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?
Clippinger: I support the findings of the Kirwan Commission, and implementing those recommendations will be the one of the most important issues the next General Assembly addresses. To paraphrase the preliminary report of the Commission, all Marylanders benefit if we have an education system that prepares all students for rewarding careers, because as education levels rise, the quality of life in Maryland will too. The recommendations in Kirwan are particularly important to our schools in Baltimore. The Commission rightly identifies concentrations of poverty as an immediate concern as we look at the next funding formula for our schools. Baltimore’s concentration of poverty - with 34% of students under 18 living in poverty - requires that schools be equitably funded to address the additional challenges faced by those students . We owe it to all of Maryland’s children to provide them the best education we can, and funding that education will require tough choices. I supported creating a “lock-box” for casino revenue that will, if approved by the voters, require those casino revenues to supplement, and not replace, existing funding. The General Assembly also put $200 million in next year’s budget as a down payment towards Kirwan. However, we will need additional funding to carry out the recommendations of the Commission. I support a review of our existing tax structure, particularly the sales tax structure, to create a stable stream of funding for this important work.
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?
Clippinger: Maryland’s transportation spending is not balanced between roads and transit, and the Baltimore region is clearly not adequately served by transit. The shut-down of the Baltimore Metro “system” this winter is symbolic of the piece-meal maintenance and non-existent development of a substantial, effective and efficient transportation system in this area that leaves thousands unable to reach available jobs. The good news is that we have enough funds to make substantive improvements to mass transit across the State. The passage of the gas tax in 2013 will enable us to create that substantive vision. What is required is the will from the Governor’s office to bring that about. I was proud to support the legislation in this year’s session that not only made a long-term commitment to the Washington Metro, but also mandated increases to the MTA’s operating budget by $178 million. The legislation required the creation of a long-range development plan, and a comprehensive maintenance and capital improvement plan. This is one small step forward - but the ball is now in the Governor’s court to move these important plans forward.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Clippinger: I support giving the voters the ability to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use by a referendum within the next legislative term.
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?
Clippinger: The federal government’s ambivalence (at best) regarding the restoration of the Chesapeake is deeply troubling and disappointing. There are signs the health of the bay is improving, in no small part because of the success lowering the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen entering the Bay due to existing environmental regulation. When added to the Trump Administration’s retreat from protection of our air, water and land across the country, it is clear Maryland must continue to enforce our own existing laws to protect our greatest natural resource. We need a comprehensive policy to limit deforestation and plant more trees to stop harmful runoff from entering our waterways. We should also continue to encourage the sustainable farming of oysters to help naturally clean the Chesapeake.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Clippinger: Maryland has been a leader in providing affordable, accessible, and quality health care for some time. The Affordable Care Act helped to increase the number of insured Marylanders - and our uninsured rate has dropped to 6% in 2018, one of the lowest rates in the nation. All this has been done despite the best efforts of the Trump Administration and Republican Congress to undermine and sabotage the Affordable Care Act. The Trump Administration and the Republicans have presided over a 50% increase in individual premiums - an increase caused by their efforts to destabilize the health insurance marketplace and their elimination of the individual mandate. During the last session of the General Assembly, I was proud to support legislation that will lower premiums for individuals in the health care market by creating a state-run reinsurance program. Reinsurance allows insurance companies to subsidize health care costs for high-risk individuals, thus lowering the costs to the rest of the insurance market. Unfortunately, this fix is temporary. The State must carefully monitor the structures we have built as part of the Affordable Care Act to provide accessible, affordable, and quality health care. We must also protect Maryland’s Medicaid waiver to continue to ensure hospitals focus on the patient centered model, and not on a fee-for-service model.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
: The State has an important role to play in confronting and lowering the frequency of violent crime in Baltimore. State troopers are helping to serve warrants, freeing City Police officers to patrol. They are also helping to provide protection to probation agents for violent offenders. The State should do more, however, in a number of different areas. My colleagues and I in the 46th District, including Senator Ferguson and Delegates Lierman and Lewis, published a set of proposals this summer to reduce violence and create safe communities. (see: http://www.billforbaltimore.com/baltimore_prospers
). Further, the Governor should have a single point of contact in the administration responsible for coordinating State resources that are available to target violent crime in Baltimore. There are further opportunities for the State to bring together law enforcement from both the City and surrounding jurisdictions to target violent criminals and people who possess illegal guns. The State must also be part of the solution to restore trust in the Baltimore Police Department. I strongly supported and look forward to the independent commission’s investigation of the corruption in the Gun Trace Task Force. Legislatively, I supported the Justice Reinvestment Act that has started to invest in treatment and prevention for non-violent offenders while lowering maximum sentences. I also co-sponsored additional State funding for violence intervention programs such as Safe Streets, a program that has made significant progress in some of our most violent neighborhoods. I have also supported tougher penalties for repeat violent offenders and people carrying illegal guns.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Clippinger: The State can foster more family-supporting jobs by supporting the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. All Marylanders benefit if we have an education system that prepares all students for rewarding careers. However, improving our education system is not the only way that we can improve our business climate. We should also invest more in adult education and programs to encourage apprenticeships. I was a lead sponsor of the Employment Advancement Right Now, or EARN, program. EARN makes connections between existing training programs and skill-sets needed by different sectors of Maryland’s economy to produce long-term solutions to skills gap in our workforce. We should expand this innovative program and get employees the skills they need to get better paying jobs. I also sponsored the legislation that creates Adult High Schools. Adult High Schools give the 700,000 Marylanders over 18 without a diploma another route to earn a high school diploma using curricula reviewed by the Maryland Department of Education and DLLR. Adult High Schools and existing GED programs deserve more financial support as well. We must do more to fill openings of skilled workers right as those new workers graduate high school. This year, I sponsored legislation that allows school systems to offer high school credit for students who participate in apprenticeship programs. These apprenticeships, at programs registered with DLLR, would have the potential to enable Maryland students to choose from either a college education after graduation, or a job for which they’ve already received specific training.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Clippinger: The lack of trust between law enforcement and the people of our city is a large part of the reason Baltimore faces challenges with violent crime. The convictions of members of the Gun Trace Task Force underlines the need to take a hard look at the structures that allowed the corruption to occur unchecked and unreported. That’s why I supported the Commission to Restore Trust in Policing in the most recent session of the General Assembly. I believe there should be changes to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. We should include at least one trained civilian in the trial board process and we should examine how the LEOBR contributes to difficulties in disciplining sworn officers.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Clippinger: In my full-time job as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Anne Arundel County, I handle cases related to domestic violence, illegal gun possession, and felony property crimes. Most of the felony property crimes I have prosecuted are connected to the defendant’s addiction to a controlled dangerous substance - almost always opiates. On a few occasions over my ten years as a prosecutor, defendants have not made it to trial because they have overdosed and died. Opioid addiction and overdoses can not be solely addressed in the courtroom. It requires a comprehensive approach connecting people to treatment, and the opportunities to change the persons, places and things connected to their addiction. I supported the HOPE Act in 2017 which used evidence-based treatment and coordination among different agencies. I’ve witnessed the growth in available Drug Court openings just this year that were created by that important legislation. Increased funding for community-based health providers will also help to provide needed treatment close to home - particularly important in a group of people who struggle with poor transportation options. One example of a smaller, but significant, change in policy related to overdoses that I supported was in this year’s Crime Bill. A provision in that legislation adjusted the definition of drug paraphernalia to allow for the possession of “tester strips,” so users can test drugs for potential contamination with fentanyl.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Clippinger: Our state and nation are facing growing challenges related to income inequality and Maryland took steps to address this issue in the most recent legislative session. We increased access to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 18-24 year old Marylanders who don’t have children. Expanding the EITC makes a real difference to working Marylanders, and helps create a pathway to further wealth. We also took a step forward by passing the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. I was proud to be the House sponsor for the Earned Sick Leave bill for the last four years. Policies like Earned Sick Leave help employees keep their jobs - and keep the stability that improves the quality of life for themselves and their families. In most cases, the longer that people stay in a job, the more likely it is for them to gain the skills to move to better paying jobs. There are a number of possibilities to further counteract income inequality in the next term of the General Assembly. We should raise the minimum wage and index it to the cost-of-living. We should strengthen ties to apprenticeship programs, building upon the legislation I authored this year that enables school systems to grant high school credit to students in an apprenticeship. We must also better connect registered apprenticeship programs to sectors of our economy where there are job openings. Most importantly, we must fund the recommendations in the Kirwan Commission’s report.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Clippinger: State Government must operate in a transparent way. Over the last several years, we have made strides in making government more open. The new office of the Ombudsman within the office of the Attorney General has provided opportunities for Marylanders to have disputes related to public information requests heard, and has helped encourage government agencies to respond efficiently to requests for public information. As the co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Legislative Information Technology and Open Government, I have had the opportunity to hear from the Ombudsman at our December meeting. The Ombudsman proposed potential opportunities going forward, including a program that would audit responses to requests for public information by government agencies. These audits would give agencies the opportunity to make improvements to their Public Information Act (PIA) response processes, and would allow legislators the opportunity to identify problems in compliance with the PIA in need of further legislation.