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?
Brooks: Yes, I voted in favor of HB1415, which establishes several recommendations put forth by Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. I believe the funding formula for public schools needs to be adjusted to account for the additional needs of high-risk areas and poverty concentrated communities.
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?
Brooks: It is undeniable that there is need for investment in transportation, both in roads and transit. However, for the Baltimore area, I believe investment in transit needs to be a priority. Adequate public transportation is the best economic equalizer. I was proud to support Maryland Metro/Transit Funding Act, for this reason. In addition to providing additional funds to MTA, it requires assessment and prioritization of maintenance needs.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Brooks: At this point, I would like to focus on the rollout of medical cannabis before addressing the legalization of recreational marijuana. We need ensure the medical cannabis industry is more diverse, patient-focused, and accessible before creating a recreational market.
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?
Brooks: Maryland should be focusing on ways the entire state can address the health of the Chesapeake Bay. This includes efforts to strengthen our forests, which are crucial to healthy watersheds. That is why I supported legislation to strengthen the Forest Conservation Act.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Brooks: With the uncertainty of healthcare coverage due to national politics, Maryland must take steps to stabilize healthcare markets, bring costs down, and increase accessibility of healthcare. For this reason, I have supported efforts such as the Maryland Health Care Access Act of 2018, which will provide the funding for the establishment of a reinsurance program. I believe we should also establish a Drug Cost Commission to create more accountability and transparency in pricing of prescription drugs.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Brooks: To address violent crime in Baltimore, the state should commit to funding programs such as the Safe Streets Initiative. These community programs focus on violence prevention and intervention through community-based organizations. By supporting these efforts, we can build up the communities in Baltimore and prevent further violent crime.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Brooks: Maryland has been given the reputation being unfriendly to businesses. I believe that regulation, entrepreneurship, and economic prosperity can coincide when effectively implemented. I have served on the Advisory Board on the Impact of Regulation on Small Businesses and worked to propose legislative fixes to common issues businesses have with regulation, including convoluted compliance guides. In order to ensure businesses in Maryland create jobs that allow employees to support families, I believe the state has a role in mandating policies such as paid family and safe leave, as we did in 2017.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Brooks: As currently structured, the “Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights” (LEOBR) imposes significant impediments to the discipline and/or removal of bad officers. Under LEOBR, officers are judged only by other officers. LEOBR prevents the formation of civilian review boards that would foster accountability and trust. A review board composed of officers, civilians and an administrative judge would, in my opinion, lend itself to the highest level of transparency.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Brooks: There is no simple solution to the opioid crisis. However, we should be doing everything we can as a state to encourage government agencies and community stakeholders to work as partners and support cross-program work in our budget, such as the Behavioral Health Crisis Response Grant Program. These grants can be used to provide funds to local jurisdictions to establish and expand community behavioral health crisis response systems. Additionally, the State should work with law enforcement and medical and mental health professionals to identify and implement preventative strategies.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Brooks: Income inequality needs to be addressed from several angles, including access to education, investment in public transit, and employee protections. I believe higher education should be affordable and will continue to support initiatives like the Community College Promise Scholarship. Investing in reliable public transit ensures that economic mobility is not dependent on car-ownership. Finally, inequalities must be addressed with protective policies such as the Equal Work Equal Pay Act, which prohibits wage discrimination based on sex or gender. Further protections are needed and should be considered.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Brooks: Enacted in 1970, the Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA) grants broad access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and individual privacy rights. This along with Maryland’s Open Meeting Act, which requires adequate notice to these meetings and the allowance for public inspection of the meetings minutes, speaks volumes when it come to fostering access, transparency and oversight.