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?
Esposito: I strongly support the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also referred to as the Kirwan Commission however, it has not issued a final report and has not yet costed out its goals. I support the General Assembly’s first step in securing funds with the passage of the Fix the Fund Act in which educational funding will be prohibited from being diverted from casino revenues. I support an increase in the per-pupil funding formula to ensure that every child has access to world-class education in Maryland. I also support increased wages for our teachers and I am committed to funding associated reforms. Revenue options include expanding casino entertainment with the introduction of sports gambling and competitive gaming.
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?
Esposito: Maryland has a Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and utilizes Federal Department of Transportation money to supplement repairs and improvements on our highways along with toll revenue from the Maryland Transportation Authority which improves our bridges and tunnels. Maryland roads and mass transit go hand-in-hand. There is nothing more frustrating then Maryland highway congestion. I have been frustrated for over thirty five years and others have been frustrated longer. We need another overhaul of the core transit system operating within Baltimore City and the surrounding region. Many of Maryland Transit Authority’s bus routes need to be revamped and BaltimoreLink’s attempt to improve service through a more reliable and efficient network may not be working according to disgruntled commuters. We need to improve our roads and bridges across Maryland and widen the roadway on major highways to alleviate congestion. Governor Hogan has dedicated billions of dollars to construction projects across the state. Improvement in infrastructure is essential in attracting new corporations and I am committed to funding our roads and transit to improve the quality of life for all Marylander’s. The Baltimore region needs serious attention and we need to work together to get the best available results. I’m sure the professionals in our Transit Authority will improve overall if they get the support they need.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Esposito: I fully support the use of medical cannabis and understand that countless people have been and will continue to find relief from all forms of illness and pain through its proper use. There has been clinical research done in this field that is extremely promising in the fight to get addicts off of opioids and countless stories of how medical cannabis has improved the quality of life for people suffering with illness such as epilepsy and cancer. Epidiolex, is an oral cannabidiol-based drug (cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis) that easily met its primary endpoint of a statistically significant reduction in seizure frequency for two rare types of childhood-onset epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. There’s arguably no industry in the U.S. that’s growing at a faster, more consistent pace than legal marijuana. Marijuana Business Daily’s latest report, “Marijuana Business Factbook 2017,” predicts legal sales growth in the U.S. of 30% this year, 45% in 2018, and 300% as an aggregate between 2016 and 2021 to about a $17 billion market. With that said, I am against the legalization of recreational marijuana. There’s genuine concern that younger adults could see their brains adversely affected if they use marijuana, and there’s a greater concern that not enough is known about the long-term impacts on the brain and other critical organs to make a call to legalize. Short-term and long-term memory are definitely affected. There’s pretty solid evidence that marijuana adversely affects one’s ability to drive and will surely be abused.
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?
Esposito: We need to hold New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia accountable for polluting the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay . Each of those states are obligated to work together under the Susquehanna River Basin Compact. The Susquehanna River is the largest contributor of freshwater to the Bay and has the largest impact on the Bay’s health. Most recently, the Susquehanna River turned into chocolate milk with tons of debris and wastewater coming down from other states; this is turning into an environmental disaster. Governor Hogan has invested tremendous state funding to protect the Chesapeake but needs to improve on putting pressure on the aforementioned states. Exelon also needs to step up their game at the Conowingo Dam. The dam is allegedly at full capacity for holding sediment and needs cleaned up. Additionally, Exelon needs to collect trash and debris from the dam’s edge. They need to invest in a couple of trash wheels. Trapped sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus that flow down the Susquehanna from Pennsylvania and New York has to be reduced. The Chesapeake Bay is essential to the health, economy and lifestyles of Marylander’s. I will tirelessly work to improve the conditions of the Conowingo Dam, the Susquehanna River and our most treasured resource, the Chesapeake Bay.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Esposito: Marylander’s need the ability to care for their families and loved ones, and having access to affordable, high-quality health care is a must. As a state employee, I cannot imagine my family without health care. Five years ago, my wife Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer and would have died if I did not have her treated. Without healthcare, this may not have been possible. I promise to work everyday to ensure that every Marylander has access to affordable health care by encouraging price competition and keeping the cost of prescription drugs down by requiring drug manufacturers to explain the basis for their prices. Governor Hogan has recognized that the insurance market needs to be stabilized and is working with the Department of Budget and Management to protect Marylander’s health care options. We need to support additional efforts as well and to off-set the recent debacle that has retired government workers in an up-roar when they face a drug coverage shift from a state plan to a federal Medicare part D plan come January 1st.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Esposito: Poverty, lack of job opportunities that can support a family are underlying reasons of violence in the city. We must hold City officials accountable for their actions and lack of actions. Wasteful spending of state funds is always an issue. The state must make resources available which include assisting the Baltimore City Police in patrolling the city. One way would be to consider giving the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MDTAP) state-wide jurisdiction to be utilized in a joint law enforcement effort. They currently use their civil disturbance teams when there is civil unrest. We need to get tough on crime for violent offenders. Minimum mandatory sentencing without the possibility of parole is a must for violent felons using a handgun during the commission of a crime. It is unacceptable to allow a violent offender to come back into society and commit the same violent activity such as rape and murder. Violence is a public health issue because it has an enormous impact on the health and wellness of individuals. Inmates from the city make up more than a third of the state’s prison population. Three years ago, the Justice Policy Institute and the Prison Policy Initiative reported that Maryland taxpayers spent about $288 million annually to incarcerate people from the city — $47 million for inmates from West Baltimore alone. We need to train inmates while they are incarcerated and give them job opportunities when they are released. Lets be fair and just.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Esposito: The business climate has improved under Governor Hogan however; we need much more improvement. According to Forbes most business friendly states, Maryland ranks 26th up four (4) spots from 2016; this is unacceptable. The Best States for Business ranking looked at six categories, including business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life; with a ranking of 26, we are failing. My vision is to make Maryland the top 10 business friendly states in the nation in four (4) years. I plan to propose a gradual reduction in corporate taxes and business fees over the next four years. If Maryland is open for business, then we need to take the appropriate steps to back up this statement. We can start with no new taxes and reducing business regulations. Although we need “Good Regulatory Practice”, we need to eliminate two regulations for every new one. Attracting businesses, keeping them and getting them to expand operations often involve providing tax incentives. I am open-minded when it comes for tax incentives for corporations; we need to get everyone back to work. The private sector will give us more family-supporting jobs. Our job is to support them by not burdening them with taxes, fees and unnecessary regulations.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Esposito: I call for ending gerrymandering and support the creation of an independent redistricting commission whose purpose would be to create a better and fairer system for drawing congressional and legislative maps. Let us keep redistricting out of the hands of politicians.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Esposito: Being in law enforcement for thirty-five (35) years, I recognize the important balance that exists between supporting our law enforcement officers and making sure that appropriate legal and civilian oversight exists. The vast majority of police officers are incredible public servants however, in every industry there is corruption. I believe officers who are abusing the public trust and ultimately making our streets and communities less safe should be prosecuted vigorously. Being a police officer is not like any other job, you have the right to take the life of a human being; this is the greatest of responsibilities. Because of this unique dynamic, we have the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) and I agree with its content. I do not agree with any civilian board presiding or voting on the actions of a police officer under a disciplinary hearing. Civilians simply do not understand the dynamics of the duties of a police officer and the making of a split second decision. I am open for allowing certain civilians (victims and their family) to observe a trial board of an officer accused of a felony. I also am in favor of encouraging quicker and more effective investigations of misconduct and police brutality mainly by cutting down on the amount of time the agency has to respond. Certainly, we do need to balance the common-sense concerns of communities across the state while also acknowledging the real dangers law enforcement officers face everyday while serving and protecting our communities. I strongly support the men and women of law enforcement and the people they have sworn to protect.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Esposito: I spent nine years of my law enforcement career fighting the war on drugs which included undercover operations. Years of sustained, coordinated, and vigilant effort will be required to contain the present opioid epidemic and harmful effects on society. Addiction and overdose numbers are staggering and likely to increase in the coming years regardless of what policies are put in place. With the use of federal funding to our state, we need to have a holistic approach to this problem. We need to arm our teachers with funding for drug education and prevention in our elementary schools. We need to educate our children and their parents. Parents are the best and most effective teachers. Additionally, we need to step up enforcement actions and continue to get drugs off of the street. Prosecution is essential and minimum mandatory sentencing without the possibility for parole for drug traffickers. Compassion and rehabilitation is essential in this fight. We need funding for in-patient rehabilitation and mental health. I would like the opportunity to propose and start a pilot program. Funding will be to build a facility to house addicts for twelve months in a “boot camp” style atmosphere. Stabilizing the addict and getting off of opioids completely is the initial goal. Physical, mental and spiritual rehabilitation is a factor in total recovery. Retraining the newly recovered individual and getting them job opportunities to get back in the work force and becoming a mentor is the final step. I’m up for the challenge!
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Esposito: I believe growth of opportunity is fueled through a dynamic private sector. The belief in hard work, the freedom to work, the ability to reap the full rewards of work, and the opportunity to work will help in addressing income inequality. We need to improve our business climate to attract large corporations and lower business taxes and fees so small business can survive and thrive therefore giving the opportunity for their employees to have a better wage. We need to get more people working, encourage and assist single parents that are struggling by promoting child care vouchers for low income adults. Create more good-paying jobs and ensure every Marylander has the high quality education and training they need to take advantage of these opportunities. We need the dynamism of the private-sector.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Esposito: No. Political corruption is alive and well in Annapolis and in local governments around our state. We must clean up the mess in Annapolis by having common sense, bipartisan government reforms, transparency, and accountability. Marylander’s deserve accountability and transparency from their elected officials. I support video live streaming during the legislative deliberations. Marylander’s have a right to know what their elected officials are saying as they debate important issues. I support the Governor’s Accountability Act to limit legislative terms in office. Legislators will be able to serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms in each chamber for a total of sixteen (16) years or three four-year terms for a total of twelve (12) years in their respective chamber of the General Assembly if they desire to continue. No more entrenched career politicians. Experience counts but we consistently need fresh new ideas and fresh new leadership.