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?
McIntosh: As a member of the Kirwan Commission, I very strongly support the findings in the preliminary report and look forward to continuing to meet and make recommendations before our final report is completed. I am committed to funding the reforms necessary to make Maryland’s schools among the world’s best and have already taken action to help pay for them. This year’s budget created a Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education Fund and appropriated $200 million into it as a down payment on Kirwan-recommended reforms. I was also the lead sponsor, along with Senator Joan Carter Conway, on the “casino lockbox” constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters in November, will ensure that gaming revenue enhances, rather than supplants, general fund commitments to public education. The amendment directs money in the lockbox be used on areas of need already identified by the Kirwan Commission.
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?
McIntosh: Maryland’s transportation spending has traditionally favored road projects and as a result, we do not appropriately balance our resource allocation between roads and transit. The recent emergency closure of the Baltimore subway is a testament to that. Transportation is one of the largest areas state investment, and I do believe we have enough resources to meet our transportation needs. The question is how do we prioritize our resources in a forward-thinking way. The cancellation of the Red Line was a particularly bitter blow for our city, both for it’s transportation impact (the City does not have adequate public transit options to travel east-west) and for the foregone community investment that was set to happen along the route. BaltimoreLink has rolled out with mixed results, though an overhaul of our bus network was long overdue. Yet just investing in the bus network is not enough. One of the unheralded accomplishments of this session for the Baltimore region was including provisions in the Metro Funding Act to increase operating and capital investment in MTA service throughout the Baltimore region coupled with a comprehensive transit needs assessment for the region, similar to what the Washington, DC region did a decade ago. The needs assessment will be invaluable to determining where and to what level additional state investment is needed to improve public transit in the Baltimore region.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
McIntosh: I believe that the tide of public opinion is turning on marijuana legalization and I would vote for legislation to permit the recreational use of marijuana should it come to the House floor. There are enough states who have already experimented with recreational marijuana legalization that Maryland would have a clear idea of the potential impact on public health and public safety. One note I would add, I believe that should Maryland move to permit recreational marijuana the attendant laws and regulations must be developed with an eye towards equity and include provisions to ensure that racial and ethnic minorities that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs are not shut out of any new industry.
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?
McIntosh: Maryland’s delegation to the Chesapeake Bay Commission, I am greatly disturbed by the apparent unwillingness of the Trump Administration EPA to commit to successful Bay restoration efforts. In the absence of federal action, the state of Maryland has an obligation to protect our most valuable natural resource. This session saw the General Assembly take a number of actions to protect the Bay. First, we affirmed that Maryland will remain in the US Climate Alliance, a group of states that have committed to greenhouse gas reduction goals. We also passed legislation to prohibit the Governor from withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative without legislative consent. Absent leadership at the federal level or in Government House, the legislature can and must continue taking steps to ensure we do not backslide on the gains we’ve made to clean up the bay and to continue investing at the State level in projects like stormwater remediation improvements.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
McIntosh: I believe, first and foremost, that access to health care is a basic right. I am not so rigid in my understanding of health care policy to say that this goal must be achieved by enacting a single-payer plan or via some other means, but the guiding principle should be ensuring every single Marylander has access to affordable care. Maryland has some successes to tout: our uninsured rate has dropped to 6% this year, after being as high as 14% prior to 2010. Maryland also ranks among the top of all states in new-enrollees, young people signing up for coverage, and lowest number of uninsured. In 2017, the General Assembly created a commission to review Federal health care changes and make recommendations to the legislature. This year, we created a similar commission to study long-term fixes to stabilize the individual insurance market to keep premiums affordable. If re-elected I will work to make sure Maryland devotes sufficient financial resources to our healthcare system and that we exercise the necessary political will to enact whatever changes these commissions recommend.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
McIntosh: The State definitely has a role to play in helping the City address violent crime. In the short term, the state can devote resources to assist BPD, as happened recently with the effort to apprehend offenders with outstanding warrants. The State can also exercise greater oversight of BPD to ensure that available resources are being put to appropriate use and to restore community trust in our police department. This session, we took legislative action to do both of those things. In the long term, the State can help Baltimore address violent crime before it starts. As one of my colleagues said this session, the best anti-crime bill is an education bill. Investments in early childhood education will help more students get a leg-up. We also took action to make critical investments in evidence-based violence reduction programs like Safe Streets and LEAD. These programs will, hopefully, result in fewer Baltimoreans being involved in violence in the first place.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
McIntosh: I believe Maryland is a great place to do business, despite partisan rhetoric to the contrary. What is attractive about our state is our well-educated workforce, our schools, and our infrastructure. If we want to support more family-sustaining jobs, the way to do it is to continue to invest in those areas so that Maryland remains an attractive place to live and work. One of the major reasons Baltimore failed to make the cut for Amazon’s HQ2 wasn’t our inability to offer tax incentives, but our lack of sufficient investment in public transportation infrastructure. Maryland cannot – nor should it attempt to – undercut other states in terms of the financial incentives it can offer. What sets us apart is our commitment to investments that improve residents’ quality of life.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
McIntosh: I do support some sort of reform in the way Maryland draws congressional and legislative districts, but the devil is always in the details. The proposals put forward in recent years by Governor Hogan have generally served to transfer authority over the redistricting process from a process shared by the Governor and General Assembly to one driven by the Governor. I think that it is important that we reform the redistricting process as a measure to restore citizens’ trust in their government, but the way we do so must be transparent, open, and even-handed.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
McIntosh: I believe that LEOBR tilts too far in the direction of protecting police, often at the expense of the public. One way I believe it can be changed immediately for the better is to require citizens to sit on police review boards. This change would help to restore citizens’ confidence that allegations of police misconduct are being handled fairly and transparently. This session, one of the last pieces of legislation passed gives the State greater oversight to address repeat issues found in BPD’s biennial audits and forms a commission to investigate the Gun Trace Task Force to make recommendations to ensure that level of corruption is never allowed to take root in our police department again. I think it is imperative that when recommendations come before the legislature as a result of this bill, that we act on them quickly, even to the extent some of those recommendations include LEOBR reform.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
McIntosh: We in Baltimore City know better than most the devastating effects of widespread opoioid addiction on communities. One of the challenges in addressing the crisis at the state level is that treatment services are not equally available across jurisdictions. This session, the legislature passed a bill to create grant funding for local governments to better provide services such as mobile crisis teams, 24⁄7 walk-in services, crisis residential beds, and other crisis response programs. We also passed legislation to require pharmaceutical companies to report to the Attorney General when they fill suspicious orders and to require doctors to discuss the risks with patients if they choose to prescribe opiates. As with violent crime, the long-term answers are education and economic opportunity, but in the short and medium-term, we can and must continue to invest in resources to expand treatment options and ensure anyone who needs help has access to it.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
McIntosh: Income inequality is one of the defining issues of our time, especially in Maryland, the richest state in the country. The government has a role to play in ensuring our prosperity is shared across the state. The state should focus first and foremost on the factors that prevent equality of opportunity. We need to invest in schools at a level where every child, no matter their zip code, receives a world-class education. We need to pass policies that support working people, like earned paid sick and family leave and an increase in the minimum wage. We also need to deal seriously with the legacy of the War on Drugs, which has disproportionately impacted minority communities. In 2017 I sponsored, and in 2018 the legislature overrode the governor’s veto of, legislation to expand higher-education opportunities to returning citizens who want to pursue a better life for themselves. This is just one small way we can expand opportunities for Marylanders who’ve historically been left out.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
McIntosh: I believe that, generally speaking, Maryland’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws allow our citizens to exercise appropriate oversight of the government, but that it is also imperative to continually revisit and update those laws to ensure they keep pace with new technology as well as the evolving needs of our citizens. Our guiding principle should be ensuring that state and local government is open, transparent, and accountable.