurance program. Reinsurance will allow insurance companies to subsidize the cost of care for high-risk individual market enrollees and curb the premium increase from having substantial effects on the rest of the insurance market. This year, I voted to prevent another 50% increase in insurance premiums. In addition, I voted for the Health Care Access Program, which authorized Maryland to collect the $380 million dollars in suspended federal fees from insurance companies to pay for a state reinsurance pool. It also requires a study to explore further long-term solutions for the insurance industry and stabilize individual market rates.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Gibson: Crime in Baltimore is simply at an unacceptable level. Baltimore as a diverse and inclusive community cannot truly grow and prosper at the current crime level. When Baltimore is not a growing and prosperous city, it harms the entire State of Maryland and the two parties. The City of Baltimore and State of Maryland must partner and work together to identify precise solutions to various problems that ail the city. However, this uptick in crime did not happen in a vacuum and we cannot simply arrest our way out of this problem. As Delegate, I have worked to ensure state resources are used in an equitable fashion to reduce crime in Baltimore, especially in regards to police misconduct and reducing gun violence. I supported legislation that creates provides police powers for State’s Attorneys in order to investigate police misconduct, and expungment for non-violent felonies so non-violent felons can better integrate themselves into society after serving their sentence,. I supported a strategic crime package that includes expanding wiretapping authority for prosecutors on gun investigations. It also increases penalties for witness intimidation and includes a provision to help prosecute volume dealers of fentanyl, a lethal opioid. Mistrust in police is at a toxic level in Baltimore City and that is why I supported the creation of special state commission with subpoena power to conduct a 20-month investigation into Baltimore police corruption. The Restore Trust in Policing Commission is in response to corruption in the police department’s Gun Trace Task Force.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Gibson: I consider the business climate in Maryland as good and conducive to business growth. However, much of this business growth in Maryland has been uneven with the fruits of economic growth not reaching many Marylanders, particularly those Maryland citizens of color. To foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs, i.e. jobs with a livable wage jobs with benefits. I support a $15.00 minimum wage in our high cost metropolitan areas (Washington D.C. suburbs and Baltimore) and projects that create skilled training opportunities and apprenticeships that would drastically increase chances of citizens for skilled living wage jobs that pay $15.00 dollars an hour and provide benefits. Those who are chronically unemployed, on government assistance and the formerly incarcerated would receive a special focus from my office when it comes to job training and re-training. We must have corporation and collaboration with our corporate, medical, educational, and technological communities. We need to help Marylanders obtain the skill set for and land jobs in these well-paying sectors. I would work with our previously mentioned private partners, and public partners including local community colleges and various local, state, and federal government agencies to push this goal forward. In addition, when a companies such as Amazon and Under Armour is asking for substantial tax dollars to complete their headquarter projects, they should be willing to invest in the community, and hire local skilled labor with the opportunity for those citizens who are not skilled become skilled workers.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Gibson: I support and will vote for a new process for drawing district lines, such as non-partisan or independent commission, i.e. California Citizens Redistricting Commission, that will take the politics of redistricting.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Gibson: As currently constructed, the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights does not adequately balance protections for police and the public? If elected, I will work with our State Delegation to reform the Police Officer Bill of Rights to provide more transparency to misconduct hearing process. Shedding light on both the accusations and dispositions thereof will provide necessary information to our citizens as to people who are sworn to protect them. Baltimore City taxpayers have a right to know who are the good apples and the bad ones. This way we can hold our Police Department accountable for ensuring that the police officers with a history of misconduct are weeded out of the system. In addition, I will work towards increasing community inclusion and collective voice on oversight boards to establish community advisor boards.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Gibson: The combat opioid addiction and overdose crisis is a health care and mental health crisis, not a criminal one, and I support using government resources to combat the crisis from that point of view. To combat the opioid epidemic, I supported the Behavioral Health Crisis Response Grant Program, which establishes a competitive grant program that awards funding to local behavioral health organizations to expand capabilities of crisis response programs and services. In addition I supported Controlled Dangerous Substances – Distributors Reporting Suspicious Orders Act that requires pharmaceutical drug companies to file reports of suspicious orders to the Attorney General’s office. Drug distributors are already required to file these reports with the federal government, and this law simply requires the distributors to file the same report to the state.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Gibson: As a catalyst through the past protection and promotion of racist political and economic policies, the State of Maryland has a duty to address and correct income inequality. This can be achieved by supporting Maryland Historically Black Colleges and Universities, drastically increasing funding in public transportation, education and job training for a 21st Century Workforce. The $15 /hour minimum wage needs to become a statewide initiative.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Gibson: Maryland’s Public Information Act and opening meetings laws does not adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government. When the government conducts business in secret, the lack of transparency inevitably and inherently breeds distrust of our public officials. There is evidence that all levels of Government in Maryland frequently violate the open meetings laws. Numerous bills are filled in Annapolis regards to strengthening Marylanders’ right know when it comes to how their government conducts business, and I am in favor of an extensive review of Maryland’s Public Information Act and opening meetings laws to study if meets the needs of providing the public information in the 21st Century and an examination the best open government practices throughout the country.