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?
Dumais: Yes. I support the findings of the Commission. I believe these reforms can be funded through the operating budget and the dedicated funding from casinos. This session, the General Assembly passed legislation that begins to implement the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, starting in the fall of 2018. House Bill 1415 modernizes Maryland’s educational system by improving teacher recruitment, getting more resources to students in low-income schools, and expanding career technical education programs. This legislation encourages the top 25% of high school graduates from each county to pursue a career in education and increases awareness of financial aid programs for teaching candidates. It also implements an Early Literacy Program in low-income areas to help students build a strong reading foundation and expand pre-k to give children the head start they need. Further, the bill creates a competitive grant program for local boards of education to partner with community colleges and businesses to put students on a track for careers in technical education. It’s important we encourage more young men and women to get involved in the hands-on technical careers of tomorrow.
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?
Dumais: We need to balance all sorts of competing budget needs – in education, transportation, public safety and other areas. Generally, I believe we should spend more on transit than we are currently spending. The cancellation of the Red Line was a travesty. As I do not live in Baltimore, I am not familiar with Baltimore Link. I live in Montgomery County and rely heavily on the Metro. Clearly, Baltimore is not adequately served by transit in comparison with the DC Metropolitan region.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Dumais: Not at this time. But, I do support further use of civil offenses for possession and use of marijuana. I believe it is important to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of legalization in other states before we move in that direction. We are beginning to receive studies on the effects on traffic accidents and other public safety issues which need to be reviewed before Maryland moves toward legalization.
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?
Dumais: We need to continue to work with our neighboring states to craft compacts for the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay - until those running the federal government regain their senses and make protecting our environment and the bay priorities again.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Dumais: The Maryland legislature took important steps in the 2018 legislative session. Specifically, a legislative workgroup on the Affordable Care Act worked on lowering premiums in the individual market by seeking a federal waiver for flexibility to use federal funds to help create a state-run reinsurance program. Reinsurance will allow insurance companies to subsidize the cost of care for high-risk individual market enrollees and curb the premium increase from having substantial effects on the rest of the insurance market. Last year, under the Hogan Administration, insurance premiums increased by 50%. This year, the legislature stepped in to prevent another 50% increase. This legislation was passed by the General Assembly and passed unanimously out of the House of Delegates. The legislature also passed legislation authorizing the State to collect the 2.75% ($380 million) in suspended federal fees from insurance companies to pay for a state reinsurance pool. The bill also requires a study to explore further long-term solutions for the insurance industry and stabilization of individual market rates.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Dumais: During the 2018 legislative session, we passed several legislative initiatives to help Baltimore address violent crime. The most important legislation resulted in the creation of the Maryland Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Fund (HB432) and provided funding for the Safe Streets program (HB113). We cannot incarcerate our way out of violent crime. “Tough on crime” failed in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. We need to be “Smart on Crime,” which means we need to ensure access to job opportunities, training, housing, and education. However, the legislature also passed bills to provide law enforcement and prosecutors with tools to crack down on crime. SB1137 allows prosecutors to obtain wire taps in illegal gun sale crimes; increases the penalities for witness intimidation; and adds fentenyl to the volume dealer statute.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Dumais: Maryland’s busines climate is healthy and strong. But, there is always room for improvement. Bringing more businesses to Maryland and supporting our strong medical systems will foster the creation of sustaining, family-supporting jobs. Maryland retains its AAA bond rating. It is one of only eleven states in the country to receive the highest possible rating from all three rating agencies – S & P Global Ratings (formerly Standard and Poor’s), Moody’s Investors and Fitch Ratings. The rating agencies cite Maryland’s strong and diverse economy, well-educated work force, above average wealth and income levels, sound financial management, and initiative and flexibility in response to economic cycles. The high rating enables taxpayers to benefit from lower interests rates for our State’s capital investments - which results in more jobs.
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?
Dumais: The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) was crafted almost 30 years ago. I do believe that it balances protections for the police and the public. However, trust between the police and the public over the past several years has eroded in many areas. The legislature has taken up LEOBR reform measures over the past several years - particularly in 2016. It is a complicated area of law. Reform will require both sides at the table – and, in many cases, would be more effective at the local level so that specific police practices and policies are reformed and community trust reestablished.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Dumais: This year the legislature passed bills to establish a competitive grant program that awards funding to local behavioral health organizations to expand capabilities of crisis response programs and services. Services and programs include: mobile crisis teams, 24⁄7 walk-in services, crisis residential beds, and other crisis response programs. Total funding for annual grants begins in 2020 at $3 million, $4 million in 2021, and $5 million in 2022. Additionally, this legislation requires pharmaceutical drug companies to file reports of suspicious orders to the Attorney General’s office. Drug distributors are already required to file these reports with the federal government, this law simply requires the distributors to file the same report to the state to assist the state in combating the overdose crisis. Reasons to file a suspicious order report include: shipments of abnormal size, frequency or deviation from the normal shipment pattern.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Dumais: The state should continue supporting businesses to encourage job growth. In 2016 we successfully passed equal pay legislation. The bills prohibited employers from paying different wages based on a person’s sex. Maryland’s Equal Pay for Equal Work law prohibits compensation discrimination based upon a person’s gender identity. Further, the law generally prohibits employers from paying a wage to employees of one sex or gender identity at a rate less than employees of another sex or gender identity “if both employees work in the same establishment and perform work of comparable character or work on the same operation, in the same business or of the same type.” Employees are deemed to work “in the same establishment,” and thus subject to comparison, if they work in the same county, even if they work in different offices or locations. In addition, in response to activists seeking employment protections beyond just wages, the Act prohibits employers from “providing less favorable employment opportunities” on the basis of sex or gender identity. Examples of “less favorable employment opportunities” include: (1) placing employees into “less favorable career tracks” or positions; (2) failing to provide all employees with information regarding promotions or advancement; and (3) limiting employment opportunities that would otherwise be available to the employee but for the employee’s sex or gender identity. We need to continue to monitor implementation of this important law.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Dumais: Yes - I believe our Public Information Act (PIA) and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylander’s ability to exercise oversight of the government. We can improve Marylander’s access to the government by continuing to improve our use of technology through live video streaming of general assembly sessions - as we now do for House and Senate committee hearings.