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?
Kalyanaraman: I support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. These recommendations will invest in early childhood education, provide more resources for at-risk students, develop high quality teachers and provide college and vocational readiness programs. The one area that is missing is an explicit examination of the racial inequities in our current system and interventions to address these inequities. I am committed to fully funding these reforms through general appropriations and through dedicated casino money that was meant to supplement our current educational funds. Once the final funding formula is not out we will see if further funds are needed.
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?
Kalyanaraman: Maryland’s transportation spending needs to move towards transit and away from roads. Increasing transit leads to a growing population in the city and region, increases the number of jobs and produces increased economic activity. The state needs to allocate funding to invest in the Baltimore region and can do so through direct funding and bonds. BaltimoreLink is not meeting the needs of our residents at this time. Baltimore will prosper when we implement an integrated rail, bus and train system that shortens commute and wait times and increases access to transit for all.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Kalyanaraman: I support the decriminalization of marijuana and would support legalizing marijuana if we include safeguards to address the inevitable health issues that would come with legalization. African Americans have been targeted as part of the war on drugs and are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system for offenses related to marijuana. Legalization would eliminate this problem. At the same time, there are adverse health effects from smoking marijuana and from heavy marijuana use. In states where marijuana has been legalized, marijuana use has gone up in both adults and youth. With legalization we should have strict limits on marijuana advertising, prohibit advertising of products intended to increase youth use (as we’ve seen with vaping) and increase funding for treatment.
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?
Kalyanaraman: The Chesapeake Bay is a vital resource for Maryland. From fishing to farming to tourism, Maryland’s well-being depends on the health of the Bay. There are a number of steps we can take to protect the bay now so that future generations have a healthy functioning bay. Let’s improve the management of the over 400,000 septic systems so that waste doesn’t spill into the bay. We also should invest in improving our sewer infrastructure to prevent spilling and overflow into our waters. Lastly, let’s enforce the critical area buffer and restore streams and shorelines to limit the amount of pollution that runs off into waters that feed the bay.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Kalyanaraman: As a primary care doctor I have been leading the fight for affordable, universal health care. Maryland can and should invest in health care to improve the health of its residents. We should work to ensure access to health care despite the federal government’s efforts to diminish access to health coverage. We can do this by promoting auto-enrollment in Medicaid and by using tax returns to coordinate with the health exchange to make it easier to enroll in insurance by using potential tax penalties as payments for insurance. We should also set up a drug cost commission to set reasonable prices for high cost drugs. Requiring medication and health services price transparency will help us identify and address the highest cost care. Additionally, implementing a basic health plan to cover a certain segment of the low-income population would help increased coverage. Lastly, let’s expand access to dental care for Medicaid recipients.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Kalyanaraman: Baltimore’s violent crime response should be supported through state funding and oversight. Our predominant response to the violence in Baltimore has been as a policing and criminal justice issue. We need to approach violence as a public health issue since trauma, injury and death are best handled as health issues. To do this we should: Expand Safe Streets to all communities with violence and at risk for violence. Safe Streets employs people from affected communities to intervene with at risk young people to break the cycle of violence. Additionally, this program should be moved back to the Health Department. Increase funding for community recreation centers and mentoring programs to keep children engaged in positive and productive activities. Expand Operation Safe Kids to include more youth who are at risk of committing or being the victims of violent crime. Increase violence deterrence programs that work with individuals at risk of committing violence by providing intensive mental health, medical and case management services coupled with intensive monitoring. Aggressive removal of guns through a state-city collaboration that targets areas of high gun violence.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Kalyanaraman: Maryland has a strong business climate. In a recent survey of the Maryland businesses, 65% expect their market to grow and 80% saw Maryland’s business climate as business-friendly or neutral. Now is the time to foster family-supporting job growth by increasing the minimum wage to better support individuals and families. This additional income will get spent in local businesses which provides overall benefits to the economy. We should also provide paid family leave so that people can take care of their loved ones and keep their jobs. Increasing the availability of affordable child care through increased subsidies will allow people to stay in their jobs and allow more people to enter or re-enter the workforce. Lastly, we should give workers two weeks advance notice of their schedules so they can arrange for their family needs.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Kalyanaraman: I support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw our legislative and congressional districts. Our faith in our government rests on knowing that our elected officials represent their residents and are not in power because their districts are rigged to give them an advantage. A non-partisan system should prioritize using existing boundaries for cities and counties to determine legislative boundaries. Districts should also be constructed to encourage competition.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Kalyanaraman: The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights should change to better protect our residents. In Baltimore, abuses by the police department have deepened community mistrust of the police. To rebuild the trust between the police and our communities, we should include civilians in the disciplinary and investigation process. This is critical in making the police accountable to the people they serve. Additionally, we should eliminate the 90-day limitation on filing a complaint against an officer. Lastly, we should decrease the number of days an officer can take before they can be questioned in an investigation from 10 to 5.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Kalyanaraman: Maryland has been aggressive in combating the opioid addiction and overdose crisis. We should continue to treat opioid addiction as a chronic disease and expand how we treat this illness. We should: Provide addiction treatment including medication assisted treatment in all jails and prisons. Increase pre-trial diversion programs to send low-level offenders into drug treatment programs. Increase post-incarceration treatment. Expand availability of naloxone and train community members to use it. Identify high volume opioid dispensing pharmacies and target them for enforcement along with the pharmaceutical and distribution companies involved in those high-volume sales. Invest in community mental health and addictions treatment to provide on demand care.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Kalyanaraman: Income inequality leads to decreased opportunities, education and health throughout a person’s life. The level of income inequality we see is unfair to our poorer residents and is damaging to the health of our society. Let’s address income inequality by: Increasing the minimum wage to $15. Investing in early childhood education through expanded Head Start enrollment and universal pre-K. Ending racial and income segregation of neighborhoods by investing in mixed income housing which includes both low and middle-income housing. Increasing school funding to compensate for low-income districts. Diverting people from prison and investing in re-entry programs.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Kalyanaraman: The state’s Public Information Act is performing well since being updated in 2015. It has enabled us to better understand the actions of our government and hold our officials accountable. The main area where it can be modified is to give indigent individuals a mandatory fee waiver to get materials related to themselves.