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?
Miele: I am generally supportive of the Commission’s findings and that is why I voted for House Bill 1415 this year, legislation that aligns with and advances the goals of the Commission. Prior to this, I supported House Bill 999 (2016), which established the Commission. I am passionate about reducing achievement gaps based on income and race as I firmly believe that a child’s zipcode and race should not determine whether they have access to a world-class education. In addition to improving outcomes, I am committed to funding the development of innovative computer science and IT curricula to meet the needs of a rapidly-changing economy. Automation threatens to eliminate many good-paying jobs both in the public and private sector, and we need to ensure that Maryland is well positioned to meet the demands of tomorrow’s workforce. We also need to expand career opportunities for educators to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers, and we must improve the quality of standardized testing in our primary and secondary schools.
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?
Miele: I believe that the Hogan administration has appropriately balanced roads and transit spending. With respect to our new transit system, BaltimoreLink, I believe that there have been marked improvements in both rider reliability and access to high-frequency transit. BaltimoreLink has also expanded access to job centers throughout the metro area. As an elected official, I have been impressed by the Department of Transportation’s level of engagement with citizens, community groups, and legislators, and I am glad that department officials are committed to soliciting and relying upon stakeholder feedback when making decisions about local transportation projects.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Miele: Given the challenges associated with the rollout of the medical marijuana industry in Maryland, I’m not convinced that the question of legalization for recreational use is even ripe at this point in time. Intellectually, it’s a conversation we can certainly have (e.g., debating the functional difference between alcohol consumption and recreational use of cannabis when it comes to health and public safety outcomes), but, for now, let’s keep the focus on helping our citizens gain access to medical treatment. That has been my focus as a member of the House Health and Government Operations Committee over the last four years.
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?
Miele: Maryland should continue to prioritize restoration efforts through the state budget, while our federal delegation should continue advocating for federal funding. We must also call upon our neighboring states to serve as partners in restoration efforts to make sure we are protecting the entirety of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Miele: There are an estimated 174,000 uninsured people in Maryland who are working but make too much money for ACA subsidies. For these Marylanders, insurance is anything but affordable. A family of four in the individual market with the current Gold Plan pays over $22,000 in premiums each year. The same family might expect to pay over $15,000 under a Bronze Plan. Assessing a higher deductible while providing the ten essential health benefits as defined by the ACA is one solution that could lower premiums by as much as 25% for Bronze Plan families, and as much as 84% for Gold Plan families. This alternative plan would be exempted from requiring additional state-mandated benefits, but these are benefits most people never use (but get stuck footing the bill for). This option will keep uninsured people out of the emergency room, which will help prevent higher costs to the broader health care system. Maryland should also be looking to other states that have been successful in reducing premiums for innovative policy solutions.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Miele: It is critical that Baltimore be able to compete with other major American cities for economic development opportunities and investment. Growth is vital if we are to create new jobs and stability for families in and around the city. But what company or prospective employer would want to call Baltimore home if its streets are unsafe, or if its homicide rate remains among the highest in the country? The state must focus on making Baltimore an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family if we’re going to remain competitive. I, therefore, believe that it is prudent for the General Assembly to play a role in helping the city address violent crime as it did in the closing days of the 2018 session when we passed bipartisan legislation that focused on cracking down on violent offenders, including volume drug dealers, through the imposition of harsher sentences. To be sure, our efforts represented a good start, but there is much work to be done in this area.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Miele: Maryland has benefited from a remarkable economic turnaround under the leadership of Governor Hogan. Since he took office, Maryland has gained over 110,000 jobs and holds the #1 ranking for job growth in the Mid-Atlantic region. In addition, our state’s unemployment rate has dropped by 25 percent under Hogan. And according to a recent CNBC report, Maryland ranked seventh nationwide in economic performance. So, candidly, if we want to continue to create family-supporting jobs and grow our economy, the answer is simple: re-elect Larry Hogan. His economic policies are working!
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Miele: Yes! In fact, this is the issue that “got me off the couch” five years ago when I first decided to run for a seat in the state legislature. The idea that politicians in Annapolis manipulate electoral outcomes for partisan or political gain is both maddening and indefensible. In my first session as a member of the House, I introduced legislation, House Bill 906 (2015), to create an independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps using fair, impartial, and objective standards; standards that would ensure that voters get to choose their elected representatives, not the other way around. I have also authored legislation, the Maryland Fair Representation Act, House Bill 1328 (2018), which would guarantee that all Marylanders enjoy an equal voice and equal representation in the House of Delegates. Currently, about two-thirds of Marylanders have three delegates, while the remaining one-third have only one or two representatives in the lower chamber. This is a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and an affront to our democratic process. Government-sponsored disenfranchisement foments public distrust in our institutions and undermines the integrity of our elections. In short, it’s just plain wrong. My constituents can count on me to continue leading the fight on this issue.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Miele: Yes, the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balances protections for police and the public. Baltimore City certainly has challenges with respect to policing policy (that should be addressed by city leaders), but one jurisdiction’s need for reform should not necessitate sweeping changes to the LEOBR, which works well across the State of Maryland.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Miele: In addition to all of the important steps we are already taking, I would place a greater emphasis on educating our young people on the dangers of experimentation, particularly because of how highly addictive these substances are. Many do not perceive trying opioids as dangerous. According to a study done by the University of Michigan, “[a]lthough Opioid Pain Relivers have an abuse liability similar to that of heroin, they are commonly perceived as less risky. Seventy-three percent of eighth graders surveyed in 2013 perceived occasional use of heroin without a needle as high risk, but only 26% perceived occasional use of Vicodin as high risk. Eighth graders also perceived occasional Vicodin use as less risky than occasional marijuana use, less risky than smoking 1–5 cigarettes per day, and less risky than moderate alcohol use.” This is alarming and tells me that we need to raise awareness as to the dangers of experimenting with opioids, fentanyl, carfentanil, and other synthetic drugs. We can do this through the development of educational programs, like the one I proposed in House Bill 1466 (2018).
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Miele: We should focus on creating apprenticeship programs for high school graduates in underrepresented communities, as well as foster the development of more public-private partnerships in emerging industries, such as IT. The state can offer tax incentives to employers in these industries who will provide on-the-job training for socioeconomically disadvantaged candidates, as well as opportunities for gainful employment after the completion of such training.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Miele: Maryland’s PIA laws generally work well, but I do have two major concerns: 1) At times, jurisdictions will use “prohibitive cost” reasoning to prevent information from being gathered and transmitted. This needs to be addressed, particularly when a requester can suggest a more cost-effective way to gain access to information; and 2) The General Assembly continues to move legislation in (literal) backrooms in the State House and government office buildings, with little or no notice and no opportunity for public comment. These tactics often undermine the freedom of the press. A vote that is announced mere minutes before it is taken violates the spirit of our open meetings laws. It’s completely unacceptable and our citizens deserve better.