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?
Palakovich Carr: A strong public school system is of vital importance to Maryland’s future. Research is clear that states that invest in K-12 education reap the rewards of a stronger economy, as well as better outcomes for individual students before and after graduation. Maryland must invest in our public education system with additional funding. We should implement the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, especially relating to addressing the achievement gap. These recommendations include universal pre-K, increasing support programs for low-income families, measuring school readiness for incoming kindergarteners, and creating an early warning system to identify students that are falling behind. I’m especially enthusiastic about universal pre-K. As a scientist, I turn to research and data as the basis of sound policymaking. The science is clear on the benefits of pre-K for four year olds, namely gaining the social and cognitive skills they will need to succeed throughout their entire lives. To adequately fund our public schools, Maryland needs to put a lockbox on the Education Trust Fund. Although the Education Trust Fund is being used to fund education, the state has meanwhile decelerated funding for schools from the general fund. In fact, the share of general fund monies spent on public schools has dropped from 21 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2017. This is not in keeping with what voters supported at the ballot box when gambling was legalized.
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?
Palakovich Carr: Public transportation is key to addressing the traffic congestion that plagues many parts of the state. Maryland needs to invest more in public transportation. The recent approval of permanent, dedicated funding for Metro is a step in the right direction, but we need funding for other projects, including in other parts of the state. New lines, such as the Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County, will provide much needed options for people to commute, go to school, and run errands. Additionally, Maryland should support expansion of MARC service as another valuable way to serve the state’s commuter transportation needs. MARC train service should be more frequent and have additional off-peak options in order to further increase ridership. Bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements are also an important part of our region’s transportation needs. People must be safe and also feel safe to choose to get out of their cars. That’s why I’m pushing for the statewide adoption of Vision Zero. Vision Zero has been successful in other states and countries in decreasing deaths and serious injuries on roadways and in increasing people’s comfort with using alternate modes of transportation, such as bicycling and walking. Vision Zero calls for better street design, better education for both drivers and pedestrians, and reducing conflicts between fast moving cars and vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and bicyclists.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Palakovich Carr: Maryland should legalize recreational cannabis for adults age 21 or older. The main reason I favor legalization of recreational cannabis is because of racial discrepancies in arrests for possession. According to one study, African Americans are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person is in Maryland. Legalization also presents an opportunity to raise additional funding for public education, by imposing a sizable excise tax on marijuana sales. Other states, like Colorado, that have taken this step are seeing growing revenues for public schools.
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?
Palakovich Carr: Years ago, I spent a summer while in college studying restored oyster reefs on the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I saw firsthand the impacts Maryland’s restoration efforts are having on the Chesapeake Bay and believe that restoration of the Bay is critical for Maryland’s future. The Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for EPA’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup program is very troubling. Although Bay restoration will be most efficient if the federal government and states in the Bay watershed work together, Maryland cannot sit idly by if other jurisdictions fail to uphold their commitments. The improving health of the Bay shows that Maryland is doing many things right. Stormwater runoff, however, is a major contributor of nitrogen pollution, and the state needs to step up efforts to address stormwater runoff in urban and suburban areas. Timely issuance of permits to municipalities would ensure that local governments are addressing their share of the problem. Rockville and many other towns have been waiting for years for the state to issue their permits. It’s difficult for local communities to do their part without this guidance from the state. Maryland should also limit the expansion of large, industrial-sized poultry farms, which are proliferating on the Eastern Shore. They have an outsized negative influence on the Bay’s health.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Palakovich Carr: The rising costs of healthcare are a growing burden for many people. This is especially true for people who get their health insurance through the state healthcare exchange, which includes both individuals and small businesses. Insurance premiums increased by an average of 52% since last year for one of the two insurance companies that provides plans in the individual health insurance market. This is clearly not sustainable. During the 2018 legislative session, the General Assembly passed important reforms to stabilize the health exchange, including applying for a federal waiver to allow the state to develop high-quality, affordable health insurance while maintaining the protections granted in the Affordable Care Act. In the longer term, Maryland should consider single-payer health care. It has the potential to offer benefits such as improved access to medical care for all residents and cost savings for individuals. In an ideal world, the federal government would create a national single-payer system instead of a patchwork of state plans. But without that federal leadership, it may make sense for individual states to go it alone.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Palakovich Carr: The state has a vested interest in addressing safety issues in all of its communities. That said, I would defer to elected officials in Baltimore as to the specific ways the state should assist. It is also worth noting that stronger gun control laws could help to address the dramatic increase in shootings in Baltimore in recent years. In 2017, 301 people were shot and killed in the city. Currently, under state law, local governments are preempted from having gun control laws that are stronger than the state. I will push for Maryland cities and counties to have the ability to enact stronger gun control laws to address specific concerns in their communities.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Palakovich Carr: Maryland is fortunate to be home to the biotech corridor, to multiple highly regarded universities and colleges, to some of the best public schools in the country, and to a highly educated workforce. We also have a AAA bond rating—something that most states cannot boast—and our economy grew at 2.5% last year. The prospect of Amazon locating its second headquarters in Montgomery County potentially means tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs being created. This could be a great opportunity for Maryland and Montgomery County, so long as proper planning and investments are made in public transportation and local schools. There will also need to be careful planning by the County to meet the additional housing needs and to ensure that affordable housing is not squeezed out of the market. Although the state is headed in the right direction economically, government agencies and programs should ensure that their internal processes are efficient and easy for their customers to navigate. Speaking from personal experience, that is frequently not the case. The state should strive to put more services online, when possible, and to leverage technology to optimize the user’s experience.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Palakovich Carr: Maryland should be ashamed that we have one of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the country. I support the plan that was proposed by then-State Senator Jamie Raskin to have Maryland move forward in a compact with Virginia to have both states redistrict simultaneously. As a result, both states would get more compact districts without changing the net partisan makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Palakovich Carr: In general, I support civilians being more included in police oversight. Specifically, I support having a member of the public serve as a voting member of police trial boards. Participation by a properly trained member of the public makes the board more objective. This would require a change in Maryland state law and legislation to implement this proposal died in the House of Delegates this year.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Palakovich Carr: Maryland and other states cannot wait for the federal government to act to address the opioid crisis. Our state has experienced one of the highest per capita increases in overdoses. The task force convened in 2015 to address the epidemic was a positive step, but the growing number of overdoses indicate that much more needs to be done. Prevention: -Maryland should strengthen our state law that limits the prescription of opioids. Current law requires health care providers to prescribe the lowest effective dose and the smallest quantity of pills needed for the expected duration of pain. We’re the only state in the nation with this standard. Meanwhile, the 15 other states that have laws limiting opioid prescriptions have limits based on a specific number of days (3-14 days, depending on the state). That’s a much clearer standard for a doctor to follow. -33 other states require an assessment of each patient for possible substance abuse disorder prior to receiving an opioid prescription. Maryland should enact a similar law. -Require pharmacists to check ID before dispensing controlled substances. Treatment: -Other states have had success with public awareness campaigns to reduce the stigma of treating addiction and informing people about treatment options. -Funding to address the crisis has been inadequate. This year, the Governor proposed a paltry 2% increase for community behavioral health providers. These providers are working on the frontline of drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Palakovich Carr: Maryland needs to take multiple steps to address income inequality. 1) We need to increase the state minimum wage to a $15 an hour. The cost of living is high in this region and a person cannot support their family on $10.10 an hour. (This is the statewide minimum wage as of July 1, 2018). I supported the change to a $15 minimum wage in Montgomery County and have pushed for the county’s higher minimum wage to be implemented by the City of Rockville, which is not required to comply with the County law. 2) We need paid family leave. One of my top priorities, if elected, is to create a system for paid parental and family leave in Maryland. New parents should be able to take time off of work to bond with their infant or adopted child without worrying about making ends meet. The same should be true for a person who needs to care for an aging parent or ailing spouse. California’s paid family leave system is a great model for Maryland, as both the employer and the employee both pay into the system. 3) Community college should be free for graduates of Maryland high schools. This is a key step to making higher education affordable for all students. Students would have to apply for other need-based aid first, and the program would cover any remaining financial gaps for tuition, thereby keeping the cost of the program low.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Palakovich Carr: Attorney General Frosh’s December 2017 report on this subject includes many good recommendations which should be taken up by the General Assembly and the Governor.