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?
Trout: It is difficult to fully support the finding of the commission with the release of the full report. Based on their preliminary recommendations, I can say that I support the scope and overall message of the commission. To be successful, Maryland must expand universal pre-K, prepare students for college, career, and the new economy, and invest in a diverse, knowledgeable, and well-trained staff. However supporting families requires more than universal pre-K, I also support the commission’s recommendations that the State “(1) significantly expand its network of Judy Centers and Family Support Centers to reach all low-income families with children who need them; (2) increase child care subsidies so that working families have access to affordable, high-quality child care; and (3) expand the current infant and toddlers program that provides support to families with special needs children. Maryland’s education system is a very good system and is competitive nationally, but our economy is no longer regional or national, our workforce and products compete across the world and our students must be prepared for this reality. All of our students should be learning in buildings with technology supplies geared toward the 21st century. This includes supporting local trade programs and ensuring that student-tradesmen earn industry-recognized certifications by graduation to be competitive in the workforce. The commission also noted that “An abundance of highly qualified teachers working as high-status professionals is perhaps the single biggest factor in the success of these top-performing systems.” Maryland must increase its investment in teachers and staff.
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?
Trout: Maryland is a diverse state, some places in Maryland need more spending on mass transit while others need a stronger focus on roads. Our policy should reflect this need and attempt to balance our current infrastructure needs with our future transportation aspirations. Areas like Frederick are currently lack regular, dependable accessibility to Baltimore or DC by anything other than cars. An increasing focus on transit, both rail and bus, to better connect the Frederick, Baltimore, DC triangle is vital to the growth, economic viability, and accessibility of the region. Simply, the Baltimore region is not adequately served by transit. BaltimoreLink has not been the solution to a City’s transit woes in the aftermath of the cancelation of a mass transit project.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Trout: Yes. I believe that the legalization of marijuana may help reduce the need for opioid prescriptions and can help reduce the opioid epidemic. I also believe that it is a crucial element in the recent movement towards a more just criminal justice system with the justice reinvestment act, if enacted properly. Additionally, legalization can be an important source of revenue for state and local government. I would support quick action to maintain a first mover advantage, regionally speaking. This would allow the state to assess a tax similar to cigarettes bringing in substantial revenue. The state should earmark at least 20% of these funds for communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs and drug-related mass incarcerations. Like other communities and states across the country, Maryland must allow for the expungement of criminal records and release of incarcerated individuals whose crimes would not be considered crimes under marijuana legalization.
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?
Trout: Maryland should continue to invest in technologies and local projects that aim to reduce runoff into the Bay. DC recently completed a project that has been extremely successful in reducing sewer overflow and are anticipating that the Anacostia River will be swimmable by 2025. Maryland must ensure that counties that have large overflows are able to invest in similar types of technology. The state must also work with farmers to guarantee that they have access to technologies that prevent their farms from being large sources of pollution.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Trout: Stabilizing the insurance markets was a crucial step this past legislative session. I will work with my colleagues and advocates to continue to do so. Maryland should study joining a multistate healthcare compact (NY, California, Washington/New England) to build a Medicare-for-all type system until the federal government is ready to be a viable partner again. In the meantime, Maryland can expand funding for community health models and also expand transportation access that way families and neighbors can count on regular, dependable transportation to and from doctor’s appointments.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Trout: In the short-term, the state can fund safestreets and invest in violence reduction programs. When seeking long-term strategies to violent crime, the state must partner with the local government and school system to adequately invest in education (see question 7), transportation (see question 8), seek restorative justice, and promote economic development which pays a fair wage for an honest days’ work and provides protections to workers and families.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Trout: The state can partner with local governments to invest in the small businesses that are already here before offering billions to a multinational firm. by supporting the growth and viability of established, local businesses we allow them to thrive and their staffs to put down roots in Maryland to raise their families. Maryland can increase its support of entrepreneurs by expanding access to incubator assistance and leveraging our state’s top-notch community colleges with upstate talent. The state can also make it easier to form public benefit corporations and cooperatives, as well as make it easier for them to be competitive and earn government contracts. Another way to create more family-supporting jobs is to invest in transit, job training programs for 21st-century skills as well as the building trades, and increasing the minimum wage.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Trout: Yes, I support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census. It is imperative to our democracy that we ensure that all Marylanders are being properly represented in Washington and Annapolis. We should also lead by example and show states like Pennsylvania and Virginia how to go from a partisan model to a non-partisan one.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Trout: In the wake of the DOJ’s report on the BPD, GTTF case LEOBOR deserves serious consideration for reform. An important step is Senator Fergusons & Delegate McCray’s legislation to create a Commission to Restore Trust in Policing to review the operation of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force and make recommendations on the reorganization of the Police Department and certain other matters as necessary. Using the recommendations, I would make it easier to get rid of an officer that commits unwarranted acts of violence towards civilians. We must hold the police to the highest standard possible and we cannot allow for another City or County’s police force to allow a unit to rob, injure, frame, and cheat the public out of their tax dollars.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Trout: Overdose deaths are preventable. The state can support a collective impact, public health model based on North Carolina’s Project Lazarus. This model has three core components and seven “spokes”. The core components are public awareness, providing knowledge of the problem of overdose from prescription opioid analgesics, coalition action to coordinate all sectors of the community response, and data and evaluation which grounds a community’s unique approach in their locally identified needs and improve interventions. The seven spokes include community education to improve the public’s capacity to recognize and avoid the dangers of misuse/abuse of prescription opioids, provider education to support screening and appropriate treatment for mental illness, addiction, and pain, and hospital ED policies that encourage safe prescribing of controlled substances and provide meaningful referrals for chronic pain and addiction. Additionally, the model encourages diversion control to reduce the presence of unused medicines in society, pain patient support to help patients and caregivers manage chronic pain, harm reduction to help prevent opioid overdose deaths with the antidote naloxone, and addiction treatment to help find an effective treatment for those ready to enter recovery. Maryland could follow Pennsylvania’s HB122 to establish a Project Lazarus Commission which could review and make recommendations related to a best practice model for a comprehensive, community-based effort to consolidate overdose prevention efforts for counties.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Trout: First, the state must invest in education, transportation, technology, broad economic development, and health. These investments will pay dividends far into the future. In addition, the state should lower the inheritance tax on non-farm estates from $4 million to $2 million; it is preposterous that people can transfer such vast sums of wealth across generations. The state should ban employers from asking what an employees salary was at a previous employer. Employers base a new employees wage on their previous wage. And we know that women and people of color earn less compared to white men. This would allow women and people of color a chance to earn what they deserve. Also, the state can begin by adequately funding and staffing DLLR. Having a strong watchdog agency would ensure that when people are found guilty of wage violations they would be penalized.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Trout: I believe that the legislative and executive branches respond in a rapid and efficient manner to MPIA requests. I will work with members of government, the media, and activists to devise a way to make government more responsive.