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?
Atterbeary: Yes, I support the Commission on Innovation and Excellence’s findings in Education. In particular, I believe that the state should do everything it can to implement quality early childhood education for all of its children. As a mother of three young children, I am experiencing firsthand the substantial cost of pre-kindergarten! During the 2017 legislative session, I sponsored emergency legislation that created a workgroup to study how to deliver pre-kindergarten to all of Maryland’s children. Since then, the workgroup has reported its recommendations to the commission. I am committed to funding reforms that ensure the recommendations of the commission are fully implemented. The General Assembly passed legislation during the 2018 session ensuring that gaming revenues are not diverted from education and other legislation that begins implementation of the commission’s recommendations.
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?
Atterbeary: No, Maryland’s transportation spending is disproportionately balanced to funding road projects rather than transit. While current transportation funding is being spent building road projects on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland, transit projects for Central Maryland have not been funded. Howard County, a direct link for commuters to Baltimore and Washington, has been ignored. The cancellation of the Red Line and creation of the BaltimoreLink is a direct signal to Baltimore that its residents don’t need a contemporary transit system. Funding on transit projects for Baltimore and Central Maryland is critical to get people moving to and from jobs. The Red Line would have connected Baltimore residents with more opportunities for employment outside of the city, reduced the carbon footprint, congestion and traffic on the 95, 695 beltway corridors and surrounding roads. I have supported legislation dedicated to transit projects and will continue to support the same.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Atterbeary: I support a thoughtful approach to the legalization of marijuana. Legalization of recreational marijuana will affect federal job employment, the largest employer of Maryland residents, and other types of employment where marijuana use is prohibited (ie. caretaking, teaching, driving, transit drivers, etc.). We must ensure that any legalization of marijuana policy does not perpetuate a culture that adversely affects the poor and people of color. The latter includes participation in the industry.
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?
Atterbeary: The Chesapeake Bay is a valuable resource for all Marylanders. I remember doing class projects in the 8th grade at Clarksville Middle School geared towards “saving the Bay!” Currently, the federal government and governor are attempting to roll back measures that Maryland has taken to protect the Bay. I will continue to resist their efforts. I have supported legislation in the Maryland General Assembly, and will continue to support legislation, that reduces storm water runoff, help farmers to reduce soil and nutrient runoff from their farms and educate Marylanders about how to manage polluted stormwater runoff due to the use of fertilizer. I supported the Oyster Sanctuary Bill during the 2017 legislative session and the Forest Conservation Act during the 2018 legislative session. Unfortunately, the Forest Conservation Act did not pass the legislature in 2018; however, I will continue to support this legislation.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Atterbeary: During the 2018 legislative session, I supported legislation that helps the rising cost of health care immediately and offers a long-term solution to stabilize the market. This session, we were able to pass legislation authorizing Maryland to re-coup approximately $380 million in suspended federal money from insurance companies to pay for a state reinsurance pool and require a study of long-term solutions for the insurance industry and stabilize market rates for Marylanders. Maryland should continue to examine the benefits and implementation of a single payer healthcare system and a state-run reinsurance program.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Atterbeary: In 2017, Baltimore’s homicide rate reached record numbers with 342 murders. During the 2018 legislative session, there were 7 murders in Baltimore the weekend before Sine Die, as the Maryland General Assembly debated crime control aimed at Baltimore. Removing illegal guns from the hands of violent repeat criminal offenders is critical to protecting the citizens of Baltimore as well as continuing to invest in programs like Safe Streets. I supported a measure during the 2018 legislative session that accomplished the latter. Further, a serious and honest look at examining education and job opportunities for Baltimore residents moving forward is necessary. Businesses must invest in the city to help job creation. Education, jobs and transportation infrastructure are important factors in lifting cycles of generational poverty that leads to criminal activity.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Atterbeary: Businesses and people move to Maryland to benefit from our public school and higher education systems, quality of life and proximity to jobs in the State and D.C. metropolitan area. The state must continue to invest in our public and higher education school systems and invest in transit so that people can get to quality paying jobs throughout Central Maryland. Passage of the $15 minimum wage would be a step in the right direction for Maryland to help families. Currently, many teachers, public safety workers, single parents and working young adults cannot afford to live in the counties in which they work. This is particularly true for individuals working in Howard and Montgomery Counties. Passing a wage that is actually livable is key to helping individuals take care of their families and live close to home. Maryland should continue to invest in the biotech and cyber-security industries to become less dependent on the federal government as an employer and to expand our business base. In addition, the General Assembly passed the More Jobs For Marylanders Act of 2017, creating apprenticeships, tax credits for employer participation and job creation for manufacturers.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Atterbeary: Gerrymandering has been largely supported and accomplished by the GOP and that is reflected overall in the current national political climate. Maryland’s representation in the General Assembly is reflective of the political demographics in the state. I support an 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?
Atterbeary: During the 2015⁄2016 Interim, I was appointed by Speaker Michael Busch to the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup which held public hearings, studied and proposed changes to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. I also serve on the House Judiciary Committee which has heard public hearings on this issue during this legislative term. The workgroup was a direct result of what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore City and how the legislature could address the fractured relationship between the police and the community. Since that time, the Department of Justice has investigated the Baltimore City Police Department and found that the department had engaged in a “pattern and practice” of discriminatory policing. In addition, the illicit and illegal conduct of the Department’s Gun Trace Task Force has come to light. It is clear that the City’s Police Department has its challenges and there is a lot of work to be done in re-building and re-branding the Department and creating trust with the city’s residents. I support citizens, who have been trained and have an understanding of LEOBRA serving on the City’s trial boards for the purpose of transparency. As it stands now, the city’s trial boards are open to the public to attend.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Atterbeary: This session, the General Assembly took steps to address the Opioid Epidemic, a public health crisis, that Maryland is currently facing. Escalated funding was established in a competitive grant program to local behavioral health organizations expanding crisis response programs and services (ie. mobile crisis teams, 24⁄7 walk-in services, crisis residential beds, and other crisis response programs). In addition, legislation was passed that requires pharmaceutical drug companies to file reports of suspicious orders to the Attorney General’s office. Maryland needs to make significant strides in funding to increase the number of available beds for drug treatment under the Justice Reinvestment Act. In addition, mental health funding needs to be increased and we need to ensure doctors and dentists don’t over-prescribe.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Atterbeary: The income inequality problem in Maryland requires addressing many issues. During this session, the legislature passed legislation increasing child care subsidy rates so that low-income parents can have greater access to high quality child care. The legislation requires the governor to increase funding for the Child Care Subsidy Program over several years. As a working mother, with three young children, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to afford quality child care. In addition, the state must increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour so that families earn a living wage, expand pre-kindergarten so that all of our children have an opportunity to be successful when they start school and invest more funding in transit in Central Maryland to get people to and from jobs.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Atterbeary: Transparency and accountability are important to maintaining an open government. Citizens should have access to information, the process and the ability to participate if they so choose. The General Assembly passed the Public Information Act Compliance Board in the 2015 legislative session and further strengthened Maryland’s open meeting laws through legislation in 2017. I firmly believe in transparency, accountability and the ability to participate which is why I sponsored HB816 during the 2018 legislative session. The legislation, which passed the General Assembly, revamped the handgun permit review board’s process so that it is transparent and open to the public. As such, the board can now be held accountable for the decisions it renders. I will continue to support measures that strengthen these laws.