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?
Klausmeier: I supported the interim recommendations of the Kirwan Commission as passed in House Bill 1415 . I look forward to the final recommendations at the end of this year. An adequate education is one of our few state Constitutional obligations, and I am committed to funding these final recommendations though I do not support raising taxes to do so. I think we need to look at all avenues as we move forward in funding Universal Pre-K and continuing education, and believe that we can find efficiencies in our school system to do so. In addition, I think we have an obligation to budget responsibly and make the tough decisions regarding how soon we can fully phase in the recommendations. Finally, we took an important step this year by finally passing a Constitutional Amendment to ensure that money from casinos go straight to adding to our education budget.
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?
Klausmeier: I don’t believe that this is an either/or choice. Our roads are in a constant state of disrepair, from potholes to traffic on 695. Our mass transit does not adequately serve everybody who needs to get to work to make a living. We need to do a comprehensive look to see how we can ensure that the vast majority who use our roads have a safe drive, but that there is a path forward for those who use mass transit.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Klausmeier: With Colorado, Washington, and other states legalizing marijuana, we must at least study the issue. We need to know the tax revenues, public health impacts, and other associated costs and benefits. Should we pass a bill to do so, I do believe it should go to the voters for their say, and I will push to pass legislation alongside it to make sure we are cracking down on anybody using these drugs while driving, and ensuring that our citizens remain safe.
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?
Klausmeier: Oysters and aquaculture are the magical ingredients to cleaning the bay. Oysters can filter over a gallon of water an hour, while also providing for a source of agricultural revenue. We also must look at more cover crops, and resources and incentives to help farmers reduce their pollution. We also must stand firm to protect the Bay. This session, I was proud to vote for Senate Bill 1128, which created severe penalties for any spills from offshore oil drilling. With the Federal Government considering oil drilling, we must take all steps possible to disincentivize this practice, and protect our precious Chesapeake Bay.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Klausmeier: We must admit that our health care system is broken. Too many people are seeing their premiums hiked, with high deductibles, and little coverage. We took positive steps this session to stabilize the healthcare marketplace after the federal government destabilized it, but we must do more than simply stopping premiums from rising. We need to look at all sources of costs and look at all options. One approach that deserves closer scrutiny in the proposal from this past legislative session which will allow the individual mandate to become a downpayment on insurance costs - but even this is just a band-aid. Every year sitting on the Finance Committee I hear horror stories, and am looking forward to exploring all avenues to find a better, more permanent solution.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Klausmeier: This past session, working with Governor Hogan we passed aggressive legislation to fight back against violent crime. Our approach to crime has been smarter against lower level offenses, but we must be tougher against the worst perpetrators who commit violent crime. We strengthened penalties against those who use guns multiple times for a violent crime, providing more tools to prosecutors, and we went after the worst of the worst. At the same time, we must continue to provide resources for more police officers so they can be on the street getting to work with their communities, and provide more job training opportunities for troubled communities.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Klausmeier: For the last 50 years, I have watched my husband build a small business in our community, so I know better than most that life is tough for small business owners. We have taken positive steps to help small businesses - including the creation of a small business ombudsman - and we must do more. However, our business climate is not just determined by our small businesses. Every year during the legislative session, we look for opportunities to expand manufacturing. Last year, we worked with Governor Hogan to pass the More Jobs for Marylanders Act to provide incentives to manufacturers, and I have not given up hope that we can bring these jobs back to Maryland. In addition, for the last several years, I have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to increase apprenticeships in our state. These vital resources will provide new paths to promising careers to young people entering the workplace. Finally, for all the talk of the importance of education, we need to remember to include continuing education. Not everybody needs to, or should go to college. From HVAC, to manufacturing, to working as a mechanic and more, there are plenty of expanded educational opportunities that can lead to better jobs without going to a four-year college. I will continue to promote this as an important option.
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?
Klausmeier: In 2016, the Legislature made an effort to rebalance LEOBR. We took input from police and the public and came up with a solution that neither side loved, but both accepted. This is the way legislating should work. Our police put their lives on the line for us every day, and deserve our thanks and appreciation - it’s why I was a strong supporter of the Hometown Heroes Act, and why I continue to look for opportunities to show our thanks - while trying to keep that balance with the public.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Klausmeier: I have been honored to lead the fight against the opioid epidemic in the Senate. Last year, we passed the HOPE bill which expanded crisis centers, created a crisis hotline, and provided for increased funding for treatment, and stabilization centers. In addition, we passed the Start Talking Maryland Act to ensure that parents and children start having conversations about avoiding these drugs. This year, we continued this leadership - passing legislation to crack down on pill mills, requiring prescribers to have conversations with their patients on the dangers of dependency, and requiring education before somebody can become licensed to dispense opioids. Ultimately, we need to work to prevent addiction from occurring - but also be prepared to treat it like the mental illness it is - not like a criminal justice issue. Finally, we must clamp down on those bringing Heroin and Fentanyl into our community. I have supported tougher sentences for the top level drug dealers, and will continue to work to make sure that those who bring these drugs into our community face harsh sentences.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Klausmeier: I believe education is the great equalizer. We must continue to invest in our schools so every child has a chance to succeed. In addition, we must continue to invest in apprenticeships and other tools that can provide jobs and upward mobility for those who do not have access to these resources. Finally, we must realize that income inequality affects people of all ages, races, and gender. Job opportunities and pay equity for women are still a significant problem, and we must address those as part of a comprehensive solution.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Klausmeier: While we have made great strides, we still have more work to be done. The people should have access to know what Legislators and elected officials are doing, and ofttimes the costs for transparency can be overly burdensome. I remain open to continuing to work to making government more accessible for more people.