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?
Hayes: I agree with the Commission’s findings, and believe its 5 recommendation areas create a strong framework for increasing equity and access to opportunity in the education system for traditionally disinvested communities. Policies such as the Justice Reinvestment Act from 2016, that reduce mass incarceration in Maryland can open up hundreds of millions in funding for education that is currently being used to house offenders, many of whom are non-violent offenders who have been jailed because of an outdated approach to treating addiction.
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?
Hayes: When we look at thriving metropolitan areas around the nation, and global trends in first world countries, there is an ever-present feature in their transportation systems: They invest heavily in fast, clean, reliable, convenient public transportation that residents utilize as a first-choice rather than a last resort. As long as Maryland continues to invest heavily in expanding highways instead of in public transit, Baltimore and its metropolitan area will never be as competitive with other East Coast cities as it could and should be. Investing in public transportation should also entail investing in quality public transportation like fixed rail trains and subways, not just buses. We have the resources that we need to do this; we just have to make a choice to shift our investments from being so highway-centric. And, as reports like the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance’s study on commuting in the Baltimore Region make clear, our region is not adequately served by transit.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Hayes: Yes, and I believe it is important that we be intentional about how the revenue that it generates for the state is spent. For instance, it can and should be used to better fund education and to expand access to healthcare.
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?
Hayes: There are multiple fronts that can be improved upon here. Both the Bay and Maryland’s environment in general would be improved if the state extends its commitment to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and increases its goal for reduced emissions under the RGGI. Improving septic regulations for homes located near the Bay is another perennial opportunity to improve the quality of its water, as is working with poultry farmers to help them make feasible transitions to less environmentally harmful systems of waste reduction. We can also improve the health of the fauna in the Bay and its watershed system by combatting invasive species like the Snakehead. Other states have created innovative programs that incentivize the catch of these invasive species, and then use that catch to feed residents who experience food insecurity.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Hayes: Increased funding for the Maryland Health Exchange is an ever-present option, but we also need to increase the quality of employer-provided healthcare packages, as well as the transparency for the benefits that they provide their customers. Organized labor is a traditional champion on this front, and a natural partner to the state as it works to expand access to healthcare. Subsidies that decrease the cost of prescriptions for seniors are also extremely important, as is expanding access to generic prescriptions that can provide the same benefits at a fraction of the cost.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Hayes: In July 2017 I authored a letter signed by a majority of my and published by the Baltimore Sun calling for the Governor to deploy State Police, Parole and Probation, and the Department of Juvenile Services to help Baltimore by working with the warrant task force, and using their resources to focus on violent offenses. The State could also staff the Juvenile Booking Facility to return BPD officers to the streets, like it does with Central Booking. The State can also extend patrols and crash investigations by State Police another 5 miles into the City on I-83. When the state takes steps to address the increased levels of violence in Baltimore, it is also important that these steps be made permanently, not as temporary salves that may not be available next year. To that end, permanent and expanded funding in violence interruption programs is a tremendous opportunity for the state to help Baltimore. We made strides on this front in the 2018 legislative session, but that’s just the beginning of what a City-State partnership is capable of.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Hayes: More family-supporting jobs come from regulations that require businesses to pay family-supporting wages and provide family-supporting benefits. We have seen time and again that increasing business profits with tax breaks and corporate welfare doesn’t translate into bigger paychecks for the average worker. It just translates into better compensation for owners and high-level executives. A $15 minimum wage, expanding prevailing wage regulations, expanding access to healthcare, and creating more paths to home ownership are the best ways to improve the financial security of the average Marylander. The extreme wealth that Maryland holds compared to other states both in the region and around the nation is a clear indicator that our state’s business climate is not ailing. Our problem is that not enough Marylanders are included in that wealth.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Hayes: Yes, as long as the body is truly non-partisan. We cannot expect Republicans elsewhere to relinquish their hold on redistricting if we are not willing to do the same ourselves, and we sacrifice the moral high ground in the argument by failing to do so. It is important that natural, contiguous communities have unified legislative representation, because dividing neighborhoods and towns into multiple districts has a very negative affect on their ability to influence elected representatives, because it diminishes their voting power within any one legislative district.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Hayes: No, as subject matter experts like the American Civil Liberties Union routinely explain, LEOBOR is tilted heavily towards protections for police officers, often at the expense of the public. Requiring that civilians be allowed on hearing boards for misconduct in every municipality across the state would be a tremendous step forward for LEOBOR reform. The multi-day buffer before cops are required to give a statement after incidents involving a use of force should also be reduced.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Hayes: As a lead sponsor of the HOPE Act and the Keep the Door Open Act, I have a long track record of working to treat opioid addiction as a health problem, not a criminal act. Beyond expanding access to health-based treatment, it is important that victims of addiction have access to the wrap around services that will allow them to stabilize their living conditions so that they can move past their addictions. This includes improving their housing security, expanding access to career training and employment onramps, and housing as many of these programs as possible in their local communities. Other cities have also demonstrated that programs like safe-injection sites are an important tool for combatting disease that springs up in conjunction with addiction, and providing addicts with the information they need to begin making positive steps towards treatment.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Hayes: State Government is perhaps the most important tool that we have to address income inequality. Guaranteeing better wages by supporting a $15 minimum wage and expanding prevailing wage regulations is an important start, but income inequality is debilitating because it also impacts access to healthcare, housing security, and transportation usage. We can help more Marylanders keep more of the money that they earn by expanding healthcare coverage and healthcare subsidies, creating more paths to homeownership and ending housing discrimination via legislation like the HOME Act, and improve access to opportunity by investing in stronger public transportation systems.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Hayes: The state should have an expanded requirement to proactively report information to the public, and do so via a user-friendly online interface, so that citizens do not have to constantly seek out relevant information about the activities their tax dollars are supporting.