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?
Robinson: The preliminary report has 59 separate recommendations in an 80 page report. In general, I support a comprehensive effort to evaluate and strengthen the public education system in Maryland. A crucial issue for parents and students is transparency and accountability in how money and resources are spent. We allocate tremendous resources to education, and need to do a better job with what we have before we add huge new resources. Education is among the most crucial responsibilities of the state government, as massive state funding of both K-12 and higher education indicate. In the projected budget for 2019 education spending is slated at $14.7 billion dollars, 33% of the $44.4 total budget, slightly edging out health, at $14.5 billion, as the largest issue in the budget. We need to figure out how to spend that 33% more wisely, better supporting both teachers and students.
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?
Robinson: Revenue derived from gas taxes should primarily be used for road and bridge infrastructure, the dominant form of transportation in the state, upon which every Marylander depends. Where workable, we also need to support mass transit, while understanding that it works best only when transporting between areas of high density housing/ residences and areas of high density employment or services. The Red Line was not a good use of resources, but when we can identify projects that will make effective use of resources, we should support them.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Robinson: I believe recreational marijuana will eventually become legal in Maryland, and that we must prepare to minimize any destructive impact on the general public. Multiple states have legalized recreational marijuana, and we must look at their experiences to determine the best way forward. We must find effective ways to evaluate driving under the influence. Perhaps most crucially, we need to target tax revenue generated from sales, for treatment of all addictive behaviors; gambling, drugs, etc.
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?
Robinson: The Chesapeake Bay is in the process of healing from many decades of over use and abuse. We have made a good start, and need to continue protecting the Bay, and to encourage federal assistance. An enormous challenge to the Bay is the state of sediment behind the Conowingo Dam. Governor Hogan has begun the process of determining how to protect theBay and removing sediment. We need to continue that effort.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Robinson: The just passed bipartisan bill assessing health insurers addresses the steep rises in premium costs for Marylanders. Instead of a narrow group of insured paying the whole tab for the high cost of covering those with pre-existing conditions, the cost is spread much more widely. We have decided as a state that we will provide health insurance for all regardless of their state of health, and those costs need to be spread widely, not narrowly on residents in the individual marketplace as is currently the case. In addition, we can initiate a consortium of nearby states to make a common application for health insurance carriers to underwrite coverage. A single common application would make it easier and more affordable for insurers to offer coverage in Maryland. The resultant increase in choice and competition would be an advantage for consumers. We also need to allow consumers wider latitude in choosing the scope and type of their coverage. Additionally, we need to employ tools to ensure patients have “skin in the game”, that they are incentivized to use healthcare wisely and frugally,lowering the cost of healthcare in general.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Robinson: Governor Hogan has done an excellent job of offering support to the city, while encouraging Mayor Pugh and her administration to continue to aggressively search for answers. The just completed legislative session has mandated longer sentences for repeat violent offenders. Crimes involving guns need to be prosecuted as gun crimes, not pled down to lesser charges. We also need to support alternatives to incarceration, with early intervention to break the progression from petty crime to more serious and violent crime. Education and job opportunities are important in curtailing the temptation of crime.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Robinson: Maryland had been historically unfriendly to business for decades prior to the Hogan Administration. We were ranked 49th among states, with significantly higher business tax rates that nearby competitor states, with oppressive business regulations, and a crazy quilt of forms and permits. This is improving, but we need to continue our progress. The keys to improving the creation of family supporting jobs is to to provide a well educated, well prepared work force. This requires we do a better job of educating our students, both to move forward in higher education, as well as to pursue careers in professions that require training or apprenticeships rather than college. We also need to lower the tax rates in Maryland to compete with less highly taxed surrounding states.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Robinson: Absolutely. Maryland wants and needs an independent, non-partisan commission on redistricting. New districts should draw heavily on continuity of communities, geographic continuity, and with a strong emphasis on minimizing changes from census to census. Voters should be able to identify their district from election to election, rather than knowing their district was chosen to give an advantage to a political party or politician.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Robinson: The law enforcement community across the nation, and especially in Baltimore, has been under attack the last several years. There is a perception in the media, and in some communities, that police officers are guilty until proven innocent. We need to support the police, as the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights does well. At the same time we must continue to weed out bad actors in the departments. Law enforcement is an incredibly difficult job, requiring great patience, tolerance of danger, and split second decision making. We have seen the results of the constant second guessing of the police in the stratospheric level of homicides and violent crime in Baltimore. There is clearly a problem in Baltimore City recruiting new police officers, with a large percentage of applicants not passing the background check and the entrance exams. We need better outreach to city students to encourage better, more qualified applicants. The body camera program is an effective part of the solution. Both officers and citizens have a tendency to act more civilly when they know they are being recorded.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Robinson: The current crisis is due to a number of factors, and took many years to develop. There are no quick fixes, Among the solutions are: Education of on the real dangers of narcotics, and in particular of super potent versions like fentanyl and carfentanyl mixed in with heroin. This needs to be done at schools, doctors offices, pharmacies and the media. Continued encouragement of physicians to use lower doses with smaller prescriptions as appropriate when using narcotics in treatment of acute pain from injury or surgery. The use of narcotics for treatment of both acute and chronic pain needs to be carefully assessed by both the treating physicians and by patients, with an eye toward treatment with non-narcotic alternatives when feasible. Naloxone , or Narcan, needs to be widely available for treatment of overdose. Treatment options for addiction need to be available. If recreational marijuana is legalized, tax revenue must be sequestered for addiction treatment. Continued oversight of prescriptions to monitor over prescribing, while understanding the suffering patients in pain endure. Strong legal action against dealers in street narcotics. Continued teach for non-narcotic pain treatments.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Robinson: The most important thing the state can do to address income inequality is to pursue equality of opportunity. In order for Marylanders to have equal opportunity, we need to ensure a better business climate, favorable to the growth of good, well paying jobs. We need to ensure regulations protect the community rather than handicapping business growth. Equally, we must have quality education for all Marylanders. This allows opportunity, and attracts business growth. Education may be of all different types and qualifications- but quality education means opportunity.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Robinson: The state’s Public Information Act and the Open Meetings Act represent an attempt by the legislature to balance the need and desire of the public to obtain information from the state and local governments, with rights of privacy and need to conduct some deliberations in private. The acts cannot and do not always ensure the ability of Marylanders to adequately oversee all government actions. There are times when access or information should legally be provided, but is denied. There are penalties prescribed in the laws, but they are minor and rarely if ever used. The lawcannot account for all actions taken by government representatives, and are clearly a compromise. Both acts support the withholding of information or access to meetings at times, for specific reasons with which a petitioner may not agree. A potential partial relief would be to allow elected officials access to closed meeting and information, though this does not address the issue of timeliness of notice for meetings.