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?
Feldman: I support the findings of the Commission and voted for HB 1415 during the 2018 Session, which adopted some of the Commission recommendations by altering certain programs and mandating funding for them. The Commission’s work has been extended for one additional year year and I look forward to reviewing those recommendations later in 2018.
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?
Feldman: I believe Maryland’s transportation spending is appropriately balanced. This Session, I was the lead Senate Sponsor of the historic Maryland Metro Funding Act, SB 277. The bill provides the DC Metro system with a bondable, dedicated funding stream for the first time, the only system of its size in the nation without one. At the same time, the bill redirected critically needed dollars to the Baltimore region’s transit needs. In addition, in order to make our scarce transportation dollars go further, I look forward to some of the innovative public private partnership proposals the Governor is currently exploring in the DC region along the I-270/I-495 Corridor.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Feldman: Yes. During the 2017 Session, I introduced legislation that would put the issue on the November 2018 statewide ballot. Under the legislation, which did not pass, the tax revenues collected on sales would be earmarked for public education, school construction, substance abuse programs, and mental health services.
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?
Feldman: The Trump administration and the current EPA appear determined to zero out funding for the $73 million Chesapeake Bay Program, a critical part of the comprehensive strategy deployed over the past decade that has been successful in cleaning up the Bay. Not only is the program important to protect the Bay, a national treasure, it is vitally important to Maryland’s economy to have a vibrant Bay. If funding for that program is eliminated, the State would be left with no choice but to step up with State funds to buttress the program.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Feldman: As Chair of the Health Subcommittee in the Senate and Senate Chair of Maryland’s Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission, I spent a great deal of time on this topic during the 2018 Session. I introduced the Protect Maryland Health Care Act of 2018, SB 1011, an innovative proposal that takes components of the Affordable Care Act and Romneycare in Massachusetts but injects additional ideas designed to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care. I look forward to reintroducing the legislation in the 2019 Session.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Feldman: This a complicated question that does not lend itself to a simple answer but the state can play a critical and constructive role. The State must first do what it can to reduce the achievement gap, improve Baltimore’s schools, and provide greater access to higher education for those living in the parts of Baltimore that remain economically depressed. Moreover, the state must to do all that it can to ensure that Baltimore thrives economically, and that economic opportunities and benefits realized in Baltimore are spread to the entire population.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Feldman: I believe that Maryland’s business climate is strong, but could be improved. Among other things, we must do more to address our traffic congestion problem which continues to hinder economic growth. In general, Maryland is a wealthy state, has a highly educated workforce, and outstanding public institutions of higher learning. For these reasons, our unemployment rate currently sits at only 4.2% and companies like Amazon are looking to locate a major presence in the state. As for fostering the creation of more family supporting jobs, I believe that we made strides this year in Annapolis with passage of “Sick and Safe Leave” law and other leave related proposals for state employees which support families.
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?
Feldman: I do not serve on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and do not feel that I have sufficient information to be able to respond to this question adequately.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Feldman: Over the past several sessions, the General Assembly has passed a comprehensive package of bills to address the opoid addiction and overdose crisis, ranging from requirements that doctors log into a database to review prescription histories of patients before prescribing, to funding for hotlines, and other services. This session, I introduced and secured passage of legislation directed at the disposal of opoids to better ensure that opoids do not end up in the wrong hands. However, in order to really make a dent in the problem, we need to try new innovative solutions that take us out of our political comfort zones. One such legislative proposal that I introduced this Session would have set up a Pilot Program where addicts could go to a safe consumption site that has medical staff and other wrap around services on the premises. This concept is working in several other states and would work in Maryland if given an opportunity. The bill did not pass but I plan to reintroduce it in the 2019 Session.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Feldman: The key is to expand access to higher education in the impacted communities since securing a college degree remains the best predictor of one’s prospects for employment and higher earning capacity.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?