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?
Carter Conway: Yes, I support the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as The Kirwan Commission. I also supported the 2016 legislation creating the Commission and played a key role in passing the Commission’s initial recommendations as Chair of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. The Kirwan Commission is taking a comprehensive look at the funding adequacy of our public schools, improvement must be made to keep up with a changing economy and the evolving jurisdictional needs of individual school systems. I am committed to funding the reforms recommended by the Commission to ensure Maryland’s public schools are a world class system. It is vital that the Commission have sufficient time to fully vet Maryland’s unique educational issues and develop a comprehensive report to determine how to best create a sustainable funding mechanism for our public schools, while requiring accountability for local jurisdictions is in place to ensure those dollars benefit students directly. Maryland must have a substantial/sustainable revenue source to adequately fund and maintain a successful K-12 educational system. As the sponsor of SB1122, establishing a Constitutional Amendment placing a “lockbox” on Maryland’s casino gaming revenues for our public school system to fund education exclusively. Casino revenues can no longer be used to offset funding for other state projects. As Chair of the education policy committee in the Maryland Senate, I will use my leadership position to ensure these dollars are leveraged.
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?
Carter Conway: No, Maryland’s transportation funding is not appropriately balanced between roads and transit. Governor Hogan’s decision to cancel the Red Line has had a devastating impact to the larger communities of the Baltimore Region. The decision hinders working class citizens’ access to economic mobility by denying affordable, reliable and efficient transit options. Without an affordable and efficient means of travel, many of Baltimore’s citizens are trapped in the economic deserts of their impoverished neighborhoods. Maryland has to do better and, in fact, had plans to do better until the Hogan Administration decided to cut the Red Line. I will continue to fight alongside Baltimore leaders to bring transportation options to our City and Region. The State has the resources to meet its transportation needs, however Governor Hogan’s decision to repeatedly spend that funding on projects that serve to solidify electoral votes in rural areas, rather than support sound transportation policy has harmed Maryland and particularly Baltimore City. BaltimoreLink, by any metric has been an abject failure- it is inadequate, confusing to riders, and treats Baltimore citizens like second class passengers. Transit failures, as evidenced by the recent shutdown of the Baltimore area Metro, demonstrate the inadequate transit options of our region. We must provide commuters access to mass transit beyond buses; in order for Baltimore to realize its true economic capacity, automobiles and rural votes cannot continue to be the focus of the State transportation policy.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Carter Conway: . I believe the legalization of marijuana is coming to Maryland, however there is much work to be done before I would be comfortable voting for such a bill. In particular, studies are clear that the effects of marijuana on a minor’s developing brain is very harmful. I would need to see strong protections to ensure marijuana would not be readily available to children. Additionally, Maryland has the benefit of learning from other states, including neighboring jurisdictions, where legalization has occurred and take the time to fully study the impacts of those laws on the public health, safety and economies in those states. Finally, the effects of new strains and variations of marijuana products is quickly evolving, and I would need more information about the checks and balances on those products to ensure the safety of Maryland public. The criminalization of marijuana has had devastating and inequitable consequences for racial and ethnic minorities, more specifically, black neighborhoods. As we move toward legalization, we must fully resolve how we treat individuals serving time for marijuana possession, use and sale, as well as have an open debate on how to address the ongoing stigma marijuana arrests have on black citizens.
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?
Carter Conway: Maryland has an obligation to protect our most valuable natural resources. We must remain vigilant in funding those items and making sure that the enforcement continues. Also, environmental protections are crucial to the Chesapeake Bay. As a result of the Trump budget cuts, legislators must remain vigilant in restoring and maintaining funding for any cuts associated with monitoring pollutants in soil and air, water quality testing and wild life monitoring, environmental modeling, Bay cleanup efforts and best management practices. In spite of the Trump cuts, the EPA can take action to make sure pollution reduction targets under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) are met by increasing oversight, redirecting grants, denying the issuance of specified permits, or other enforcement actions. However, an amendment was attached to the budget as passed by the House of Representative restricted the EPA enforcement authority, prohibiting the EPA from taking enforcement action against Bay jurisdictions if a state does not meet the reduction required of the TMDL.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Carter Conway: During the 2018 Legislative Session, the Maryland General Assembly approved the passage of SB1267/HB1795 which allowed the continuation of the healthcare exchange program. This enabled Maryland citizen to continue enrolling in the MD Healthcare Exchange program at a more affordable rate. This allows the low and moderate citizens to continue to participate and receive affordable healthcare benefits. We need to follow the template that the Obama Administration set forth, which is healthcare benefits for all. SB1267/HB1795 is designed to mitigate the impact of high-risk individuals on rates in the individual insurance market. Beginning January 1, 2019, funding for reinsurance through the program may be made by using any pass-through funds received from the federal government to be utilized to reduce the cost of healthcare
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Carter Conway: Effective crime suppression must cross jurisdictional lines; the problems faced by any individual jurisdiction must be the concern of all Marylanders. Enforcement is a reaction to crime. The State has the ability to do a tremendous amount through parole and probation coordination and spearheading inter-jurisdictional task forces, such as warrant and apprehension units, auto-theft taskforces, and weapon/narcotics interception and enforcement units. Working with Commissioner Desousa to supplement the Baltimore Police Department’s efforts at violence reduction is essential and can be quickly accomplished though the dedication of existing resources and adequate education. The best crime prevention strategies must focus on ending the cycles of poverty which plague too many Maryland families. Zip codes should not determine access to academic excellence. As the Chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, I will continue to work with Chair, Delegate Maggie McIntosh to leverage our leadership positions to improve City schools and fight for Baltimore’s children. I am also working to provide Baltimore residents, and all Maryland citizens, access to affordable education beyond high school. House Bill 16, similar to Senate Bill 317, which I co-sponsored alongside my Vice Chair Paul Pinsky, will provide substantial financial support and scholarships for Maryland’s community college students. This legislation provides real, accessible education and training options for Baltimore residents, which is why I shepherded through my Committee in the final days of the Legislative Session.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Carter Conway: We need an affordable and efficient transportation system and the State must commit to a continuous investment in affordable housing development, increase funding to live where you work, to attract qualified, skilled and well-educated employees. No doubt, we need to continue to invest in our infrastructure to improve our quality of education and our public school facilities. In addition, a tremendous boost to the business climate in Baltimore would be substantially enhanced with tax incentives from the State. With these investments, we will continue to attract and retain the tax paying citizens in the great City of Baltimore. Our great City of Baltimore embodies world renowned medical facilities, cultural institutions, excellent higher educational institutions and tremendous sport facilities.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Carter Conway: Yes. No citizen, regardless of party registration or ethnic background, should have their vote diluted resulting from political gerrymandering. Currently, the State of Maryland has criteria and guidelines for drawing legislative districts, inclusive of compact contiguous with specific populations in each district, with a plus and minus deviation factor. However, the most troubling and problematic issue associated with redistricting has been attributed to the drawing of congressional districts which lack such specificity and guidelines. Therefore, the question remains, if this issue should be resolved at the Federal or State level? If the Federal Government fails to act, I feel it is incumbent upon the State to resolve issues relevant to gerrymandering. If the solution is an independent commission, so be it.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Carter Conway: Police accountability and effective crime suppression is not an either/or proposition but must go hand in hand. The Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR) was enacted to ensure police officers receive appropriate due process prior to discipline or termination and, provides a good balance for the protection of police and the public. Changes to the current law can improve the LEOBR. I am supportive of 2 trained citizens being a part of the trial board, this allows for transparency and balance. Additionally, I support allowing internal investigations to utilize one-way consent for wire taps of officers for use solely in administrative proceedings. Citizens who are placed in a position to judge the appropriateness of an officer’s actions must fully understand the jobs that officers are required to do and the environment in which they work. Stripping a police officer of due process is not the answer to effectively addressing police corruption. We must take police integrity seriously from the initial hiring process throughout the promotional policies of agencies. Police officers in Baltimore have to be trained annually on the application of the Fourth Amendment and the Court’s evolving view of how stop, search and seizures can be legally effectuated. Police agencies must ensure that they staff their internal affairs units with experienced, honest and effective detectives, capable of providing fair and thorough investigations. Jurisdictions need to be cautious at the negotiation table to ensure they do not make concessions which slants the process contrary to the public interest.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Carter Conway: During the MGA 2017⁄18 Legislative Sessions, there were a mirage of proposed legislation addressing the opioid crisis and addiction ranging from the investigation and prosecution of pill mills, restrictions associated with limitations on opioid prescriptions, policies relating to heroin and opioid addiction and prevention, and establishing a prescription and drug monitoring program to identify prescription drug abuse and the investigation of unlawful drug diversion. There is a need for legislators and the General Assembly to receive reports of the benefits of the legislation currently passed to protect and inform the constituents of the effectiveness of the legislation that has been currently enacted before we introduce additional legislation. There should be a collaboration/negotiation between all local health departments to track opioid use, addiction and prevention. Additionally, physicians are providing signage and notification to patients as to the detriment of these drugs. Grant funding is available through legislation that provide state-wide treatment to address opioid/heroin addiction. In the past, treatment centers were primarily located within Baltimore City. Due to the stigma associated with treatment, many, if not most, of the jurisdictions would not provide these service.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Carter Conway: I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour to help working men and women meet their basic needs. Working men and women need honest wages for honest work. We must also ensure that employers do not continue the discriminatory trend of underpaying women, particularly women of color, for the same work their male counterparts perform. Maryland has many good wage and hour protections on the books, however the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) simply does not have the resources to investigate violations and enforce these laws. Adequate enforcement mechanisms are essential to ensuring workers’ rights and will do more to correct wrongful employers than enacting arbitrary new requirements without the ability to properly enforce them. We must adequately fund DLLR through proper budgeting and fine structures for intentional wrong-doers.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Carter Conway: The Maryland Public Information Act and open meetings laws give clear direction to public officials for how the public’s business should be conducted, communicated and reviewed. However, enforcing these laws requires time consuming litigation and expense when the initial request is summarily dismissed. The legislature, with the assistance and guidance of Attorney General Brian Frosh, in conjunction with the public and journalistic stakeholders should work to pass legislation to ensure a more streamlined judicial review process for PIA disputes.