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?
Busch: Yes and yes. This past session, we passed legislation (HB1415) to begin implementation of the interim Kirwan recommendations. This bill included funding for early childhood programs, expansion of CTE programs, and the creation of a new teacher recruitment program to get the best and brightest Maryland high school students into a teaching career. One of the most startling findings of the Kirwan Commission in my mind was that State and local education funding is not making its way to the poorest schools in the State. This is a problem that we have to fix. Next term, we need to implement a holistic and forward-looking approach to the State’s education system so that our students are prepared for the 21st century workforce.
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?
Busch: One of the worst mistakes that Governor Hogan has made was the cancellation of the Red Line and disinvestment in mass transit. While roads are important, we need to be able to move people to job centers in a timely fashion, particularly in Central Maryland. With the Baltimore and DC region ranking among the worst for congestion in the United States, mass transit is the best solution to get people moving. This past session, we passed legislation to increase operating funding to MTA that includes a requirement for a comprehensive long-term transit plan for the MTA service area. This is a small step forward that can guide our decision-making and I’m hopeful that we can have a more comprehensive investment strategy in mass transit next term.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Busch: We are just starting to get a robust medical marijuana program up and running in the State. I want to see how well we do with implementation of that as well as determine lessons learned from other states that have legalized marijuana before making a final decision.
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?
Busch: Over the past 15 years, we have passed some of the strongest environmental laws in decades: expanding aquaculture programs, requiring clean cars, expanding renewable energy options, and banning outdated septic technology along the coast. Moving forward, we need to continue aggressive investment in oyster sanctuaries and aquaculture, limit overdevelopment to reduce stormwater runoff, and have strong but difficult conversations with our upstream neighbors about pollution coming from the Susquehanna River.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Busch: This year, we passed two bills to try to stabilize the individual health insurance market after the federal government’s attempt to dismantle Obamacare. After 50%+ increases last year, families could not sustain another catastrophic increase to that level. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, Maryland’s uninsured population dropped to just 6% overall. If we don’t get a waiver from the federal government for a reinsurance pool to cover the sickest Marylanders, we will again need to determine how to maintain access to health insurance. We need to focus on improving the patient mix and bending the cost curve of health care.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Busch: All three branches of government at the State level have a responsibility to ensure that there are consequences for repeat violent offenders and responsible alternatives to keep people from recidivating. The General Assembly alone, however, cannot legislate our way out of the crime problems facing Baltimore. We have done things like decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and eliminated a number of mandatory minimums for drug crimes. We need to be strategic and supportive of local efforts to invest in violence prevention programs like Safe Streets, provide for better policing technology like body cameras and technical resources like robust community policing programs. The State also needs to continue to invest in affordable housing and create job opportunities so people have alternatives to support their families.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Busch: During the work of the Augustine Commission, we learned that when businesses are deciding whether to locate or expand in Maryland, two of the biggest drivers for that decision is quality of life and a strong education system. Based on my answer above, investment in the Kirwan recommendations will keep us on par with other states for K-12 education but we must eliminate disparities between schools and between counties. This will also lead to a 21st century workforce that can compete for jobs in the modern economy in the future. Family leave and minimum wage are also laws that we will consider in the next term to be sure that Maryland is balancing the need for good paying jobs with business regulation that makes sense.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Busch: I support a federal solution on redistricting. Last year, we passed legislation to establish a compact with five other East Coast states to reform redistricting together. I thought this was a fair step forward, however, Governor Hogan vetoed this legislation.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Busch: In 2016, we passed the first police reform legislation in three decades, as the result of a year-long workgroup process. This new law included allowing citizens to participate in the trial boards, expanding training for police officers in Maryland, and improving transparency on the investigative and complaint process in police departments. In addition, we passed significant criminal justice reform legislation, the Justice Reinvestment Act, to provide other options than jail for low-level offenders. I look forward to both criminal justice reform and LEOBR to continue to be a subject of debate next term.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Busch: In 2017, the legislature passed two comprehensive bills to expand treatment and education options to combat the opioid crisis in Maryland. Locally, County Executive Schuh and I hosted a summit of local officials, treatment providers, physicians and advocates from across Maryland to share best practices. This year, we built on those new laws by creating a local crisis response team grant program and restored funding for behavioral health providers in the State budget.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Busch: Education is the great equalizer. Expanding training and apprenticeship opportunities, investing in career technology education options, reducing the cost of community college, and increasing the State minimum wage are all tools to reduce income inequality that we have started but need to continue to next term.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Busch: I am not an expert on public information laws. Each year, we have new proposals to expand public access to government – an important, fundamental principle to a democratic government. The House of Delegates took the first step of live-streaming all committee hearings, making all voting records available online, and, I fully anticipate that we will transition to video for House floor debates during the next term.