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?
Bhandari: Yes, I support the findings and recommendation on investment on early childhood education, ample supply of highly qualified and diverse teacher, college, and career readiness pathways, more resources for at -risk students, Governance and accountability– as it convincingly explain the argument of achievement gaps in education have been a complex, multi-dimensional, and ongoing phenomenon of American society that operate under the veil of an egalitarian ideal of the nation. Unfortunately, the scalpels of racial and religious rhetoric few politicians have been wielding in the national political stage deeply cut peoples’ faith, sex, and identity and spew more hatred among each other. Without instilling a sense of character and equality on a national and state level stage, the attempt to change classroom culture would remain elusive.
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?
Bhandari: I don’t think there exists a proper balance between funding of roads and transit. In this light, it is imperative to have a fine balance between the two, and areas with a more dense population deserves better access to mass transit, as it will reduce traffic congestion of major intersections, and can help people get to work promptly (Increasing workplace productivity and saving lost time and gas money). I think we have the resources and finances to meet the transportation needs, but we lack efficiency in allocating the funds. By finding better companies to do more time-efficient work at the best quality we can make roadways like the 695 corridor and highways between Baltimore and Washington run more smoothly and safely. The creation of the BaltimoreLink is a first step towards a larger goal. We need to expand on the “Link” system, and make all areas of Baltimore accessible to every citizen that can be translated into reality by efficiently funding transportation rather than wasting taxpayer dollars.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Bhandari: Colorado and other western states have made strides to recreationalize marijuana, and it has affected the states in many positive ways. Firstly, recreational marijuana has reduced the number of opioid related deaths and prescriptions being made for these drugs. This can help combat the opioid epidemic that our state faces, as it could very much have the same effect reducing the number of addictive opioids going to patients and the streets. Secondly, there has been an economic boom in the states with recreational marijuana, and Maryland could benefit from this. By using the recreational marijuana taxes we could help better fund transportation when it comes to roads and buses, as well as, allocate more funds to our education system. For example, we can use this fund to build new schools, give raises to teachers, and provide all students access to the resources they need to learn. In a nutshell, we should explore the recreational industry in Maryland, and I will support legislation to do so. However, we must perfect the medical marijuana industry in the state before we make laws for recreational one. Perfecting the medical system will make a transition to recreational marijuana that much easier.
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?
Bhandari: The EPA is no longer doing it’s duty protecting the Chesapeake Bay in this current administration, and that not only frustrates me, but many citizens across the state. The bay is one of our biggest sources of income, as it not only is used in the fishing industry but transportation as well. We need to allocate funds to help us better protect Maryland’s most vital waterway, and in order to do that we need to either create new methods of funding or cut the pork legislation in Annapolis. Cutting the economic waste in the state can help us reduce the amount of waste in our bay, protect wildlife, and reduce boat pollution. We need to have stricter laws on dumping waste done by companies, because without federal EPA standards and consequences in place, the companies freely dump waste. By creating new forms of revenue– example through recreational marijuana, cutting unnecessary spending in Annapolis, and imposing stricter laws on dumping– we can save the bay and commit to it unlike the federal government.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Bhandari: Maryland should open itself to all competitive healthcare markets, and make access more available. We need to come up with laws in Annapolis that protect companies from increasing premiums and deductibles for lower income residents, children and seniors. In Annapolis, I will stand up for our health. I will fight to protect Medicaid and Medicate for working families and seniors.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Bhandari: Education is the surest weapon to combat the violent crime. Therefore, government has to support Pre- K for all and lowering tuition so every family can afford to send their kids to college. We need to focus investing more on afterschool programs and on vocational schools for carrier readiness; colleges are not best options for everyone. Expanding pre-K is more than a noble goal. It is an investment with the potential to produce benefits that far exceed its costs. Those parents whose poverty takes away the future of small children are in dire need of home-based and non-home based child care and early education center. In this respect it is imperative that like-minded organization partner to provide educational and developmental support to children and families. The longer a child from a poor background goes without formal preparation for school the worse he/she will perform literacy and other cognitive skills along with social skills in future. In a demanding decade where just parental love and affection may no longer be enough, the entire society must emphasis on skill-development– cognitive and physical health, character, independent, self-confident, school-readiness– at an early age for the universal dream of better life that expand the American dream. The quality educational foundation is a strong first step for the growth of all students across all academic and social measures.The challenges, thus, continue for all those involved in making sure educational equality remains a tool for greater achievement and opportunities for all students to combat violent crimes.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Bhandari: In order to strengthen our state’s business climate we need to stop the over-development by corporate America. Instead of continuously building when there are many homes and business unoccupied, we should stop developers from taking over, and have them utilize already existing buildings. Constant over-development has plagued communities around the county and state, and we need to ensure that we do not cater to developers more than the constituents we serve. According to a current community survey, in district -8, there are approximately 3,500 vacant housing units. We should come with ideas in re-invigorating economic activity and inviting new families in vacant properties. Moreover, small businesses need stronger protection against a large corporation and hassle free access to government services.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Bhandari: Gerrymandering, on both sides of the aisle has poisoned America’s trust for fair elections not only in National elections, but also in State and local elections. Continuing to Gerrymander the state to ensure that one party remains in control does not reflect the true spirit of democracy on which this nation was built upon. Fair elections, where one party isn’t packed into a small district where they will not be represented to the fullest, is the direction the state of Maryland should go. Creating a true bipartisan team to redistrict Maryland fairly is only viable solution to move forward from the polarizing gerrymandering of the past. Ensuring everyone in the state is properly represented is one of many goals I hope to accomplish as district 8 next delegate.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Bhandari: It is imperative that the current Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights(LEoBR) should be amended so that each of the public servant should be held accountable for their action. In this respect, the current LEoBR prohibits civilians oversight over police action and makes authority to bring bad officers to justice.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Bhandari: To combat the opioid and overdose crisis in Maryland we need to take several steps to help the addicted and stop the drugs from reaching the streets. We need to prevent medical professional from over-prescribing opioids, as over-prescribing leads to more and more people getting hooked on these drugs without a proper way to get off of them. With very few doctors who take you off these drugs slowly, more people are becoming addicted without a way out. By stopping over-prescribing, and focusing on prescribing to those truly in need we can reduce the number of people affected by opioid’s addictive grasp. Stronger laws that penalize these drug dealers need to be put in place, that way we can punish the people who have caused addictions and deaths in many families across the state. Perhaps even moving toward medical or recreational marijuana can help reduce the opioid issue, as states like Colorado have seen a significant drop in opioid related overdoses and deaths since the implementation of recreational marijuana. There are many ways we can help ease this issue, its just about investing in smart strategies to combat opioids.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Bhandari: There is every reason for optimism and to smile when we look at the policy changes and its implementation and growing achievement of gender equality just looking around overtime. The longer-term, optimistic perspective on gender equality which creates income inequality, however, will have its deep roots in economic prosperity and independency of women. In addition to the gender justice of few outrider women on the top, the mainstream debate must address increased insecurity at the bottom end of the spectrum and time females spend doing unpaid work including childcare and cleaning as a part of family responsibility. A vast majority of women still faces huge inequalities. As a society, we all need to tackle gender inequality that has direct connection with income inequality to create just and prosperous society.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Bhandari: I strongly support state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws as it grants citizens access to public records and information from open door meetings. It creates transparency and makes government accountable to the citizens. To make the system run more efficiently, we need to put the non-digital data record onto a digital file accessible to all citizens. By creating a digital record we can stop the unnecessary searching for data, and make access to information the fastest it can possibly be.