Clarence K. Lam

Clarence K. Lam
  • Democrat
  • Age: 37
  • Residence: Columbia

About Clarence K. Lam

Education

MD (Medical Doctor) – University of Maryland, Baltimore MPH (Master of Public Health) – Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Board Certified in Preventive Medicine

Background

Preventive Medicine Physician Assistant Scientist, Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Director, Preventive Medicine Residency Program, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Medical Co-Director, Occupational Health Clinic at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

Questionnaire

1
Kirwan
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?
Lam: Although the final report of the Commission is not due until later this year, I fully support their preliminary findings thus far. The draft report makes clear that there remains significant room for improvement in Maryland’s K-12 system: national assessments show that Maryland’s educational system is average at best and large achievement gaps persist. The approach needed to address these shortcomings is multifactorial and includes expanding early childhood education, elevating teaching as a profession, supporting students with disabilities, and ensuring that graduating students are prepared for their next career or academic endeavors. I deeply believe that a world-class education is important for every child and that Maryland must step up to fund needed educational reforms. My commitment is reflected in my voting record as a state legislator, where I have supported increased funding for early childhood education programs like Head Start, provisions for struggling or disabled students to access necessary resources, apprenticeship programs for students seeking a career in the trades, and an increase in funding for school construction and renovations. I also recognize that these reforms are not inexpensive and will require the commitment of legislators in order to provide necessary funding. It is with this responsibility in mind that I supported legislation in the 2018 session to address a $3 billion funding shortfall in the state’s support for public schools. With passage of SB1122, we’ve taken a substantial step forward in preparing for the Commission’s final recommendations by requiring casino revenues be fully directed to public school education.
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2
Transportation
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?
Lam: Transportation spending must be balanced between roads and mass transit. Unfortunately, recent efforts have emphasized support for highway projects, at times diverting funds away from the densely populated central region of our state to more rural areas in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, while eliminating the Red Line and reducing funding for the Purple Line. That is why I supported the passage of legislation requiring state transportation projects be scored based on established criteria. Data from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council has shown that there are jobs available in the region, but residents in Baltimore cannot afford hours-long bus rides to reach a job outside of the city. The Red Line would have benefitted these communities while also serving as a needed economic driver for many struggling neighborhoods, and BaltimoreLink has not been an adequate replacement for its loss. Additional support must also be provided to improve existing services like the Baltimore Metro and MARC. It’s inexcusable that Metro’s maintenance has fallen so short as to require a sudden month-long system shutdown. MARC improvements in reliability, train frequency, and adequacy in available parking—such as at the Halethorpe station—are also necessary. Maryland must spend its transportation dollars wisely in order to ensure that funding is available for transportation needs. Thus, I disagreed with the popular decision to lower tolls for Maryland’s bridges and tunnels that, in the end, will cost the state more and reduce available funds for the future infrastructure investments and transportation projects.
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3
Marijuana
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Lam: Marijuana is likely one of the most politicized drugs in our nation’s history. Policies adopted by the federal government decades ago have led to overcriminalization of marijuana use and stifled opportunities for better research and scientific understanding of this drug. As a result, while marijuana use has climbed, our understanding of its benefits and potential harms is incomplete. I fully support the legalization of medical marijuana because the available scientific evidence points to a clear medical benefit to patients. I supported the state’s implementation of a medical marijuana program and I’ve supported the 2018 legislative reforms to address shortcomings of the program that became clear over the past few years. That being said, I have some reservations about the full legalization of recreational marijuana. Other states that have rushed forward with legalization have experienced many challenges related to those policies. As a result, I am cautious about supporting full legalization. Some of my reservations stem from addressing health and safety concerns. As mentioned above, I don’t think we fully understand marijuana sufficiently to allow for widespread use, and the most common method of use—smoking—still carries the potential for harm. Regardless, I do want to make clear that 1) I supported legislation that decriminalized the possession of marijuana and 2) that the generation of revenue for Maryland should not be the driving reason for legalization of marijuana.
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4
Chesapeake Bay
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?
Lam: The Chesapeake Bay is a Maryland treasure whose watershed supports the livelihood of millions of people and countless species of animals who depend on a healthy and clean bay. To protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland needs to stay committed to the EPA established Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. Recent data shows that the state is on target in addressing phosphorus and sediment runoff but continues to miss its goals in reducing nitrogen effluent into the bay. To address this, the state must advance policies aimed at: reducing agricultural runoff; implementing conservation measures on farms including fencing animals out of streams and maintaining grassed or forested buffer strips along farm fields; reducing the use of chicken litter in agricultural fields, and revegetating natural filters such as forests, oysters, wetlands, and underwater grasses. The state must also address shortcomings in sewer and septic systems by connecting septic systems to already available upgraded treatment plants when feasible, expanding availability of nitrogen removal technologies for upgrading of septic systems, and requiring the reasonable use of nitrogen removal technology on new systems. The Chesapeake Bay has never been healthier, but this progress has only been possible through concerted action and support for vital federal and state programs. With the continued threat of reduction of federal funds for important bay programs, I would support an increase in state funds to ensure important programs are able to continue and the progress we’ve made in the bay is sustained.
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5
Health Care
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Lam: As a physician, I consider healthcare a fundamental human right that should be available to everyone, not a privilege only for those who can afford it. As such, I believe Maryland must continue to strive towards universal healthcare for all. Although the federal government is best empowered to establish a uniform single-payer system across the country, I support and will continue to advocate for state policies that will advance Maryland towards universal coverage and a single payer-type system. Maryland has made great advances through the Affordable Care Act by enrolling over 300,000 individuals in health coverage. But more must be done to improve affordability to continue to move towards universal coverage. That is why I sponsored legislation (HB1504) during the 2018 session to examine the establishment of a reinsurance program to mitigate insurance premium increases stemming from a few patients that require a catastrophic level of care. I also sponsored legislation (HB1038) that would have made it easier for pregnant women to enroll in healthcare by requiring insurers to consider pregnancy as a “qualifying life event,” which currently they do not. I’ve also co-sponsored legislation that will reduce health insurance premiums, support improvements to the health exchange, and encourage more companies to participate in the exchange in an effort to increase competition and reduce rates. I hope to continue working on important legislation that will explore the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid to any Marylander, extend open enrollment periods, and help mitigate the loss of federal cost-sharing subsidies.
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6
Crime
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Lam: A safe, thriving, and prosperous Baltimore is crucial to the success of the State of Maryland, and so we must step up to play a vital role in helping Baltimore address violent crime. However, we must bear in mind that violent crime is an end result of many different systemic failures including poverty, inadequate education, insufficient jobs and productive opportunities, poor support network of family or friends, availability of illegal drugs and weapons, and many other reasons. Addressing the problem of violent crime cannot only be restricted to criminal justice solutions but must also address these other social determinants that are especially large and challenging. These problems are too large for one jurisdiction, and their solutions span across the state, which is why the state must step up to assist Baltimore. To address this, the state needs to provide funding for schools and educators to improve Baltimore’s public education system, support businesses that create local jobs and provide needed benefits like child care subsidies and credits to workers, implement policies that promote integration of housing and combat “redlining” which keeps neighborhoods in poverty, support expansion of mass transit options so workers without cars can get to jobs without spending hours on a bus, support workforce training and apprenticeship programs, address drug addiction, promote justice reinvestment and decriminalization policies to break the cycle of crime, reduce the availability of weapons and firearms, and fund programs like Baltimore’s Safe Streets that take a proven, public health approach to reducing violence.
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7
Business Climate
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Lam: Maryland businesses are successful in an environment that is competitive and fair. A study by Ernst & Young found that Maryland businesses pay well below the national average in taxes and rank second lowest in the nation in the share of taxes paid to state and local governments. Entrepreneurship remains high, with Maryland ranking consistently as a top state in the nation for innovation by small businesses and start-up companies. Despite these achievements, Maryland should continue to make improvements in supporting well-paying jobs. Despite having the highest median household income in the country, nearly 10% of Marylanders live in poverty, and so ensuring family-supporting jobs must be a priority. I support the following measures to help workers, reduce inequality, and support families: expand affordable child care to working families through tax credits, subsidies, or other programs to make it easier for parents to work; establish universal early childhood education because it will allow parents to go back to work sooner and has been shown to have a lasting positive impact on a child’s development; legislation that will ensure equal pay for equal work so that women are not underpaid for doing the same work as their male counterparts; prohibiting employers from asking applicants for their prior work history to reduce salary disparities; improving mass transit options and public infrastructure so that parents spend less time commuting and more time with families; and expanding workforce training programs so that parents seeking to reenter the job market are equipped to do so.
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8
Redistricting
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Lam: I am concerned about the level of partisanship involved in the drawing of district maps. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on this specific issue shortly, and I hope that the ruling removes partisanship as a factor that can continue to be used in the redistricting process. This issue is best addressed at the federal level so that uniform standards can be applied in all districts across the country. Nonetheless, the state can and should take action on this issue. In the past, I have supported legislation that would trigger these reforms to our redistricting process if other neighboring states also adopted similar policies. I will continue to support legislation that allows for a non-partisan, independent body to lead the state’s redistricting efforts after each census. For nearly 10 years, California has had a redistricting commission comprised of citizen commissioners that I believe has been fairly successful in creating reasonable district maps. California’s redistricting process could serve as a model for Maryland in allowing for fairer and more competitive elections. Other policies that could be adopted to support more competitive elections include California’s “top two” primary system (where the top two candidates in a primary advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation) and expanded public financing of campaigns so that the ability to fundraise is not a hindrance to serving the public.
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9
LEOBR
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Lam: The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) was enacted by the legislature over 30 years ago to provide protections to a law enforcement officer facing potential disciplinary action during an investigation of that officer’s conduct by a law enforcement agency. I have some ongoing concerns about the LEOBOR, and I believe that some additional reforms to the LEOBOR are needed. In instances where a LEOBOR hearing board is formed to investigate claims of misconduct, the hearing board is important in maintaining the public’s trust and sense of legitimacy in investigating allegations. As a result, I believe the composition of the members of the hearing board are critical to advancing the legitimacy of the hearing board process. I support legislation that will ensure greater public representation and improve the transparency of the LEOBOR hearing board because I believe the exclusion of civilian voices and oversight deepens the mistrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. I am also in favor of reforming the hearing board process so that police chiefs have greater flexibility in addressing shortcomings in procedure and obvious misconduct without being constrained by the decision of the hearing’s board decision. Ultimately, the police chief is accountable for the actions of his or her officers and must take appropriate disciplinary steps when appropriate. Overall, these reasonable reforms to the LEOBOR would greatly improve public trust in law enforcement and increase accountability and oversight of the officers serving our communities.
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10
Opioids
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Lam: The opioid addiction and overdose crisis is a significant public health concern for Maryland. The problem of opioid addiction is complex, and so it requires a tiered approach that focuses on prevention and treatment. The state legislature has taken steps over the last few years to address the problem, including permitting standing orders for naloxone, passing “Good Samaritan” laws protecting those who report overdoses, and allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone. However, rates of addiction, overdose, and death from opioids continues to climb in Maryland. As a public health physician, I believe we need to continue to be aggressive in tackling this crisis. In preventing further cases of addiction, healthcare providers play a key role in reducing the use of opioids by restricting prescriptions to those that are absolutely necessary, being more familiar with other pain management alternative to opioids, and ensuring tight compliance with the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This may also require greater oversight of over-prescribers by the Board of Physicians. For those who are addicted to opioids, safe consumption sites where users are monitored by healthcare providers, distribution of spot testing kits for fentanyl, expanded and inexpensive distribution of naloxone, and a greater availability of medical assisted therapy like buprenorphine could help reduce detrimental outcomes. As a legislator, I’ve also supported increased funding for treatment beds, intervention programs, and reimbursements to providers because it is critical that users who are ready to seek treatment must not endure long waits.
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11
Income inequality
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Lam: Income inequality is at some of the highest levels in our nation’s history, and so Maryland must continue to strive towards reducing income inequality. As a policymaker, I am concerned about the growing gap between the rich and the poor. This level of inequality is not sustainable in the long term, diminishes opportunities for many workers who are struggling, and tears at the fabric of our society by reducing the likelihood that someone who works hard can achieve the American Dream. It is concerning to me as a legislator that nearly 10% of Marylanders continue to live in poverty while the state ranks highest in median household income. For that reason, I believe that policies that are adopted by the legislature must be scrutinized to ensure that they are progressive, rather than regressive. Tax credits and subsidies to big businesses and special interests should be withheld unless they serve to reduce income inequality of the average worker. I support the expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit as a means to support low and moderate-income working families. I also favor increases to the minimum wage as a means to reduce disparities and would support indexing the minimum wage to increases in the cost of living. Finally, I think we should continue to level the playing field by providing opportunities for working families to achieve the American Dream through programs that expand availability and accessibility to child care for parents and paid parental leave.
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12
Transparency
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Lam: The state adopted legislation several years ago that improved and strengthen the provisions of the Public Information Act (PIA). This legislation provided a means to address citizen complaints by creating a Maryland PIA Compliance Board, adjudicates allegations of unreasonable fees of greater than $350 for the production of requested documents, and established an ombudsman that helps mediate disputes between requesters and records custodians. I believe all of these provisions are good steps forward in advancing the goals of the PIA, but the legislature must remain watchful in ensuring that the public has the tools necessary to exercise oversight of our government. Access to government information is a basic right of the public by a government who works for them, and so the PIA is a critical tool in facilitating an informed public and press so that our government remains accountable and transparent. When seeking information, the records custodians in state and local agencies have a significant amount of authority in determining which records can be made available. The public, in seeking access to this information but also unaware of the information that is available, is at an inherent disadvantage when seeking documents. For that reason, it is incumbent on the legislature to periodically assess whether the balance between the authority of the records custodians and needs of the public are adequately balanced. The PIA Compliance Board will issue periodic recommendations for amendments of the Act, and I would certainly be open to considering their future proposals.
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