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?
Chao: Yes. Among the reforms that the Commission outlines as necessary to maintain Maryland’s competitiveness, there must be increased emphasis on pushing for universal education for four-year-olds. Impacting children at these early formative years is proven to have positive outcomes that lasts well into adulthood. As far as funding is concerned, we need to ensure that money going into a so-called educational ‘lockbox’ as proposed by Governor Hogan does not mean that at the same time funding that would otherwise be appropriated to education in the general fund is removed. Additionally, we will need to scrutinize Comptroller Franchot’s claims that there is at present enough revenue streams to meet Maryland’s investment in education.
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?
Chao: I believe that it is misleading to argue whether transportation spending is balanced between roads and transit. I am of the opinion that transportation spending, in its entirety, is insufficient in sustaining pre-existing infrastructure much less address expansion and growth. Take for example MD-210. Project planning for the development of overpass-type interchanges was completed in 2004. It was not until 2016 before sufficient funding allowed the construction to be underway. Even accounting for delays attributed to right-of-way and environmental impact, this timeframe is unacceptable to any Marylander that relies on it to get around. Elsewhere, decisions on public transit such as the cancellation of Baltimore’s proposed Red Line in favor of BaltimoreLink show some promise for Baltimoreans, although BaltimoreLink is still relatively new and inefficiencies persist in part due to under-utilization.
Do you support the legalization of recreational 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?
Chao: Remain committed to advocating the importance of restoring and maintaining the Chesapeake Bay to Federal legislators and federal agency-level partners at the Environmental Protection Agency. Prioritize funding on restoral efforts to meet sudden budget shortfalls. Seek new revenue to bolster funding, to include slight increases to the Bay Restoration Fund.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Chao: According to a 2016 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, roughly 5.6% of Marylanders lack health insurance. It is pivotal to understand what the barriers are for these people and create solutions tailored to them. Opioid addiction, homelessness, chronic health issues need to be targeted in order to move the bar from 5.6% to 0%.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Chao: Coordinate with the mayor of Baltimore on near-term solutions, which may include law enforcement support. More importantly, however, focus on long-term solutions, which includes engaging with community leaders in building civic-government coalitions, funding job training programs, and incentivizing businesses to build, develop, and hire locals within historically disadvantaged areas.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Chao: The Maryland Business Climate Survey for 2018 found that most businesses in Maryland expect growth. At the same time, 55% of these businesses were having difficulty in finding skilled workers. The state can work on developing the local workforce through vocational training programs and creating partnerships with businesses on creating apprenticeship programs. Maryland should look toward specific growth areas such as cyber, which according to a CSO report in 2017 is estimated to have a 3.5 million shortage in qualified personnel in the realm of cyber security. Virginia is pushing hard to grow its IT and cyber security work force; there is plenty of room to do the same with success, especially in the D.C. Maryland suburbs.
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?
Chao: The goal of the LEOBR is noble in that it tries to protect law enforcement officers whenever they are investigated for misconduct. However, there are some issues that do require scrutiny and possible modification. Questioning of law enforcement officers, for example, cannot begin until at least ten days after an incident. This does nothing except slows the expediency of an investigation. Furthermore, punitive disciplinary action that arises for reasons other than a felony cannot be carried out until after undergoing a hearing before a board of peers. This restricts the administrative authority of police chiefs and senior law enforcement leaders. A comprehensive review by an independent non-partisan body is crucial in ensuring that Maryland’s LEOBR balances protections for police and alleviates valid concerns from the public.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Chao: I would take on a multi-pronged approach: (1) Work with schools in educating students of the danger of opioids and the lifetime of consequences that addicts face. (2) Work with fellow legislators in bolstering reforms to non-violent drug crimes. Shore up funding for treatment alternatives in lieu of incarceration for those convicted of such crimes. (3) Work with civic and religious leaders as well as the medical industry in promoting outreach programs in weaning addicts off opioids and in providing counseling/rehabilitation services.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Chao: There are so many ways to address income inequality, which in a wealthy state like Maryland is divided between those in ‘skilled’ and ‘unskilled’ jobs. One method is to engage with business leaders and encourage the development of apprenticeship programs. This can be done by providing tax incentives to businesses that pledge to train and hire a set number of local residents each year.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Chao: I think that it is a good start. But to say that it is in itself enough would be short-sighted. Marylanders deserve full transparency of their government and be entitled to review the actions of public servants short of issues that involve personally identifiable information, national security, or otherwise justifiable stated reason.