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?
Fowler: Education is the key to the future. Any great society invested and encouraged education for its citizenry. Some of the most advanced and best suited for future successes are nations are those investing in their education systems today. We support the findings of the Kerwin Commission. Many of these policies they recommend could not easily be implemented within the current budget. As we need to find extra resources for these programs, we will need to make cuts to old programs throughout the state that are not working. We also believe that if gambling revenue taxes were actually supplemented to education funding, we could use these proceeds to implement those goals. We also recognize that the money spent on these programs could create an initial cost but will likely result in a reduction of expenditures in social assistance programs in the future. The programs could very well save the government money over time.
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?
Fowler: I think Maryland tries to weigh the general balance of transit and infrastructure for transit. I think the attempts are difficult but tend to lean towards transit. However, one cannot deny the symbiotic relationship between transit’s success and reduction of vehicles requiring roads. Metro has been a tremendous help to our traffic concerns in the greater area. However, systems need to be improved upon and maintained. I think we are not doing the best of job of maintenance of Metro, which discourages people to use the system. That lack of faith in the system can result in more use of vehicles, creating more traffic. I personally believe that Prince George’s County needs to get the “red line treatment.” As someone who lived in a rural area southeast of Prince Georges, it was tough to get to transit stations and thus driving became the most efficient way to get into DC. However, our campaign is proposing increasing metro services to Upper Marlboro and Bowie. These locations will likely reduce car traffic by almost 100,000-200,000 cars, which also improves the life of our connecting roads. Baltimore, to become a model city, has work to do in the transportation department. However, there are many concerns about the cities fleeing population. Perhaps investment in the city to its vital infrastructure will entice citizens and business to relocate back to the area.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Fowler: Yes, I believe it can be a source of incredible revenue for our state. Not that I am an advocate of everyone and their mother using the drug. I do not support many people from drinking alcohol but that is legal and the revenue created is valuable to the state. Colorado added hundreds of millions of dollars to their annual budget from marijuana sales. Much of that revenue in Colorado went to education. The result, they are building homes at record rates to keep up with demand, they have seen huge increases to tourism revenue, fatalities from opioids has dropped significantly, as has violent crime. This industry is a billion dollar industry. We should remove the criminal enterprises from controlling such a large industry and regulate and tax instead. The Volstead Act proved that illegality of behavior that is commonplace will only result in organized violence, gangs, and lawlessness. I believe it is safer to regulate the businesses and create a capitalistic system that can fund the resulting problems that arise from those markets.
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?
Fowler: We have a duty and a responsibility to protect not only our bay, but also our environment at large. We have numerous problems to address in respects to our environment, the largest is addressing climate change. The science is clear. It is time to work on creating an energy grid that is carbon neutral and renewable. It is time we put people over the quarterly profits of a business that won’t exist if the planet is not habitable. It is time companies that have contributed to, disregarded, and created false narratives over the years about climate change be brought to justice and pay penalties. There are many policies that we will put into place for our environment. The first will be setting an energy portfolio of 100% renewable energy by 2040 for our state. We will offer incentives to green technology companies to relocate to our shores an invest in our green economy. We will invest in various projects to clean our rivers and bay that include oyster projects, banning single use plastics, solar powered trash wheels, water run off projects, and state-wide recycling initiatives. We will continue the progress started in the legislature to invest in green power and technology. We will also make sure that we hold fossil fuel companies responsible and accountable by implementing requirements on current facilities for added safety and environmental purposes.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Fowler: Healthcare has become incredibly expensive and small business is affected the most. My wife and I own our own business. Because we are married, the law only treats us as one person for purposes of obtaining group insurance. While we are only “one person” for obtaining group insurance we still pay deductibles as individuals for ourselves and our daughter. I am sure that many small businesses have this problem. If you are not in small business, you may be having problems with the premiums for health insurance. I am of the belief that as long as health insurance is solely tied to profit and not patient care, healthcare will continue to be subpar in America. We pay more per capita than anywhere in the world and receive healthcare services that are not even ranked in the top 10 of nations. Healthcare is a problem that hits home regardless of race, economic status, religion, or creed. Healthcare needs to be affordable for all. Healthcare should be available for all. I support legislation that would create incentives and subsidies for citizens to purchase healthcare and help alleviate the costs. It would be a large undertaking to implement our own healthcare system within the state and we would likely be lacking in the diversity of the patient pool to make it effective. However, I would be open to discussing those options with financial experts to see if it were something viable for the State.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Fowler: The state is bound by the constitution’s police powers to take care of the health and safety of its residents. The state must play a role. Per capita, Baltimore is setting records for 343 homicides in 2017. The USA Today named Baltimore the Most Dangerous City in America. Crime is not a problem that is fixed in a single policy. It is an approach that requires a multi-faceted approach. However, there are examples of us to learn from not too far away. Washington D.C. used to be the murder capital of the country not too long ago. I remember those times well. D.C. started by doing a few different things. They encouraged travel with a world class transportation system, Metro. D.C. started numerous projects for redevelopment in Southeast Washington, among other projects. Baltimore could very easily invest in certain neighborhoods and grow the town outward from the inner harbor. We also need to address those at-risk communities at early ages. We need to have role models for young men to emulate. We need investment in young people in schools. Instead, youth jails are being built. We need to create opportunities for our young people for work and in academia. Finally, we need to work with specialized crime teams to stop large scale crime. The state has a role to play, but it does not start and stop with just violent crime. It will require investment in our citizens. We will invest in our State.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Fowler: Maryland is incredibly fortunate to its proximity to our Federal government. Many have a decent standard of living that warrants and supports the need for numerous local businesses. There are many business friendly policies that can be put into effect. One such policy is student loan deference for young people starting businesses. We also want to create funds that can invest in young businesspersons in their businesses. We give many large businesses millions of dollars in tax credits. In reality, we would be better of helping small mom and pop businesses throughout the state. We would also create tax incentives for small businesses that encourage businesses to hire local employees that live with certain distances of work. Ultimately, large businesses need to pay their fair share of taxes so that small businesses and individuals can pay less in tax. There was a time in America when businesses paid over 30% of our Federal budget. Today that number, prior to the recent tax cuts, was about 10%. After, it will probably be something like 5-7%. If big business is not paying their fair share, citizens will be forced to pick up the difference. A more equitable tax structure will help citizens innovate and created businesses that benefit more workers. I am a tax and business attorney. Starting businesses is easy, maintaining and running them is the hard part. We need to create policies to make the operation of businesses easier and less arduous.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Fowler: Yes, I support non-partisan and independent bodies to draw our legislative and congressional districts. Redistricting will occur within my term when I am elected in November. Gerrymandering is one of the major topics that I believe Democrats need to address as a party. Simply put, Democrats have fixed the game in Maryland. Republican congressional candidates received about 38% of the state vote in the last election. They have 1 out of 8 seats, 12.5% of seats, in Congress. Reasonably, they should have 2 or 3. As a democrat, Democrats need to lead the country and demonstrate that when we are in charge, we will play by the rules. Once we do so, we can push to gain numerous seats across the country that have been drawn similarly by Republican controlled legislatures. In office, I will encourage and advocate for congressional and legislative districts that are drawn that result in compact districts that allow for perfect representation even if it results in losing my seat. It is the right thing to do.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Fowler: At the very outset of reviewing the Officer’s Bill of Rights it mentions the Public 9 times. 8 of them are within the title pages on each of the pages. The only time the word public is mentioned is in Section 3-112 regarding emergency suspensions. It allows for suspensions with pay when it is in the interest of the public and law enforcement. Police is mentioned 26 times and Officer is mentioned 131 times. Simply put, I do not believe that the current draft of this Bill of Rights adequately balances protections for the public. The public should have more input on disciplinary actions that occur that result in the physical harming, injury, or death of a citizen while in police custody or in the process of being arrested. Citizens should have an ability to review the behavior and action of their police departments and render opinions that could used as evidence in a court of law. Ultimately, our police are here to protect and serve our communities. Many of them perform this duty. I believe that more civic engagement is required to have better communications between the force and the communities they serve.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Fowler: Opioid addiction claimed over 50,000 lives throughout our country in the past year. That is just roughly 8,000 fewer deaths in the Vietnam war. This is something that has become an epidemic. There are many ways to address the problem of opioid addiction. The first is to treat this as a public health crises and not a criminal matter. Drug courts have been incredibly successful in foregoing charges while requiring treatment. Ultimately, treatment is the key to getting individuals off of these drugs. There are medical and mental health professionals who are more versed than I to make the recommendations on proper treatment. We also need to look at the pharmaceutical industry and ask why opioids are being so frequently used. Most are prescribed after a surgery or a vehicular accident. Once addicted people purchase these drugs on the street. The addiction becomes very expensive and then turn to heroine which is about the same drug but 1⁄4 the price. The rest is history. Breaking the cycle is difficult. We must be cautious about prescriptions. I would advocate for tracking prescriptions for individuals and doctors. We must also review the drug rep process that essentially “bribes” our doctors to write extra prescriptions when they are not needed. The process is not easy to break. It requires someone with a view of the entire system and to create checks and balances at each stop to eliminate the effects of drug addiction. We are dedicated to policy to do just that.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Fowler: Income inequality is becoming a growing problem in our state and in our nation. Since the great recession the gap between rich and power has grown exponentially. Wages between these groups is stark. There are many in the nations elite including Peter Georgescu, immigrant self-made millionaire, who is concerned about what an economy looks like without 80% being able to afford their basic resources without going into debt. There needs to be a shared value of labor and the public companies. All to often large businesses are indebted to their board of directors and shareholders and not creating standards for the very labor force producing the revenue. One of the main ways that we can address this is increasing options for labor unions in the state. Labor unions have provided their workforce a fair portion of the productivity of their labor. It is time most Maryland workers have that option as well. Others methods could be to increase the minimum wage to a livable wage. In most literature that number seems to be about $15/hour. Raising the minimum wage is only part of the equation. We could also set requirements that companies share annual year growth, stock, with their employees. The 20th Century was about growth of Democracy and Capitalism. The 21st Century will be about either improving the capitalistic system or watching its demise. I hope that we in Maryland will create an environment that allows capitalism to perform and citizens to reap the rewards.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Fowler: Currently, there is no central agency for making public information act requests. It requires people to reach out to the proper governmental body to determine where their request occurs. Most people, myself included at times, struggle to find the proper agency or office to address. Most people ultimately weigh the time and just forget their complaints or it takes a long time. In my view, government accountability and transparency should be made easy and accessible. We believe that a central agency for handling requests and providing information to the public should be created. There is no such agency for Public information Act requests. If you have any requests, they will point you in the proper direction. We could allocate current staff from other agencies to the position and would not affect the budget. However, it would create an easier troubleshooting process for citizen requests. We would also advocate that they have a web presence to take requests via the website, email, and by phone. Maryland citizens should not have to have a second job, have a law degree, and spend an extraordinary amount of time to keep government accountable and transparent.