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?
Halverson: While a final report has not yet been submitted and the General Assembly has extended the Commission by another year, I do generally support the suggestions of the findings. However that does not mean I would support funding all of the suggestions as a State Delegate. I hope the final report will prioritize the findings so that next year, the state can look at their budget and determine how to fund some of the initiatives. I do not support Universal Pre-K, which is not actually a recommendation in the report. The reason I don’t support it is that I am aware of the exorbitant cost of universal Pre-K and know realistically, it cannot be funded. Instead, to help all children to be prepared for kindergarten as recommended in the report, I would support a program that gives new mothers of poverty, education on parenting skills and the importance of reading to children every day. I also support concentrated efforts on families of poverty, not spreading the money thin on Universal Pre-K which would lead to low quality Pre-K for all and not enough support for our poorest families.
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?
Halverson: I think Governor Hogan’s administration is doing their best to balance transportation needs with the current budget on transportation. The budget, however, falls way short of the needs to move people and products most efficiently. For decades, Maryland highways have not been improved as the population has substantially grown. Governor Hogan’s Traffic Relief Plan will improve the lives of many who travel through and commute to work in the DC area. Expanding I270, I495 and MD 295 with optional toll lanes will give our state the most bang for the buck. The plan also provides a way to fund it with public/ private partnerships, which I think is a smart solution. I do not feel that Baltimore’s transit system is adequately served, but other improvements should happen in Baltimore where you start to see population growth before it makes sense to add to the transit system. I would, however, like to see the Howard Street Tunnel enlarged so it can accommodate double stacked shipping containers because the Port of Baltimore has a disadvantage when trucks can’t get through the tunnel, and opportunity is lost as a result.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Halverson: No, I really don’t think legally adding another mind-altering drug (in addition to alcohol) will benefit our society. We have enough problems with alcohol and drug addiction. I don’t see how marijuana will help families. Instead of legalizing a drug, why don’t we promote things that are good for families like reading to a child at bedtime, or taking a walk after dinner, or exploring one of the many museums in Baltimore? There are so many other healthy things we can do to stimulate or minds instead of chemically changing our brains. In addition, there is still no reliable test such as the breath test for alcohol, to tell if someone is under the influence while driving. The state would be liable if they legalized marijuana without having a way to enforce safe drivers on the road. Another reason I oppose legalization is that there would still be a black market for the high potency types of marijuana so we’d still have some of the same problems we already have with illegal marijuana.
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?
Halverson: It is vital to protect the Chesapeake Bay, to keep our drinking water clean and to support our seafood industry and conserve our natural resources. As stewards of the earth and its resources, we must do all we can to protect our ecosystem as well as the industries that rely on a clean Bay. The federal government has fully funded the EPAs Chesapeake Bay Program, which is great! As a State Delegate, if projects are not fully funded, as someone who has a record of solving problems in my community, I would work with elected officials, advocates, scientists and other stakeholders to find ways to protect the Bay and it’s watershed.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Halverson: Health care is one of the top four issues for my campaign (in addition to Education, Transportation and Gerrymandering.) Premiums can be as expensive as a house payment now, and health insurance is moving out of the range of affordability for many people. To make health insurance more competitive and keep premiums down, I would encourage new policies that promote competition among states so that Marylanders have better options. My experience as a senior benefits analyst will help me work with health experts and leaders in this area. Removing unnecessary regulations can help, as well as finding ways to incentivize companies to encourage healthy preventive practices.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Halverson: I applaud what Governor Hogan has been doing to combat crime in Baltimore. To combat crime at the state level, we need supports for our police to do their job while doing what is necessary to rid corruption from the police force. Stricter sentences for repeat offenders with gun crimes is another action that can be taken. Incarcerating repeat offenders who have violated parole is another action. .Working with the Department of Housing and Community Development to fast-track the removal of crime infested old buildings will help. And, to break the cycle of poverty and crime as a long term solution, I’m very interested in promoting programs to help mothers when they give birth, to provide immediate supports in parenthood education.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Halverson: From the perspective as resident of Montgomery County, I would say the business climate has much room for improvement because many strategies that are done to improve business growth in our state are thwarted in my county by the all-Democrat county delegation. For example, we still have a rain tax in Montgomery County. To foster jobs and support families, our state needs to remove many of the stifling regulations. I have noticed that Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford is making progress on this already. To attract great companies with good benefits, our state needs to support transportation projects such as the CCT project in Montgomery County which will encourage more growth of the Bio Health Capital Region. Our state needs to continue to financially support education (and work to make sure the dollars are spent effectively) as well because a state with a lackluster education system will not attract new companies.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Halverson: It is time our elected officials do something about our unfair gerrymandering in our state! Even former Governor O’Malley acknowledges that changes need to be made to give our voters fair representation. Governor Hogan has offered fair solutions with proposed bills every year, but politics are getting in the way of moving forward on this very important issue. A bill was introduced this year and sat on the shelf after the first hearing. This is extremely frustrating! I hope the Supreme Court sheds light on the gerrymandering issue by this summer since the Maryland case was heard this April. I would approve a bill, like the one Governor Hogan put forth this year, to establish a committee of nine commissioners where no one political party is over represented. This committee would determine boundaries in a fair manner to include public hearings and transparency of redistricting data. I hope voters will hold all those running for office accountable, to promise to support such a bill in 2019. This should be a no brainer issue for Republicans and Democrats and if elected, I will certainly make this a top priority in my first session
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Halverson: By answer on this is “I don’t know.” I would need to talk to policemen and community stakeholders before taking a position on this issue. But, I will say that it is important for our police to feel supported by our community. They are given special powers as law enforcers and they risk their lives. I want to be sure they are protected and supported. I want to know that police are well trained and vetted. I have been a strong advocate of School Resource Officers for our public schools and was lucky to ride with a police officer one evening and spend a morning with an SRO where we visited three schools. This has helped me gain a perspective of these special people who serve in our state.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Halverson: The opioid crisis is very real and very little was done about it in this 2018 legislative session. The number of deaths from opioid/ alcohol addiction went from 1,259 to 2,089 in 2016 and the worst problem is in Baltimore City. When people become addicted to opioids, it is an enormous feat to combat the addiction. Prevention is critical, for the state to coordinate efforts with districts to provide education programs so the public is aware of the potential dangers when they are prescribed an opiate for medical reasons. Behaviors of our medical profession need to change, so that opioids are not a “go to” drug when tylenol or other less addictive alternative might be almost as good. And, because so many are addicted today, we need to establish affordable evidence-based rehabilitation programs in our communities to help the suffering beat their addiction.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Halverson: The best way to address income inequality is with education. A strong k-12, college and vocational system in Maryland will prepare people for a successful life and well paying job. The mindset that college is the best way to go for all students must change by promoting vocational training in high school and outside of high school so the trades are recognized as excellent pathways. The state can foster communications between companies and our school systems to open up apprenticeship opportunities for our young people. Public/ private partnerships are important so our schools can prepare students when they enter the working world.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Halverson: I recently took a two hour online training course on the Open Meetings Act as a Member of the Montgomery Board of License Commissioners. I do believe the Open Meetings Act helps to ensure that conversations among board members on issues take place in public. It is very important for me that government is transparent because those in government work for the people and they deserve open access to information. I also support the Public Information Act.