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?
Harris: Fundamentally, I agree with the 9 Building Blocks outlined for success in the Kirwin Commission, and I agree that the issues discovered when comparing our state’s education system to those of other countries must be addressed. Specifically, teacher recruitment, equal access to pre-k for families of all income levels, and a better system of introducing technology into our schools are needed. I look forward to reading the Commission’s report when it gets published later this year. As the numbers are preliminary, any commitment I could make to funding these reforms would be premature. I am encouraged by the high ROI cited by funding pre-k, and will look to further analysis to contribute input as we move closer to making this a reality for our children.
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?
Harris: Safe roads are essential. Ongoing reassessment of traffic patterns, especially as new mapping software on cell phones takes people through residential neighborhoods that previously had lower volumes of traffic, is necessary. A good transit system has to balance the needs of neighborhoods and residents with cost and expected ROI. The state can maintain its transportation needs with available resources by keeping contracts for repairs and construction with in-state companies and not offering contracts to companies who do not meet deadlines on road construction.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Harris: Yes. Research shows that it can assist in stemming the opioid epidemic. It is common sense that disenfranchising illegal cartels will serve the residents of Maryland by keeping harder drugs that come through these illegal pipelines out of our state. I also think from a fiscal standpoint we can benefit from the tax income. I will support this measure when we have the proper information to circumvent the potential increase in traffic incidents, like have occurred in Colorado and Washington, to ensure road safety for citizens. Safety is my biggest concern with the legalization of recreational marijuana. We will need similar laws and enforcement to those of alcohol which would aim to keep public property and family friendly areas drug-free.
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?
Harris: I support adding an educational element to the curriculum to address environmental science and the importance of recycling and disposing of waste appropriately. Many of our stormwater drains go to the Chesapeake Bay, and encouraging proper disposal of waste will help reduce harmful substances draining into our Bay.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Harris: Affordable healthcare will be difficult to achieve without the one thing drives costs down in all areas - competition. This is achievable by the free market system. Increasing competition among health care companies in Maryland will provide more affordable options to all residents. Different companies will have different requirements for membership, which makes more sense than applying a one-size-fits-all approach to health care, as everyone’s health needs are drastically different.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Harris: The role the state can play in helping Baltimore address violent crime is to work with the communities to set up programs to encourage people from those communities to be community leaders in a positive way. These programs would train youth from these communities to be police officers, firefighters, and teachers. Giving back to these communities in positive ways would not only give more appreciation for the duties of these public servants, but motivate young people about their futures.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Harris: Upon speaking with business owners in the communities throughout my district, the consensus is that taxes are too high and there’s too much paperwork. The annual filing fee is expensive and it is in addition to what is paid in taxes. In order to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs, we need to scale back regulations and lower taxes and fees.
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?
Harris: The LEOBR serves its purpose of protecting police and the public. This does not mean we do not need police reform. I respect the police: their jobs entail long hours and occasionally dangerous situations, and quick judgment calls. It is an often thankless job with an incredible responsibility of keeping citizens safe. There need to be checkpoints throughout years of service to ensure that the high stress lifestyle of these individuals has not created any mental health issues or biases based on past work. Such checkups are not currently required on the force without a reason for referral.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Harris: The opioid crisis is terribly upsetting, and something that affects me personally. A close friend passed away in 2016 from an overdose. I want to work with our knowledge and resources to fight this crisis and help stem addiction. We need more treatment facilities that are available to low-income individuals. There are a few great treatment centers, that have a great outcome but come at a high cost. We also need to work with the medical community to stop the overprescribing of painkillers. There needs to be a balance; too low of a dose or a supply, and certain conditions become intolerable; too high, and the risk of addiction rises. While several bills have passed the General Assembly to address this issue, it still occurs. There needs to be a system of safe disposal for prescription painkillers so that when an individual no longer needs to take pain pills and has some left over, there is no risk of guests or family members having access to these pills.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Harris: The state must continue to enforce its anti-discrimination laws to prevent illegal wage disparities.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Harris: The state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws are small steps towards ensuring oversight of our government. They don’t go far enough to address transparency and accountability issues in our state. We need better notice of public meetings where stakeholders can be present, and for meetings to be held in accessible areas as best as possible. There needs to be Inspector Generals appointed to work with counties and state budgets, for accountability with our tax dollars and to guarantee correct appropriation of funds. I support video streaming of our legislative sessions in the General Assembly. These are just a few of the examples of areas where we can improve our oversight of government.