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?
Lehman: The Kirwan Commission has not yet submitted its final report, but I agree with its preliminary findings that the state should fund universal pre-K for students from all incomes and devise a formula to provide more monies for schools in low-income areas. I think the emphasis on high-achieving students is less urgent, given that they have more options for earning community college credit either through dual enrollment or new education models like the Middle College Program in Prince George’s County where students earn their high school diploma and an associate’s degree concurrently. I fully support the emphasis on higher teacher pay and career and technical education for non-college bound students. There is sufficient emphasis and preparation for college-bound students but too few programs to promote career readiness for IT, green jobs and high end manufacturing, among other fields that offer high wages. I would be open to funding reforms that accelerate universal pre-K and funnel more money to schools in low-income areas. I fully support the constitutional amendment creating a lockbox for casino monies to fund education on top of the current state commitment but I am unsure what other options there may be for raising the estimated $1.9 billion that the National Center for Education and the Economy said the state should be spending on public schools. (The recommendation is actually for an additional $2.9 billion but $1.9 billion would come from the state and the remainder from the counties.)
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?
Lehman: No, Maryland’s spending is completely imbalanced when it comes to roads and transit. The FY 2019 capital improvement program (CIP) budget for the State Highway Administration is $1.45 billion, the largest share of the transportation CIP. By comparison, the CIP budget for the MD Transit Administration is $811 million for MARC Camden, Brunswick and Penn lines; Baltimore light rail; bus procurement including Kirk bus facility replacement; Purple Line transit construction in Montgomery and Pr. George’s counties; Metro rail vehicle replacement; and capital assistance for locally owned transit systems. I believe the state has enough for its transportation needs, but we must make smarter investments, especially with respect to transit but also improved pedestrian and bike paths to induce people to get out of their cars. Governor Hogan’s reduction in ICC and Chesapeake Bay Bridge tolls (Your Summer Vacation Just Got Cheaper) was a political gimmick. We all still pay for maintenance of Maryland’s 17,143 lane miles, whether it comes out of our vacation budget, commuting costs or income taxes. The $135 million BaltimoreLink bus rerouting, bus only lanes and traffic light sensors to extend green lights has improved reliability but ridership is flat, according to a Nov. 14, 2017, article in the Sun. I believe Baltimore residents still need the Red Line for more efficient East-West commuting and leisure travel between Baltimore County (West) and Baltimore City (East). With the Red Line’s 2030 daily ridership projection of 54,000 people, bus service alone, however efficient, will not be sufficient.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Lehman: No. I have a family member whose son became addicted to marijuana. He was stopped by police at least twice for driving under the influence. He was found on another occasion late at night in a park a few miles from home, disoriented and unable to find his way. Police waited while his parents came to pick him up and at that point they insisted he seek treatment. Fortunately, he recognized he had a problem and entered a rehabilitation program voluntarily. Two years later, he is clean, holding down a job and doing well. Unlike with alcohol, there is no chemical test to determine the level of impairment of someone under the influence of marijuana; however, a Highway Loss Data Institute study shows in Colorado, Oregon and Washington where recreational marijuana is legal, collision claims are 3% higher than would be expected without legalization. After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as reported in a Jan. 1. 2018 article in USA Today.
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?
Lehman: Maryland must continue its partnership with the five states (DE, NY, PA, VA and WV) and the District of Columbia that share the Chesapeake Bay watershed to control development, limit deforestation and reduce runoff of stormwater, pesticides and other pollutants that threaten the Bay. The watershed is home to more than 18 million people and its health is tied to human health and economic stability. Maryland must have strong environmental statutes and robust enforcement. This includes its Tree Conservation Law requiring 1:1 replacement when developers cut down trees, tight restrictions on runoff from agricultural operations including pesticides and animal fecal matter, and regular water quality testing for those operations. If warranted, the state cannot hesitate to impose fishing and harvesting restrictions for fin fish, crabs, oysters and clams that not only contribute significantly to Maryland’s economy but are critical to the Bay’s complex ecosystem.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Lehman: I am a supporter of the concept of Medicare for All but we need a formula for funding it. The state could certainly negotiate lower prescription drug rates for Maryland’s 6 million residents, but a single payer health care system would probably have to involve a combination of taxes and an employer premium. MD gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous has asserted that a combination of state taxes to finance a single payer system would still be less than insurance premiums under the current employment based system of coverage.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Lehman: The state could provide more financial support to Baltimore City to reduce violent crime through more grants and technical assistance from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention. These should focus on community policing, family violence prevention, and Cease Fire grants to reduce gun violence. Baltimore City should also receive state money for social services programs in its school system, community and senior centers to address family stresses such as substance abuse, underemployment and other factors that precipitate violence.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Lehman: I think Maryland’s business climate is healthy. I agree with the use of some economic incentives for business relocation to Maryland or to prevent Maryland-based employers from leaving the state. However, the state must have a balanced approach and cannot give away the store. Governor Hogan’s $5 billion plan to entice Amazon’s HQ2 project is excessive. Either tax breaks or road and infrastructure improvements might be acceptable, but I do not believe providing both is necessary or justifiable.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Lehman: Yes. I think it is embarrassing and indefensible that Maryland is the most gerrymandered state in the country and that its congressional map is under review by the United States Supreme Court.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Lehman: The most controversial aspect of LEOBR is the 10 days a police officer has to obtain legal representation in a disciplinary case. I think there is a legitimate argument that 10 days is excessive. My understanding is that the 10 days is for the officer, not the agency, and if the officer does not have representation within the 10 days, he or she gives up the right to representation and can be compelled to answer questions. If the officer refuses, he or she can be terminated. However, the reality is that this never seems to happen. I could support shortening the 10-day period but this alone would not achieve greater balance between safeguards for police and the public they are sworn to protect.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Lehman: The opioid crisis needs a multi-pronged approach starting with laws restricting how pain killers are prescribed and dispensed by health care providers and pharmacists. The controls that are in place for medical marijuana should be considered and where appropriate can be replicated for opioid prescriptions. These include approved medical conditions for receiving prescriptions, the issuance of medical ID cards for those who are approved, limits on possession and a state registry that is updated daily when prescriptions are filled. Physicians need to be retrained on pain management alternatives to opioids and all law enforcement agencies and other non-medical personnel need training in and access to Naloxone to reverse overdoses.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Lehman: I am a strong supporter of a statewide $15/hr. minimum wage, phased in but with an inflation index so that wage hikes in the future are automatic to keep up with the increased cost of living. In many areas of the state, the greatest single expense for families is the cost of housing. Too many people are housing insecure, meaning they pay 30 percent or more for rent or their mortgage. This exacerbates income inequality and is a constant economic threat to those families and individuals who live on the margins. The state has an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that is considered efficient; however, it could leverage public and private monies to grow the fund and provide support to lower income families to access affordable units.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Lehman: On their face, those laws are powerful tools to ensure citizens’ ability to monitor government. However, there are ways around open meetings; the use of executive session is one way and there is not always sound legal justification for conducting government business in executive session. Citizen and media monitoring of the use of executive session is critical. Also, when the media, citizens and other stakeholders request various government communications, including meeting minutes, correspondence and other public records, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officers must be responsive and provide the requested documents in a timely fashion. As a former journalist, I hear myriad complaints about foot dragging by government officials charged with responding to FOIA requests, which is unacceptable. I frequently remind government officials that the free flow of information and a free press is what protects us from tyranny.