Gansler Responses to PN Questionnaire

 

Progressive Neighbors

Questions for Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates

2014

Attorney General Doug Gansler

 

Better government

Question:  Progress has been made in improving transparency in the General Assembly over the past four years, with greater access to online tools for the public, the posting online of committee votes, and increased audio and video coverage of legislative deliberations. Much still remains to be done, however, including posting of subcommittee votes, committee amendments and votes, and the institution of a system to allow constituents to sign up to testify online the day before a committee hearing so they don't have to spend all day in Annapolis waiting to testify. Do you support these improvements, and do you have others you’d like to offer? What would you do to make the Assembly a more democratic institution? Do you support stripping the party central committees of the power of appointment, which ultimately lies with the Governor, and are you willing to support special elections to fill legislative vacancies?

Improvements in General Assembly Transparency. I support all of the measures listed above for improving transparency in the General Assembly. As Governor, I will be an ally with those pushing for these measures. Because a Governor-led effort to change the ways of the legislative branch’s own procedures is likely to be sidetracked by turf battles and arguments over separation of powers, I believe that I would be most effective leading by example. Earlier this year, I shared some of my ideas for improving transparency in State government. These ideas are:

(1)   Appointing a Public Information Inspector General. At present, Maryland has no statewide agency solely responsible for promoting public access to information. Instead, we allow each administrative agency to set its own transparency standards and disclosure rules. As a result, Maryland has a spotty transparency record. To ensure the transparency necessary for true public accountability I would create an Inspector General within the Comptroller’s Office who will be charged with monitoring and ensuring that the public not only has access to public information, but has access to that information in a format that allows them to assess government performance and demand accountability. To do that, this Inspector General will be charged with collecting public information across agencies, conducting agency performance audits, ensuring user-friendly public access to the information and audits via a Transparency Portal, monitoring complaints about access to public information, and making recommendations to remove undue barriers to public information. In addition to performance audits, the Inspector General will produce an agency report card identifying areas of improvement and barriers to keeping Maryland transparent and accountable to the public.

(2)   Creating a Comprehensive Open MD Transparency Portal. Maryland collects a wealth of information, but it is not integrated in a meaningful way nor is it provided in a user-friendly manner. My Administration will consolidate existing databases across agencies into one user-friendly, easily navigated portal that will allow visitors to generate custom reports detailing government expenditures and performance across entities and programs. This will include links to pre-approved and final contracts describing the nature of the service provided, audits performed, subsidies and tax credits provided, and tax dollars spent. Additionally, the database will include a performance monitor that includes information on jobs created, revenue generated, and other performance metrics. The public will be able to do a side-by-side comparison of costs, subsidies, etc. versus jobs created, revenue generated, etc., allowing for a more accurate cost benefit analysis of various projects. Finally, the tool will allow users to track the location of all state contracts/projects sorted by legislative districts receiving incentives alongside geographical data noting unemployment and economic development needs across the state.

(3)   Adopting an Open Meeting Records Rule. My Administration will adopt an Open Meeting Records Rule modeled after the disclosure requirements of the White House Office of Information Regulatory Affairs that will promote transparency in Maryland’s rule making process. To comply with the rule, I will set up a user-friendly website that archives every meeting with outside parties (state or local governments, small business, special interests groups, etc.) when the meeting concerns state regulations under review. The information would include date of the meeting, attendees and a PDF scan of attachments provided by the outside parties.

(4)   Opening the Books. My Administration will create a database that allows the public to explore state contracts awarded to corporations alongside campaign contributions made by that corporation, its officers or employees. With this tool, Marylanders could easily discover when government agencies may be awarding contracts based on political connections.

(5)   Hosting Democracy Innovation Labs. As Governor, I will host open source innovation labs and competitions in partnership with technology leaders and hubs including the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, iStrategy, OpenGov Foundation and others to develop technological tools that enable Marylanders to make the state more accessible, transparent and accountable to Marylanders.

(6)   Providing Local Sunshine Challenge Grants. I propose to provide localities and counties infrastructure support to replicate and link local expenditure tracking to state portals. The bulk of state expenditures are distributed by localities that have incongruent reporting at best. Providing tools to local municipalities will encourage greater transparency and cost-benefit analysis at all levels of government.

Special Elections to Fill Vacancies in the General Assembly. The Maryland Constitution currently grants the central committees of the political parties the responsibility to select individuals to fill vacancies in the General Assembly. Stripping central committees of that power would require a constitutional amendment. Many believe that leaving the selection in the hands of the political parties risks a vacancy being filled for political expediency rather than the best interests of the constituency of the relevant district. Even when that is not the case, the perception that it does undermines public confidence. As Governor, I will convene a commission to study whether a constitutional amendment is warranted to allow special elections. I will also look at measures that can be taken short of a constitutional amendment to ensure greater transparency in the process and to promote more direct democracy.

 

Question:  Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the US. Unfortunately, some of our state’s wealthiest residents and most successful corporations avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Assessing luxury taxes and requiring that businesses file combined tax reports would generate revenues and help small and local businesses compete.

Would you support combined reporting and luxury taxes? Please explain briefly.

I believe strongly in creating a vibrant environment for businesses to grow and strengthen our economy, but not through measures that let them avoid tax contributions to the state, contributions that fund the very public services and institutions that can make this state attractive to businesses and the jobs they bring. According to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, if the loophole on “combined reporting” had been closed in fiscal year 2013, the state would have collected an additional $154 million dollars. This is a significant source of lost revenue that could be reinvested in our schools and infrastructure – two essential public services that our businesses rely upon to attract and retain competitive employees. Moreover, the additional revenue could be used for incentives and investments to attract and grow quality businesses. We need to close the corporate tax loophole and look for other ways to ensure that everyone pays their fair share, such as combined reporting. If we can get an honest accounting, we can collect all corporate taxes rightly owed to Maryland and avoid creating new taxes and fees that target businesses.

As for luxury taxes, I would look at each category on its own merits. My priority will be to better fund our state’s priorities through closing tax loopholes.

Question:  The juvenile justice scandal in Baltimore raises immediate concerns, and Maryland’s prison population has nearly tripled to over 22,000 since 1980. People of color are disproportionately arrested, convicted, and incarcerated. This is a civil rights issue.

Would you advocate for legislation and policies establishing creative approaches to crime and rehabilitation--alternatives to incarceration? Please explain briefly.

Of the adults under correctional control, one in 11 are African American. Approximately 12%-13% of the American population is African-American, but they make up 40.1% of the almost 2.1 million male  inmates in jail or prison (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009). This disparity demands that we take a serious look at the application of justice in the United States, that we do a federal and state examination of the structural application of sentencing and mandatory minimums on nonviolent crimes and

technical offenses during probation and parole. It also demands that we consider these facts as we develop legislation and policies to address crime, rehabilitation, and re-entry programs and make resource decisions.

As Attorney General and a prosecutor for nearly my entire career, I have seen the high public cost of under-serving the educational needs of disadvantaged communities. The failure to intervene to confront these inequities can be seen across generations, revealing a structural disadvantage that disproportionately impacts low-income families and communities of color. A strong education budget – one that benefits the hardest hit communities – is essential to removing these disadvantages.

Similarly, I think curbing crime also means shifting our approach to challenges like mental illness, substance abuse and drug addition, treating them as public health problems and not just criminal justice problems. As Governor, I will work to enroll the vast majority of prisoners who are eligible in Medicaid pre-release, to provide health coverage for them from day one of release. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100% of coverage for the first three years. Increased access to mental health and addiction treatment can reduce incarceration rates, improve health outcomes, and save the state money.

 In addition, I will reform our broken re-entry system. Right now in Maryland, re-entry fails nearly 50% of the time, meaning that we are spending $1.3 billion a year on a system that is not much more than a revolving door.

Offenders enter the system with limited educational levels and they leave with limited education levels. They enter with limited job skills and oftentimes substance abuse issues; they leave with those same issues.

The only difference is they now have a criminal record, making it even more difficult to get a job or find housing. As a result, they end up right back in the system. Below are some of my ideas for reforming the re-entry system:

(1)   Deputy Secretary of Public Safety & Correctional Services Responsible for Re-entry. To ensure re-entry considerations inform all DPSCS decisions, I will establish a Deputy Secretary of Public Safety & Correctional Services responsible for re-entry. This deputy secretary will help develop a strategic plan to reorient Maryland’s correctional system toward successful re-entry, ensure re-entry considerations inform all agency policy making, coordinate efforts with other agencies, ensure that resources align with system needs, work with national partners, as well as monitor access to critical areas of education, transitional housing, workforce placement, training certification and identification, and community resources so as to assess deficits and make resource recommendations.

(2)   Establish Re-entry Intake Centers. To assist eligible offenders with re-entry, create re­entry intake centers within each correctional facility that focus on successful re-entry from the moment of incarceration. Upon incarceration, eligible offenders would be given an assessment that provides a comprehensive overview of risks and needs. This assessment would examine core areas to map resources, referrals and support. Each resident would then work with a designated social worker familiar with the assessment. The social workers would have access to Maryland’s new offender case management system to assist with their efforts and would develop a re-entry plan with the offender and assist him in accessing evidence-based programs and services.

(3)   Establish Re-entry Courts. Re-entry courts are specialized courts that help reduce recidivism and improve public safety through the use of judicial oversight. They are designed to help offenders successfully transition back into the community. These courts integrate treatment and other social services via evidence based programs with enhanced judicial monitoring for parolees with a goal of reducing recidivism and parole revocation, thus promoting public safety. The responsibilities generally assigned to re-entry courts include reviewing offenders’ re-entry progress and problems, ordering offenders to participate in various treatment and reintegration programs, using drug and alcohol testing and other checks to monitor compliance, applying graduated sanctions to offenders who do not comply with treatment requirements, providing modest incentive rewards for sustained clean drug tests and other positive behaviors.

(4)   Annual Cost Benefit Analysis of Correctional System, Including Recidivism and Re­entry Efforts. In order to develop a functional corrections system, lawmakers and taxpayers need more robust and transparent access to information that would allow for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of correctional programs as well as the larger correctional system. An annual complete cost benefits analysis that incorporates actual costs of corrections, pensions for ancillary and actual employees, health care costs for correctional employees, in addition to re­entry program and other program costs will allow the public and lawmakers to monitor and evaluate how tax resources are being invested and the relationship between those allocations and the rate of recidivism and other crime metrics. This robust annual analysis will help ensure we are creating evidence based correctional programs that actually work and that we are adapting programs in response to metrics.

(5)   Redemption Laws: Returning Honor to Those Who Make Good Choices. The mark of a criminal conviction casts a long shadow often depriving those who make good choices from the benefit of a chance to compete for jobs, housing and services. Automated background checks by companies, housing agencies, tenant management companies have led all individuals convicted of a crime to be viewed and treated the same -- irrespective of crime, time served, offense and time since conviction. The resulting denial often comes before an applicant has the opportunity to demonstrate their work record, accomplishments and redemptive steps such as completion of drug treatment programs. In order to ensure public safety without denying those who make good choices the opportunity to compete for jobs, housing and services, we should conduct a complete review of current background check laws and rules and develop a rational system of background checks with “redemption shields.” For example, if an offender stays clean for 5 years since time served for a nonviolent conviction and successfully participates in pre-release training and programs including drug treatment and job training programs -- a redemption shield would prevent unlimited public access the individual’s criminal record.

(6)   Challenge Grants To Retain Staff and Expand Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling Programs and Treatment Across the System. Re-entry programs that include mental health support services along with substance abuse treatment and support groups radically improve outcomes for this population. Current programs are understaffed and lack sufficient resources. There is an acute shortage of social workers, case managers and other needed service providers available to work in these programs. Challenge grants that would provide various financial incentives to social workers and case managers for working in high-risk and stressful environments that serve the public would help the state properly staff re-entry programs and directly impact the reach and success of state programs targeting this vulnerable population.

(7)   First Step for First Night: Providing Transitional Housing to Ex-Offenders. A failure to secure housing during the first 90 days of release is one of the key factors that impacts return to prison. Facilities like the Re-entry Center in PG County report that success for those with transitional housing is 83 percent compared to those with no access to secure and stable housing. Yet it is very difficult to obtain housing with a criminal record and limited prospects for employment, and without resources or assets. Investing in subsidized transitional housing operated by re-entry centers, would allow ex-offenders to receive the counseling and wrap­around support to support integration needed to ensure successful re-entry.

(8)   Protecting Children of Incarcerated By Fostering Connections. Keeping social and family connections where appropriate and fostering the health of those connections needs to be prioritized to ensure those released have needed social supports upon re-entry. Sponsoring constructive family engagement programs to benefit both parents and children of the incarcerated improves outcomes. Family-dedicated recreation zones at correctional facilities, digital story-telling resources to help parents of incarcerated children remain engaged, and parent-child sports teams have been shown to motivate offenders to accelerate their completion of job skill training, drug treatment counseling programs, and education certificates including GEDs.

 (9)   Bringing E-learning and Secure Mobile Technology to Facilities. Innovative educational technologies adapted to the correctional environment offer a huge opportunity to address the educational deficiencies that so severely undermine successful re-entry. Deploying specialized e-learning tools, using tablets uniquely programmed for each offender that account for his/her specific learning needs, has the potential for successfully addressing these educational stressors at tremendous cost savings. These technologies would enable correctional facilities to more readily cultivate relationships with local community colleges and workforce training programs, providing inmates access to apprenticeship training materials as well as recognized certificate programs. The format also would allow prisons to transform libraries into a digital space, reducing costs of maintaining a brick and mortar library, while providing the offender with access to education, job applications, and legal and recreational reading materials. Appropriately monitored, these tablets also could be a tool for maintaining contact with family and other social support systems, accessing social services, and tracking progress on re-entry plans.

(10)    Convening Innovation Summits of Faith-based and NGO Providers to Help Coordinate Non-Profits Efforts Statewide. Many re-entry programs in the state depend heavily on the faith-based community for support and social networks. Coordinating these efforts and connecting them with efforts at the state level will enable us to leverage them and provide a far more robust system of support upon re-entry. To foster this coordination and cooperation, Maryland should convene government leadership and non-profit leadership at regular re-entry innovation summits where participants discuss best practices and evidence based successful programs, explore and develop opportunities for collaboration and the leveraging of resources, and more.

Question: In 2013, the General Assembly passed a law providing for same day voter registration, but only during the early voting period. The State Administrator of the Board of Elections objected to providing same day registration on Election Day itself, when the vast majority of votes are cast, claiming that it was not feasible. Do you support expanding same day voter registration to Election Day, and if so, what steps would you take to see it become law?

Based on a long-standing interpretation of the Maryland Constitution by the previous Maryland Attorney General, voter registration has to be complete before Election Day. Nevertheless, last year, my office advised the General Assembly that same day voter registration could occur during the early voting period without a constitutional amendment. I also took other measures to ensure that all entitled to vote may do so. On Election Day in 2006, after voting at my home polling place, I traveled to a polling place in Prince George’s County. There, I witnessed long lines snaking around the building as predominantly African-American voters waited hours to cast their ballots. This stood in stark contrast to my own experience voting at a polling place in Montgomery County that served a more affluent community, where voting took just a few minutes. Also in Prince George’s County, I learned that misleading fliers were distributed to citizens that were clearly designed to dissuade, mislead and outright suppress votes. Even more concerning, the deceptive tactics used that day were focused on historically disenfranchised voters.

Upon taking office in 2007, I established a Voting Irregularities Task Force to review irregularities in the 2006 election and recommend improvements to ensure voter protection. In addition, in 2008, I wrote a letter to detention facilities throughout the state, urging wardens in the strongest possible terms to make registration and voting opportunities available. This letter appears to have been successful. My Task Force received direct reports from organizations and individuals who were able to assist with registration of pre-trial detainees throughout the state. I also wrote a letter to election officials instructing them that voters whose homes were foreclosed do not lose their right to vote, thereby protecting them against a partisan effort to knock them off the voter rolls. I also testified on Capitol Hill in support of federal legislation sponsored by then Senator Barack Obama and Senator Ben Cardin that would impose stricter penalties on individuals who produce or distribute materials designed to intentionally suppress voter turnout during federal elections. And I held accountable people suppressing the vote in these ways, for example successfully prosecuting a man who distributed campaign flyers illegally, and successfully prosecuting a campaign operative, who used robocalls to suppress minority voter turnout in 2010.

As Governor, I will support efforts to further improve the ability of Marylanders to exercise their right to vote, so that all Marylanders who come to the polls to vote can do so.

Question:  Do you support enacting state campaign finance reforms and laws that curtail corporate influence on elections, and laws that enable voluntary public financing of campaigns for state office in a manner that would allow candidates to receive funding after demonstrating significant community support?

Yes, I do, and I already have a strong record of promoting campaign finance reform. In 2010, I formed the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Campaign Finance, which released a comprehensive report in January 2011 that drew major attention to our state’s outdated and in places problematic campaign finance laws, and proposed meaningful reforms. These reforms included new limits on corporate influence, a closing of the “LLC loophole” that many companies exploit, and fuller disclosure of who makes campaign contributions and how they get spent. Almost immediately thereafter, the General Assembly formed a Commission to Study Campaign Reform. In its report to the legislation offering its own reforms, the Commission stated that the report of my Advisory Committee “has been an invaluable resource for the commission and provided a foundation from which the commission built its efforts.” (Commission Report, Dec. 2012, at 1.) The General Assembly subsequently enacted the most significant campaign finance reform in Maryland in years, including closing the LLC loophole, among other things.

There is still much to be done to improve transparency and accountability in campaign finance, and as Governor I will work to carry out more of the Advisory Committee’s proposed reforms. I will also support efforts to explore voluntary public financing of campaigns, along the lines of what has been proposed in the past by Senator Jamie Raskin (a member of the Advisory Committee), and informed by what is done in places like Arizona, Connecticut, Maine.

 

Human Rights

Question:  The transgender community has been fighting to be included in statewide civil rights protections since 2007. While there are ordinances in Montgomery, Howard and Baltimore counties, as well as Baltimore city, there is no statewide law (as there is in 17 states, DC and Puerto Rico) to go along with the sexual orientation anti-discrimination law passed here in 2001. Do you support a comprehensive gender identity law for Maryland, including public accommodations protections, and will you actively lobby the legislative leadership to make it happen?

Yes, I do. I am proud that I helped lead Maryland down the path to marriage equality, testifying in support of marriage equality before any other statewide elected official in Maryland would. While same-sex marriage was still illegal in Maryland, I issued an opinion enabling same-sex couples married in other states to obtain legal recognition here, helping to set in motion a series of events that would ultimately lead to the recognition of marriage equality in Maryland. That opinion led to calls for my impeachment but I remained steadfast in my support of the effort because I knew it was the right and constitutional thing to do. And when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Prop 8 were challenged at the Supreme Court, I along with fellow Attorney Generals filed a brief calling for both laws to be struck down. I have also advocated for greater protections against domestic violence, including in the gay community. For these efforts I received Equality Maryland’s “Ally for Equality” award and the University of Baltimore OUTLaw Mark F. Scurti Award. While securing marriage equality was a significant step for civil rights, we must do more to secure the civil rights of Marylanders who are discriminated against due to their sexual identity, including banning transgender discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation. We must take these steps if we want to achieve true fairness, justice and equality all across Maryland.

Question:  After the passage of federal legislation (ACA aka Obamacare), it falls to the Maryland State government to establish “exchanges” to provide healthcare to people in our state; therefore the next governor’s actions will be critical on this issue.

Do you agree that healthcare is a human right? How would you lead efforts to improve healthcare in Maryland? Would you support legislation and policies to begin a transition to a state-financed public health system? Please explain briefly.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights confirms that we all have a right to a standard of living adequate for our well-being and that of our families, which includes medical care. I agree with President Obama’s statement that the “government’s role is to foster the basic underpinning we call affording and accessing health care, either on its own, partnering with the private sector, or to provide citizens with multiple avenues to acquire and maintain health. ... Affordable health care is not some privilege just for the few. It’s a basic right that everybody should be able to enjoy.”

I strongly support the Affordable Care Act, and to fight legal challenges to the ACA, my office wrote the lead brief on behalf of states in the United States Supreme Court successfully defending the constitutionality of Obamacare, and ensuring that all workers have access to healthcare. Indeed, our brief was cited multiple times by Justice Ginsburg in her concurring opinion, which criticized the majority for threatening the ability of the federal government to cooperate with states to provide healthcare for their citizens through a minimum coverage provision. (NFIB v. Sebelius, 132 S. Ct. 2566, 2617 & 2628 (2012).) As Governor, I will continue to defend Obamacare and ensure its implementation.

As Attorney General, I have worked hard to advocate for consumers’ healthcare needs. For example, my office’s Health Education and Advocacy Unit has helped many consumers whose health plan has refused to cover a medical procedure or to pay for a medical service that has already been provided. That Unit recently won a major grant that is being used to help Marylanders make informed health care decisions.

 As Governor, I will work to ensure that all Marylanders have access to affordable, quality healthcare. This means working to make Maryland Health Connection a success, and finding ways to close other gaps in healthcare provision, including publicly financed options for expanded care to those in need. It also means working in close partnership with the federal government, so that the costs associated with healthcare can be shared effectively.

Question:  In 2013, a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana passed the State Senate with 30 votes. The chair of the House Judiciary Committee did not allow the bill to be voted on either in committee or on the floor of the House of Delegates. If this bill is put forward while you are governor, will you support it and if so, what specific actions will you take to ensure the bill’s passage in the General Assembly?

As a prosecutor, I have seen the way that drug trade can ravage communities, but I have also seen that our country’s obsession with drug offenses has led us to prioritize prosecuting even low-level drug offenses over violent crimes. We need to have sufficient tools at our disposal to hold accountable those who fuel the violence in the criminal drug trade but we must not abuse those tools to needlessly incarcerate nonviolent drug users, particularly when those tools lead to racial disparities in incarceration.

During my tenure as State’s Attorney, nonviolent first offenders charged with only simple possession were diverted to treatment. During my tenure as governor, I will work with the legislature to find ways to continue to keep the focus of our law enforcement community on violent offenders.

Question:  Maryland’s minimum wage, currently tied to the federal minimum wage, is $7.25/hour.

Economic analysts across the political spectrum agree that it is extremely difficult for a family to survive in Maryland on this level of income. In 2013, a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10/hour failed to pass a House committee vote. Do you support an increase in the minimum wage, and, if so, what is the hourly wage that you would recommend that the General Assembly adopt?

Not only do I support increasing the minimum wage, but I consider it a priority. Clearly the time has come to raise the minimum wage here in Maryland. While the economy shows signs of recovery, too many working families are struggling. We can and we must do better. Raising the minimum wage is one step we can take to strengthen the middle class, which is fundamental to growing our economy here in Maryland.

The current state minimum wage of $7.25 is out of step with inflation and the cost of living. A worker earning minimum wage would have to work 88 hours a week to afford housing. The take-home pay for a full-time minimum wage worker is $15,000 a year. For working families, this is several thousand dollars below the poverty line.

 Additionally, this burden is more often felt by working women, who hold 60 percent of minimum wage jobs. They earn $7.25 in hourly wages or the minimum $3.63 hour in jobs such as foodservice where tips are expected but not guaranteed. These low-wage jobs represent the fastest growing segment of job growth since the recession. Increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour will provide economic stability for workers, as well as increase performance and retention.

Research on the restaurant industry from 2011 has shown that increasing wages does not hurt overall employment, and it reduces turnover as workers decide to stay longer. Further research of small business owners underscores the positive impact of raising the wage. A poll of small business owners agreed that increasing the minimum wage would help increase demand for their products as well as alleviate reliance and pressure on taxpayer funded assistance programs that supplement low wage earnings. As wages grow, workers are more stable and productive and less likely to leave. When rhetoric gives way to reason, business owners can see the net effect on the bottom line is positive.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have already increased the minimum wage along with a handful of local municipalities that have local ordinances mandating wage standards above both federal and state policies.

Question: A bill requiring employers to provide at least seven days of sick leave per year received an unfavorable report in the House Economic Matters Committee in 2013. Do you support this bill, and what if any improvements to the bill would you recommend as governor?

Federal law currently requires that employees be given as much as 13 weeks of unpaid leave in case of illness or other conditions of the employee or a close family member. Federal law, however, only applies to employers with more than 50 employees. Very few Maryland businesses meet this requirement, such that the vast majority of Maryland workers get no family leave protection at all. In 2013, a bill to provide six weeks of unpaid family leave to employees of Maryland businesses with at least 15 employees did not pass. Do you support this legislation, and if so, what would you do as governor to see it become law?

I believe strongly that we have to find a way to address the growing segment of our workforce that does not have paid sick leave, which may include legislation. People should not have to choose between their economic security and their health. Particularly at a time when so many members of our workforce are single parents whose children rely on them for their own health and welfare, or caregivers whose parents or other relatives rely on them to help pay hospital bills, we must find ways to enable our workforce to be productive without jeopardizing their health or the health of those who rely on them.

Finding an approach that will stem the lost wages and impact on our local economy, support the health and needs of working parents, and recognize the constraints on small businesses is essential. Accordingly, the contours and specifics of paid sick and family leave legislation will be important. Audits from the District of Columbia and other municipalities that have recently enacted paid sick leave legislation will be instructive in crafting sound policy and accompanying legislation.

 

The Environment and Transportation

There is a nationwide boom in hydraulic fracking in America today, giving us a greater degree of energy independence than we’ve seen in years. However, there are serious environmental consequences to such drilling, and there has been a moratorium on fracking in Maryland to give the government time to study the current state of the art.

 What are your thoughts about fracking in Maryland, in anticipation of the government study? Do you believe we should prioritize fracking or spend our resources in developing green energy sources? How serious must the environmental degradation be for you to ban fracking? Are you concerned about the future of western Maryland’s tourist and farming industries if fracking is permitted?

The environmental and economic impact of fracking is currently being studied in Maryland. The decision whether to allow fracking must be guided by science. There are significant public health concerns that must be considered and environmental safeguards that must be upheld if the State is to allow any hydraulic fracturing. We have seen that fracking in other states has been linked with significant health and environmental damage, including compromising drinking water. We cannot allow that to happen in Maryland, or spoil our other natural resources that are important to the State’s tourism industry.

Indeed, although fracking is currently not allowed in Maryland, its implementation in neighboring states has already threatened our State’s natural resources, and I took swift action when it did. In 2011, a fracking well blowout spilled fracking fluid into a tributary that feeds into the Susquehanna River, the source of nearly half of the Chesapeake Bay’s fresh water and the drinking water for roughly 6.2 million people, and a home to sensitive Bay fish populations such as the American shad and striped bass. Exposure to unknown quantities of potentially toxic and carcinogenic fracking chemicals put the Bay, its wildlife and millions of Maryland and Pennsylvania residents at risk. My office filed a Notice of Intent to Sue the company responsible for endangering the health of Maryland residents and the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay, and our enforcement action led to a $500,000 donation to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for water quality monitoring within the river basin. It also compelled the company to provide documentation of the circumstances surrounding the blowout and its impact on adjacent tributaries of the Susquehanna, and to implement certain best practices designed to minimize the effect that its drilling activities have on water quality and the environment.

Here in Maryland, I have already been active in educating citizens in the risks of fracking. At my direction, my staff has met with interested citizens, attended public meetings to educate individuals about the issues, and created educational materials to be sure that Marylanders know how to protect their interests, especially regarding complicated leases of their land to oil and gas companies. I also put together an internal working group of 30 assistant attorneys general representing more than 20 separate divisions and units within the Office of Attorney General (OAG) to provide support and share information on the Marcellus Shale and other natural gas and drilling issues as they arise. In addition, members of the OAG have been assisting the members of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission, tasked with making findings and issuing reports on the feasibility and safety of fracking, the last of which is due in 2014.

Among my policy priorities is supporting alternative energy industries and industries that promote emissions reductions, such as electric vehicle manufacturing and associated technologies. I will also commit to empowering existing business owners to reduce their contributions to air pollution, such as plant upgrades and programs to improve connectivity to mass transit.

To support these goals we need a trained and skilled workforce that is prepared to deploy services and meet the needs of growing “green” businesses. I will work to increase the workforce development training opportunities for low-skilled workers and support apprenticeships as part of contracts and tax incentives offered to new green businesses that seek to advance these goals in partnership with the state. Increasing our use of alternative energy will reduce carbon emissions and generate energy-efficiencies in our homes and businesses that will produce an immediate savings. When connected to State projects, they will save taxpayer money.

This past summer I outlined seven renewable energy proposals to fight pollution in the Chesapeake Bay:

(1)   InnoBAYtion Grants for alternative energy projects that reduce Bay pollution by design.

(2)   Credit multipliers for utility company purchases of renewable energy from Bay watershed farm waste.

(3)   Encouragement of “aggregate net metering” tied to manure-to-energy projects.

(4)   Support for long-term power purchase agreements for community-based chicken-litter-to-energy projects.

(5)   Farm Renewable Energy Credits (FRECs).

(6)   Voluntary “Farm Power” Green Pricing and Green Marketing Programs.

(7)   Regional agreements on manure-to-energy.

Question: A recent editorial in The New York Times related to their mayoral campaign which focused on public transportation, said, “Few things more directly affect the quality of a day, the stability and prosperity of a life, than the ability to get to work. And few are more vital to the larger economy — of the city and region — than the transportation system that makes it possible. Veins and arteries: everybody needs them.”

Clearly this statement applies to Maryland as well, primarily to both Baltimore and the DC suburbs. What are your plans, now that the gas tax has been raised, to prioritize public transportation projects such as the Purple Line, CCT and Baltimore Red Line? Do you support plans to extend Metro to BWI as it is being extended to Dulles? Do you have any thoughts on the institution of high-speed or next-generation maglev rail in the northeast corridor? How will you seek to work with the Governor of Virginia and Mayor of DC to craft a truly useful regional transportation plan for the 21st century?

I strongly believe that we must shift to a transit–preferred transportation policy rather than road-centric. My priorities are the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway. I am also committed to increasing mass transit options for Baltimore City. Thus, while I believe that we must move forward with a project like the Red Line, I believe we must examine whether the current proposal is the right one to provide the best transit options. The impacted community has raised valid concerns that should be considered. In addition, I have concerns that in just five years the project costs have already increased another $1 billion dollars. We have to ask ourselves whether the federal government will support such a project.

I am also interested in innovative solutions for improving mass transit, like high-speed rail and maglev rail, and as Governor will do what I can to modernize our state’s mass transit system so that more people can move more quickly to and from more jobs. This requires a regional approach, given that our urban areas do not grow neatly within municipal, county, and state boundaries. The DC metro area has transit needs that span Maryland, Virginia, and DC, and the Baltimore City metro area has transit needs that expand well out into Baltimore County. I will week greater regional cooperation on this important set of issues.

Question: Several states are considering passage of a GMO labeling bill which would mandate the labeling of products containing genetically modified ingredients. Would you be supportive of such legislation?

As our state’s chief enforcer of consumer protection laws, I strongly believe in the importance of ensuring that consumers are not deceived, or otherwise left uneducated about the products they buy, especially when elements of those products may put their health at risk. In this vein I have brought enforcement actions against drug makers for inadequate labeling, and I have also supported legislative efforts to improve labeling. For example, in 2010 I joined with Attorneys General from 11 other States in filing comments with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its proposed national voluntary front-of-package food-labeling program. In our comments we urged the FDA to consider adopting a uniform labeling program for the front of food packages, to ensure that it provides unbiased nutritional information and encourages food manufacturers to offer healthier products, and we further urged the FDA to require food package labeling to provide complete nutritional information – both good and bad – to help consumers make informed choices about the foods that they buy for themselves and their families.

When labeling does not go far enough, I have also fought to remove harmful substances from products, and even fought to remove some products from store shelves entirely. I led our state’s effort to remove the carcinogen arsenic from chicken feed, which was making its way into the chicken we eat, and – through chicken waste – into our Bay. I also succeeded in getting major alcoholic beverage manufacturers to stop selling dangerous alcoholic energy drinks that were being marketed to young adults and were putting their health and even life at risk.

If GMOs are shown to pose health risks that consumers need to know about, I will support efforts to enable consumers to learn which products contain them.

Question:  Recently, after a series of public hearings, Takoma Park, MD's City Council (as well as the Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park) passed regulations prohibiting cosmetic use of pesticides on lawns and landscapes. Since the use of pesticides is directly linked to several forms of cancer, as well as endocrine disruption, and is detrimental to the fish and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, will you support and advocate for:

  1. The elimination of cosmetic use of pesticides on state public land, schools, highways, parks and other government facilities?
  2. Encourage Maryland county and municipal governments to follow the example of Takoma Park and ban its use?
  3. Begin a public education campaign to discourage the routine cosmetic use of pesticides around homes and gardens.

I have been a state leader on efforts to reduce the cosmetic use of products – like lawn fertilizer – that have impacts on the health of the Bay. I helped pass legislation that reduces nitrogen and phosphorus content in lawn fertilizer and reduces phosphorus content in commercial dishwashing detergent. This past year, I supported significant pesticide legislation that ultimately would have benefited the Chesapeake Bay. As Governor I will encourage county and municipal governments to reduce the use of products that threaten public health and the health of the Bay, and will be happy to foster greater public education on ways to be better stewards of our state’s natural resources.

Question:  Montgomery County enacted legislation in 2011 that placed a five-cent charge on each paper or plastic carryout bag provided by retail establishments to customers at the point of sale, pickup or delivery. Retailers retain 1 cent of each five-cent for the bags they sell. The revenues from this charge are deposited into the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge fund. This effectively shifts the burden of litter clean up costs from taxpayers to consumers, who have a choice to avoid the 5-cent charge by bringing reusable bags.

Do you favor extending the Montgomery County “bag tax” statewide?

An industry consortium led by Owens-Illinois (glass) and Alcoa (aluminum) and major state environmental organizations e.g. the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, strongly favors a Maryland “bottle bill,” legislation which generally requires a 5 cent deposit on sealed metal, glass or plastic containers. Enactment of this legislation would reduce litter, create recycling jobs and supplement ongoing recycling programs. Do you favor enactment of a 5 cent per container “bottle bill” in

Each year since I have served as Attorney General, I join members of my staff and we spend a day picking up trash along the Middle River in Baltimore. I can tell you first-hand that plastic bags are a significant portion of our landfills, and far too often end up on our streams and waterways. Sound environmental policy warrants a move toward reducing plastic bag use. As Governor, I would closely study the impact of the bag fees imposed in Montgomery County and in the District of Columbia to determine whether that is the route the State should take. Whether it is a similar plan or another incentive, there is no doubt we must take steps to reduce disposal bag use.

I also favor taking steps to increase the recycling of beverage containers. Right now only 25 percent of containers are recycled, which is unacceptable. Other states that have enacted so-called bottle bills have seen their recycling rates significantly increase and their litter decrease. Accordingly, I favor a similar approach in Maryland. I also favor public education initiations to encourage recycling. As Governor, I would also work with the legislature to create food scrap composting facilities, which the General Assembly has been studying this past year.

 

Education and the Economy

Question:  To address crushing higher education costs for students, the Oregon legislature recently unanimously enacted “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” higher education funding legislation. The Oregon legislation directs the state’s education commission to develop a plan for consideration by the legislature in 2015 under which students would pay nothing for tuition while attending college, paying instead 3% of their income each year for the next two decades or so to cover the costs of future students. Education loans from big banks would no longer be necessary. Do you favor similar legislation in Maryland? If not, what other approaches to reducing higher education costs for Maryland students do you favor?

Despite an award-winning public education system, Maryland faces an achievement gap. What approaches would you support to address the achievement gap and maintain education excellence in Maryland? Please explain briefly.

 As a progressive state we can be proud of our investment in and commitment to our education system, but our pride in this achievement and investment demands that we acknowledge our biggest moral stain: Maryland shamefully has the second largest minority achievement gap in the country for K-12 education.

It's true that there are great, award-winning successes within our state's public education system, and we should be proud of those, but there are also shameful failures within that same system. For example, in Baltimore - our biggest city - 80% of high school graduates need remedial math, 70% need remedial reading, and only 6% of ninth graders will actually graduate from college. We must do better by our children.

That’s why closing this achievement gap will be one of my most important causes. I will take this on. We will get this done. And the way to get it done is not to adopt a single one-size-fits-all approach; the causes of the achievement gap vary depending on which school district a child is in and what struggles a child is enduring. The way to get it done is to pursue a varied package of approaches. These include comprehensive wrap-around of services for kids who are falling behind in their education to ensure that we are using state resources to remove other impediments to academic achievement - from transportation to healthcare to mental health services to housing. They also include partnerships with families and communities to promote learning and confront barriers to early childhood education. And they include interventions such as bridging after-school and extended summer programs, strengthening the professional development and career ladders to ensure we retain exceptional teachers, expanding access and availability of pre-K programs, and developing real-time data driven models to inform planning and instruction.

I have used this wrap-around strategy to good success to address challenges families face when interacting with the justice system, creating the state's first Family Justice Center. As governor, I will adapt this strategy to challenges our children and their parents and guardians face in pursuing a quality public education. We must be comprehensive in our push to close the shameful gap that exists in our schools.

Consistent with this strategy - one that recognizes that academic achievement is shaped by multiple factors - I will work to ensure that our state does not keep using testing standards that set unrealistic goals and incentivize schools to focus on testing instead of teaching. Measurement and accountability are important, but not at the expense of genuine, equitable educational attainment.

Lastly, understanding that Maryland’s school districts are largely independent entities that retain significant control on how they address problems and dedicate resources -- one of my most important roles as Governor will be to not only champion resources for our schools but also to appoint experts and leaders who are the best-in-class from across the state and nation to support our efforts to confront this serious problem.

Question: Inspired by the Bank of North Dakota, legislators in several states, including Maryland, have proposed the creation of a state bank. In North Dakota, the nine-decade old bank serves as a depository for all state tax collection and fees, and deposits are reinvested in North Dakota in the form of loans, thereby enhancing the availability of credit in the state. Do you support setting up and funding a commission to study the feasibility of establishing a state bank in Maryland?

I support efforts to spur robust reinvestment in our communities, and to ensure that credit does not dry up for our state’s working families and those who are working to make conditions better for their neighborhoods. Over the last several years, I have worked to address the harms created by the foreclosure crisis, and that work has informed my support for developing a well-functioning system of community banks in Maryland. These banks are often better positioned than the big banks to assess the risks and opportunities of investing in neighborhoods, and have more of a stake in neighborhood success than banks that are far removed from the actual community they are serving.

In the spirit of finding more ways to ensure that our state’s banking sector has a stake in the local community outcomes of its loans and other financial services, as Governor, I will support a commission to study the feasibility of establishing a state bank in Maryland.

Question: The State of Connecticut recently enacted policies aimed at “diversifying or converting defense-related industries to other nonmilitary products, emphasizing environmentally sustainable and civilian product manufacturing.” Would you advocate for similar legislation and policies? Please explain briefly.

Maryland is home to many military bases and I am proud of the work done by our men and women in uniform and their families. I am also proud of the excellent research they have done that has lead to improvements in protections to our state, such as research on hydrodynamic models that has helped us anticipate major storm events that threaten to uproot Maryland families and destroy Bay shoreline. I of course want our state economy to thrive as much in peacetime as in wartime, and I know the Maryland members of our armed services feel the same. For this reason I support efforts to ensure that the nonmilitary sectors of our economy are strong and growing. This includes efforts to help innovative research that begins in the military sector – research connected to fighting disease, improving quality of life for the injured, and more – to move into the nonmilitary sectors, through improved tech transfers and other supports for research-led economic growth. And in all of my economic efforts, I plan to include environmental sustainability by design, so as Governor I will advocate for measures to move our economy in an increasingly sustainable direction. This includes supporting the alternative energy economy (see Answer 11 above).

Question: Please provide specifics on how you would promote job creation and job retraining in Maryland. Are there changes in the Maryland tax system which may be appropriate to encourage job creation and job retraining?

Do you support the right of Maryland’s private and public sector workers to have collective bargaining rights and union representation?

Job creation/retraining. To be our best Maryland we need to graduate students who can meet the demands of the current job market as well as tomorrow’s job market. But there is more to my commitment to fully fund a quality education for all students than how it benefits the Maryland economy. I believe one of the best weapons we have to combat the inequities that prevent economic mobility is a quality education system for all students. In other words, it is both fiscally sound and socially just to increase our investments in educating our children, and to directly target the structural barriers that prevent our school systems from working effectively and equitably.

In addition, this past summer I outlined my “Build it in Maryland” plan to create jobs:

(1)   Buy Maryland: Maryland Preferred Procurements and Grants. Revise procurement and grant policies for all State agencies to give preference to goods and services manufactured or provided by Maryland businesses, if they are competitively priced and of comparable quality.

(2)   Industrial Business Zones ("IBZ") Program. Using existing manufacturing footprints, identify industrial business zones across the state to facilitate the growth of Maryland's manufacturing hubs. Given the space requirements for industrial operations, land zoned for manufacturing businesses under the IBZ program would be preserved for this purpose and not be rezoned for commercial or residential development. Within each zone Maryland would (i) subsidize workforce training programs for manufacturing-related jobs, (ii) provide tax credits for manufacturing companies that move into vacant commercial or industrial property, and (iii) award “manufacturing assistance grants” for capital projects that improve production, efficiency and competitiveness of Maryland exports.

(3)   Maryland Lifecycle Manufacturing Credit. Support Maryland businesses benefiting from the current Research & Development Tax Credit by extending them a tax credit for manufacturing those products in Maryland. This additional manufacturing tax incentive rewards innovators by lowering their cost of producing products as they transition from research to production and ensures Maryland reaps the economic and job creation benefits of their research. These incentives allow our entrepreneurs to reinvest in new ideas and new technology, they ensure the economic and job benefit of the research incentives remain in Maryland, and they help Maryland retain top talent whose ingenuity can fuel job growth for years to come.

(4)   Green/Renewable Energy Tax Credit. Provide tax increment financing or tax abatements for Maryland businesses renovating vacant industrial buildings to manufacture renewable energy systems. The renovations must primarily support the production of components or sub-assembly parts for qualified biomass, hydropower, solar or wind-based electricity generating plants. To ensure that the tax benefits only accrue while the spaces are used to develop Maryland renewable energy capacity, the State will negotiate long-term restrictive covenants that prevent neglect or misuse.

(5)   Maryland Small Business Manufacturing Initiative. Establish a competitive pilot program to prepare twelve small and medium-sized enterprises ("SMEs") to manufacture their goods in Maryland for export within 12 months. This fast-tracked exporting program will provide each SME with a $25,000 grant and export assistance from the Department of Business and Economic Development to refine their business plans in order to target overseas markets.

(6)   Summer Workforce Training for Students. Develop a summer workshop for high school and college students to learn the skills needed to succeed in the high-tech manufacturing industry. In addition to in-class “STEM” curriculum, students will gain exposure to careers in engineering and manufacturing through tours of Maryland factories and R&D facilities, as well as presentations by Maryland entrepreneurs and SME owners. By exposing students to 21st century careers, we build upon the STEM education standards that will make them competitive at home and abroad.

(7) Made in Maryland. Launch a digital media campaign, including an online marketplace, led by the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development, to promote Maryland-made products and businesses. Supporting a statewide "buy local" campaign and online market not only raises the profile of local manufacturers, but also supports the sustainability of Maryland commerce. A dynamic, consumer-facing website highlights the diversity in our businesses and the quality of their goods, all while fostering Maryland pride.

Collective bargaining. As a leader, I believe it is my responsibility to give voice to the voiceless. It is why I became a prosecutor, it is why I became Attorney General, and now it is why I am running for Governor. All my jobs have been about protecting Marylanders. I take that obligation seriously whether it is protecting the victims of crime, protecting consumers, protecting homeowners, or protecting kids, and to me protecting Marylanders means protecting the hardworking families that make up Labor and protecting their right to be heard. I believe strongly in the right of workers to organize, identify issues of concern, and engage in collective bargaining. As public leaders we must protect the rights of workers to speak with one voice to remedy unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, ensure fair pay and benefits, and confront injustice in the workplace.

As Governor, I will work to protect the interests and ability of workers, including public education employees, to organize and bargain collectively at their place of employment. I will be a vocal and visible supporter of the rights of employees, especially those who are the most vulnerable in our labor force. Hourly workers who have entry-level skills are often the easiest members of our workforce to intimidate and threaten. The labor statistics underscore this point -- the majority of employees in hourly wage service jobs are women and recent immigrants who are more easily threatened with loss of job security when challenging unfair workplace practices and unacceptable behaviors. Raising ones voice to air a grievance or challenge a management decision takes courage. The wave of anti-union sentiment in our country underscores how difficult it can and often is for employees who earn a fraction of their chief executives. Unjust practices in the workplace undermine the values that we seek to protect in our economy.

As Attorney General, I have worked hard to protect the rights of workers who are forming unions and engage in collective bargaining, and as Governor I look forward to doing the same with the added scope and significance that office brings. As the saying goes, “past as prologue.” In 2012, SEIU 500 came to me when they sought to organize the adjunct professors at American University (AU), of which I am one. Without hesitation, I offered my assistance – my photo front and center on the literature used to marshal support for their organizing efforts. I also reached out to some of my more well-known and highly regarded colleagues at AU to encourage their support. Today, I am proud member of SEIU.

That is not the only time I have stood up for workers trying to organize. Quite recently, ahead of an election for representation at the new casino at Rocky Gap, UFCW called to report that the employer had placed anti-union fliers on worksite bulletin boards. They needed my help. I immediately reached out, learned we had someone on site for a system demonstration and was able to go directly to company leadership that day to get the fliers removed. I then made a personal call to the company president to vouch for UFCW and encourage him and the company to approach the relationship as a partnership.

Even more recently, SEIU 500 reached out to us when new management took over at the Center for Social Change and there was concern that the new management would not recognize recent elections and negotiate with SEIU. I reached out to management, requested that they meet with SEIU 500, arranged the meeting, facilitated the first meeting, fostered trust among the different parties, checked in on progress and successful negotiations resulted. And just months ago, I refused to cross a picket line in front of the Montgomery County Democratic Gala.

Upon becoming Attorney General, I immediately established the first Attorney General’s Labor Council, convening labor leaders from around the state for regular meetings to hear the issues of paramount concern to labor in Maryland, identify areas where our office could be helpful and share information about our work that could be helpful to labor. As a result of these meetings, we championed various pieces of legislation, advocated for more inspectors/investigators at DLLR, got much need information out about the mortgage foreclosure settlement as well as information about how to use our office to fight insurance claim denials, as well as so much more. I also established a single point of contact for labor’s legal questions and concerns to ensure consistency of advice, as well as a single point of contact for policy concerns.

As Governor, I look forward to continuing this tradition.

 

Housing

Question: Nearly one third of Maryland residents live in rental housing, and the number of Maryland renters increases every year. Yet since 2000, the median rent for Maryland residents has increased approximately two-thirds, pricing many families out of their homes. In 2013, a bill was introduced in the House of Delegates to stabilize rent increases at 5% per year and require landlords to provide a just cause for refusing to renew a lease. Do you support this bill? What other actions would you take to promote affordable housing and expand renters' rights?

I support the right of local jurisdictions in Maryland to determine whether rent stabilization is needed in their area. As Attorney General, my office has assisted hundreds of tenants who were having trouble with their landlords.

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published this page 2013-10-29 14:46:58 -0400