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?
Terrasa: Yes. I’m encouraged by the emphasis on early childhood learning and the impact of poverty. I support expanding early childhood education program so that all four-year-olds have access to a full-day program and that three-year-olds from low-income families can as well. Assessing school readiness, creating an early warning system for at-risk students, and expanding after-school and summer programs for youth are also extremely important. We need to ensure students are on track for college and career readiness standard by, among other things, defining college and career pathways for junior and seniors including requiring the availability of technical training leading to “an industry certified credential.” This last recommendation should open the door to increased partnership with union apprenticeship programs. The other big piece of these recommendations is attracting and recruiting high quality teachers which is essential to accomplishing any of these student related goals. To do this, we must increase teacher pay, honor contracts, and maintain high quality benefits. The Commission will include funding recommendations in its final report. I hope these will include resources to combat the negative impact of poverty on school communities. The Fix the Fund Act, which passed this session and will go to the voters in November, is a major step in the right direction to addressing the existing $2.9 billion annual funding shortage, and would create an additional dedicated source of funding going forward. If adopted, approximately $500 million will be redirected toward education which should help in funding many of our education priorities.
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?
Terrasa: No. Maryland’s transportation spending is too focused on roads. We must invest more in public transportation and other alternative transportation modes. While additional resources would be helpful, appropriately prioritizing transit would go a long way. While rail links, including the Red Line, are important, Maryland needs to immediately improve its existing bus systems, both to provide local and regional transportation options to individuals without cars (including those with disabilities and seniors) and to provide reasonable commuting options to job centers in Baltimore and Washington, DC.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Terrasa: I support the legalization, and regulation, of recreational marijuana. Despite the fact that recreational use of marijuana remains illegal, there is no doubt that it is still regularly consumed in Maryland. Recent legalization of medical marijuana and decriminalization of possession of smaller amounts of marijuana (less than 10 grams) are steps in the right direction. However, Maryland should expand this to legalizing recreational use of marijuana for a number of reasons. Currently, marijuana is unregulated, leading to more dangerous products. Legalization would allow for government regulation which would make marijuana usage safer. Moreover, the fact that marijuana is illegal leads to arrests and incarceration that disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color. Legalizing marijuana would end costly police enforcement and incarceration and allow police resources to be redirected to more important issues. States that have legalized marijuana have seen better than expected impact on their economies. For example, in Colorado, legalized marijuana has created more than 18,000 jobs and added over $2 million annually to its economy. Legalization of marijuana would be good for the Maryland economy through job creation and increased tax revenues. Finally, with more than 60% of Marylanders supporting the legalization of marijuana, it’s the right time to change the law, make usage safer, and improve our economy at the same time.
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?
Terrasa: As the largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and a vital part of Maryland’s identity and economy. The State of Maryland must continue to press our partners in the federal government, other states in the Chesapeake watershed, the private sector, and NGOs to prioritize funding for initiatives and programs that support the Bay’s restoration. We can best do this by demonstrating Maryland’s continued strong commitment to protecting the Bay’s habitat and water quality. This includes supporting cleanup efforts, funding initiatives like oyster restoration, and better managing the quality of stormwater runoff. Continuing to reduce agricultural pollution must also be part of our multi pronged solution. I remain committed to supporting a stormwater fee program, as it can provide a dedicated revenue source for maintaining, operating, and improving septic and stormwater systems in Maryland. We must continue to put pressure on the larger jurisdictions to meet required percentages of impervious treatment through their MS4 permit. A return to loosely held unenforceable guidelines will cause us to regress in our Bay cleanup efforts and undermine our ability to enlist stronger action by our partners throughout the watershed. Finally, given that climate change is already having an impact on the health of the Bay, Maryland must also continue to work toward deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by boosting investments in clean energy and advancing low-carbon, climate-resilient development.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Terrasa: I believe healthcare is a human right, and therefore, I support universal health care. In addition, making sure all Marylanders have high quality health care is critical to our economy. Ultimately, I believe that as a nation we must implement Medicare for all, and join the rest of the developed world with universal, government provided healthcare. In addition, holistic health care must be a focus moving forward. This should include mental and dental parity, requiring coverage equal to other health care coverage instead of treating these critical forms of care as luxuries. And finally, we must work to reduce to cost of prescription drugs by preventing price gouging by drug companies. Given the unraveling of the ACA on the federal level, Maryland has to do more. Creating and funding a reinsurance pool by taxing all health insurers is a great first step . In the short term, this fund will cover the costs of insuring high risk Marylanders, while reducing premiums for everyone else. However, this is not enough. Maryland needs to study other possible reforms to make sure that all Marylanders have healthcare.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Terrasa: The entire state must invest in Baltimore. Baltimore is Maryland’s largest city and a major employment hub. Baltimore draws in tourism and other revenue, and serves as a corporate hub for national companies. When companies leave Baltimore and people choose not to visit, the entire surrounding area suffers. Most violence in Baltimore is due to the drug trade and a lack of opportunities for youth and young adults. A holistic approach which invests in creating job opportunities for low income youth and young adults, as well as safe activities and activities for youth, would decrease the number of young people involved in violent crime. Further, we need to divert individuals from incarceration and work to rehabilitate offenders rather than allow those individuals to move into more serious and dangerous criminal activity.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Terrasa: Maryland can support better jobs and encourage businesses to move to and expand in Maryland by working to provide healthcare for all, allowing for a more productive workforce. Maryland can also strengthen laws supporting unionization in order to help Marylanders ensure that work pays.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Terrasa: Yes. After the last census, I was on the County Council when we went through the process for councilmanic districts. The process of drawing district maps is incredibly complex, and needs expert review, as well as true. Creating a truly non-partisan, independent body is an important piece of improving this process. In addition, the legislature needs to create transparent parameters for drawing districts that are codified, rather than leaving the process wholly open.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Terrasa: The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights needs to be improved to protect the public and to protect law enforcement. Our LEOBR is one of the oldest in the Country. The vast majority of law enforcement officers are amazing professionals. They want to have great relationships with communities, and they want to do the right thing. Due process is important. The public and officers need to be protected from the negative behavior of a few bad apples, and the public too needs to be supported to make sure that all government officials and employees are held accountable.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Terrasa: Drug addiction, not just opioid addiction, is a disease and should be treated as such. The media and political attention surrounding the opioid crisis has lead to a shift toward viewing addiction more as a disease and less as criminal or deviant behavior. Drug addiction is an epidemic, impacting a staggering number of people and families and causing countless deaths. Addressing this crisis is complicated and will require an all hands on deck approach including better addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services. In addition, we also need better pain management, mental health support, and increased availability of overdose reversing drugs.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Terrasa: There is no question that the state needs to do more to proactively address income inequality. Wages have not kept pace with housing prices for decades. Creating and expanding meaningful housing programs in addition to addressing the root cause of income inequality will provide additional support to families and individuals. Maryland must needs to make sure that work pays and that workers can support their families. Maryland should ensure a $15 minimum wage for all workers, and expand living wage requirements, including requiring government contractors include living wages, good benefits, and insurance for their workers Maryland needs to require paid sick leave and paid family leave to ensure that no worker has to choose between their job and their family. Maryland must support collective bargaining and ensure that workers have the right to unionize. And, Maryland must ensure universal healthcare for all Marylanders so that health care costs never again bankrupt another Maryland family.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Terrasa: No. All decision making by public bodies should take place in public. Information reviewed by those bodies should be timely posted online, in a searchable format. However, making information available to the public is useless unless there is someone to see it, analyze it, and question it. Having an independent, free press is vitally important. I’m deeply concerned about recent attacks on free press. Labeling legitimate news that sources information and ask real questions of those in and out of office as “fake news” undermines our ability to exercise oversight over government. Also dangerous is shifting our intake of news exclusively to social media. There is a difference between opinion and/or false information on one side and verifiable factual information on the other side. If we don’t support legitimate news sources, we get what we pay for. If we don’t believe facts that we read about in those sources, it does us no good. And if we don’t care and act on what we learn, we are not doing our part in exercising oversight over our government. While the discussion on the national stage is distressing, Maryland is moving in the right direction - Passing laws to make information more accessible through PIA and open meetings laws (for example, I co-sponsored legislation locally that among other things required data posted by Howard County to be in searchable format); learning as a society to distinguish between legitimate news sources and trolls on Facebook; and greatly increased activism since the 2016 elections.