Shane Pendergrass

Shane Pendergrass
  • Democrat
  • Age: 68
  • Residence: Columbia

About Shane Pendergrass

Education

University of Illinois, B.F.A. (fine arts), cum laude, 1973, M.A. (fine arts), 1974.

Background

A former art teacher, I began my career in government and politics as a Howard County community activist for slower growth and an adequate number of public schools. I served on Howard County Council from 1986 to 1994 and have served as delegate in Maryland’s District 13 since 1994. I served as vice chair of the Health and Government Operations (HGO) Committee from 2007 to 2016 and have been HGO chair since 2017. Before that, I served on the Economic Matters Committee from 1995 to 2002, including as vice chair of the Science and Technology Subcommittee from 1999 until 2002. I also serve on the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. Over the years, I have served on various committees related to health insurance, including the Joint Oversight Committee of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the Task Force to Study Electronic Health Records, the Joint Legislative Task Force on Small Group Market Health Insurance, and the House Medical Malpractice Workgroup. I have sponsored numerous bills with the goal of making health care accessible and effective for Marylanders, including a 2001 bill to provide affordable prescription drug coverage to seniors. That bill was ultimately incorporated into a comprehensive health bill that became law. I was among the first legislators to begin advocating for electronic health records, including sponsoring a law passed in 2008 that allowed for electronic signatures. I also sponsored successful legislation halting the proposed conversion of CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield to a for-profit company, and a subsequent bill establishing increased oversight of the CareFirst board of directors. I also sponsored a successful law in 2006 requiring public reporting of healthcare-associated infections rates in the state-mandated “Hospital Report Card.” This year, I was a sponsor of legislation that created a reinsurance pool to help stabilize health insurance premiums.

    Questionnaire

    1
    Kirwan
    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?
    Pendergrass: Yes, as a former teacher, I understand the importance of quality public education for all students – and the need to include sufficient money in the budget for them. The Kirwan commission concluded that Maryland’s students are “in the middle of the pack” in the US and the world but that “it is possible to build systems where essentially all students perform at a high level.” We are obligated to do that. I am just beginning to study the report and await the cost analysis. I am committed to working on and improving how we educate our state’s children. A small start would be using public funds exclusively for public education rather than siphoning off taxpayer money for private schools. We should also ensure that casino revenue is used for education, a step the General Assembly just voted to place on the ballot in November.
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    2
    Transportation
    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?
    Pendergrass: We have not reached the appropriate balance between roads and public transit. Highways and the regional beltways are still congested, and many people have no other way to get to work or stores than by car or complicated and long bus routes. I was pleased to vote for dedicated funding for the DC Metro and hope that we can look again at the Red Line funding. Letting private companies add beltway lanes and keep the toll money is the wrong approach, focusing too much on cars and exacerbating income inequality. My personal goal for Howard County would be to improve public transit within the county and also better connect us to the rest of the state.
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    3
    Marijuana
    Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
    Pendergrass: Yes. I have also been very involved with legalizing medical marijuana in Maryland and voted to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana (2014), to decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia (2015), and to override the governor’s veto in 2016 of the paraphernalia law.
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    4
    Chesapeake Bay
    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?
    Pendergrass: First, maintaining the federal Chesapeake Bay funding is critical. It has broad and bipartisan support in Congress and affects watershed projects in 7 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, the state must continue to fund programs to stick to our “pollution diet,” including by helping farmers reduce soil and nutrient runoff from their land. We’ll also need to ramp up focus on the suburbs and cities, where stormwater runoff has become the fastest and only growing source of watershed pollution. Through the combined efforts of the state, nonprofits, and community groups, we will need to slow polluted stormwater runoff through green infrastructure (trees, rain gardens, green roofs, etc.) – and educate residents about using less fertilizer and more native plants, installing rain gardens and conservation landscaping. The state will also need to evaluate the 20-year-old Forest Conservation Act for possible updates. Although the House and Senate passed legislation to do this, differences weren’t resolved before the end of the session.
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    5
    Health Care
    What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
    Pendergrass: As chair of the HGO Committee, Ive spent much of this session working to make meaningful health insurance available and affordable to all Marylanders. We were forced to address the President’s decision to end critical federal payments to health insurance companies, followed by Congress’s repeal of the individual mandate, which caused premiums to dramatically increase in the individual market. We passed a stop-gap measure this year, establishing a state reinsurance pool that will compensate insurers for the most expensive patients in 2019, thereby helping to stabilize rates for everyone. Longer term, we applied for a federal waiver to become eligible for additional federal reinsurance dollars over the next five years. We considered establishing a state individual mandate. Homeowners and automobile owners must buy insurance, and we are happy if we never have to use it. Our payments cover the unfortunate experiences of others – and we don’t complain that we didn’t have an accident or natural disaster. Sometimes, we need that insurance and are glad we have it. Very few people get through life without needing health insurance. Without healthy people paying into the pool, only the oldest and sickest patients seek coverage – making insurance unaffordable. Short of having a single-payer system, the individual mandate, coupled with a reinsurance fund, might be the two most important pieces of this complicated puzzle.
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    6
    Crime
    What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
    Pendergrass: The root of most violent crime is the persistence of poverty, barriers to quality education and inadequate housing, along with a lack of access to health care and mental health and addiction services. State investment in those areas will be key to addressing violent crime. We also need to continue to strengthen gun safety laws.
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    7
    Business Climate
    How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
    Pendergrass: Businesses want to operate – and families want to live – in a state that offers excellent public schools, colleges and universities; well-paid teachers who are treated as professionals; an educated and trained workforce; good roads and transit; clean air and water; and safe neighborhoods. The more Maryland invests in these areas and services, the more we can attract businesses and well-paying jobs.
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    8
    Redistricting
    Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
    Pendergrass: Independent redistricting commissions operating in all states would help ensure fair districts (that also don’t dilute minority communities’ voting strength) and a more responsive Congress. An Associated Press analysis of 2016 elections found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected, and, among the most populated states, there were three times as many seats with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts. The Brennan Center for Justice has similarly found that “congressional maps are consistently biased in favor of Republicans,” along with “clear evidence that aggressive gerrymandering is distorting the nation’s congressional maps,” posing a “threat to democracy.” Gerrymandering, largely by the GOP, has created a Congress whose actions rarely reflect the will of voters (such as on gun-safety measures, health care or taxes). Voters are clamoring for fairly drawn districts across the country. Making registration and voting easier is also important. I was pleased to vote in the General Assembly this year for legislation that allows residents to automatically register to vote at the DMV and other state agencies and for a ballot initiative that calls for same-day registration and voting.
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    9
    LEOBR
    Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
    Pendergrass: The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights was designed to protect officers from frivolous lawsuits. Maryland’s LEOBR was enacted in 1974 and is considered among the most extreme in the nation. Though I am not an expert in this area, it seems reasonable to reexamine and update policies periodically. Communities want to know that police will treat them fairly – or be held accountable.
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    10
    Opioids
    What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
    Pendergrass: We need to treat opioid addiction and overdose as a public health crisis. The first step is prevention of future addicts. Last year, my committee (the House Health and Government Operations) helped craft and the General Assembly passed the Prescriber Limits of 2017 because of the soaring number of deaths linked to opioid addiction and overdoses. This requires health-care providers to prescribe the lowest effective dose of an opioid in a quantity no greater than the amount needed for the expected duration of acute pain, typically three days or fewer and rarely more than seven days. A bill passed this year requires health-care providers to advise patients about the benefits and risks of prescribed opioids. In addition, we need to continue efforts to make naloxone (Narcan) and treatment options readily available. We have increased funding for treatment programs.
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    11
    Income inequality
    What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
    Pendergrass: The state will need to address at least three key areas to address income inequality: *Education: Invest in public pre-k-12 education and provide affordable community college and trade schools, because education is the pathway to economic security; *Improve public transit, so people won’t have to rely on cars to get to work; *Raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, setting a minimum wage that is a livable wage. In addition, access to meaningful, affordable health care is critical.
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    12
    Transparency
    Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
    Pendergrass: Open meetings and public information laws are key to ensuring faith, accountability and public participation in government. Regarding public information laws: The General Assembly passed legislation establishing, in October 2015, the state Public Information Act Compliance Board – to review whether fees are “unreasonable” – and the position of Public Access Ombudsman, who can mediate disputes between agencies and those seeking information. The latest PIACB report makes no major recommendations other than considering a one-time fee waiver for indigent individuals requesting records about themselves. The General Assembly also passed legislation in 2017 to strengthen the state’s Open Meetings Act. In its most recent report, the Open Meetings Compliance Board found that most violations occur through a “misstep” in applying the act rather than from disregard or lack of awareness, and it had no recommended amendments to the OMA at this time. Before making more changes, let’s take some time to evaluate how these new measures are working.
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