These are some of the issues that are important to me, to the people of Maryland, and to the American population as a whole. These are the principles on which I will base my support or sponsorship of legislation.
Strengthening Public Schools
We do not have a strong economy unless we have a well-educated workforce. The schools problem is interconnected with several issues. Fixing it improves the middle class, the economy, crime, and welfare spending, among other things. If we want peaceful, happy lives we need to educate as many children as we can.
There are some areas in Maryland where schools are doing just fine. Baltimore County has a high school graduation rate of about 81%. There's certainly room for improvement, but Baltimore County is not doing too bad. If you drive down 83, our neighbors in Baltimore City have an average high school graduation rate of just 56%. That means 44% of children are not going to get a high school diploma. That means 44% of children are going to have a hard time finding decent paying jobs. If we leave things the way they are, we are sentencing 44% of children to a life of poverty and unfortunately, sometimes crime. To add, 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts. If we want to save money in the state of Maryland, shorting funds on public education is not the way to do it. We end up paying for them anyway. It seems like such an inhumane and inefficient system. In this incredibly wealthy state, in this incredibly wealthy country, we have the resources to deliver a decent public education to every Maryland child.
Scaling Back Maryland's Dependence on Fossil Fuels
Climate change is a jobs killer. We need to scale back Maryland’s dependence on fossil fuels for energy. Even if we increase funds for public schools, even if we implement a more equitable tax policy, even if we do all the things we should do in a modern society, none of that matters if our grandchildren are breathing in smog. What we can do in Maryland is be a good neighbor and lead by example.
We must encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior. We need to charge a fee for carbon dioxide production, and we need to return the fee to the people. That money can be used to invest in clean energy: solar, wind, and hydroelectricity. Any money leftover can be used to build better roads and schools. A few states have tried, but no state in the US currently has a carbon tax. We have the opportunity in 2019 to lead the way.
We must protect the Chesapeake. There is a disappearing world of biodiversity happening in our bay, and it affects animal life, human life, and commerce. We must enforce the laws that were supposed to prevent or discourage pollution and runoff into the bay. We must impose a ban on styrofoam and charge a $0.05 tax on plastic bags to name a few things. We can do it, if we act boldly.
Expanding Access to Affordable Healthcare
We live in a country where lots of people don't have health insurance. Even after the ACA, there are still people who don't have health insurance. But the idea that the most vulnerable people in this incredibly rich society are not going to have access to basic healthcare is alarming. The federal government has made it clear that they intend undermine the law and throw more Americans off of healthcare in favor of providing tax breaks for themselves and their rich friends. Millions of Americans across the country and hundreds of thousands of Marylanders are at risk or have already lost their healthcare coverage.
We must ensure that every Maryland woman, child, and man has access to affordable healthcare. Furthermore, small businesses should not have to bear the burden of administering healthcare plans for their employees. Entrepreneurs already have a hard enough time navigating regulations and getting their business off the ground; there’s no need to add to the difficulties they already face. If elected, not only will I support or sponsor bills that expand affordable healthcare coverage, I will convince other delegates to do the same.
Strengthening the Middle Class
Maryland is the wealthiest state in America, and yet 200,000 children still live in poverty. Mothers and fathers are working in excess of 40 hours a week on minimum wage and still living in poverty. Government services like food stamps and housing vouchers make up the difference so that families can provide food and shelter for their children. Maryland's minimum wage will reach $10.10 per hour in July 2018, but that is not good enough. I will support or sponsor legislation that brings Maryland's minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. I will also support legislation that protects and expands union coverage and protects workers' rights to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining. Livable wages and unions are vital to strengthening the middle class.
Promoting Small Business in Maryland
Maryland’s business climate can be improved. We have many talented people in Maryland who can contribute to our economy. There's no reason we shouldn't do everything we can to reduce obstacles to their businesses. Licensing reform including relaxing state requirements for smaller startup businesses and providing more resources to help new businesses navigate state and local regulations. Regulations are necessary to protect the consumer. We must help aspiring entrepreneurs navigate these regulations. Also, by expanding state support of health coverage for all Marylanders we can ease the burden currently carried by employers. Additionally, improving our higher education system by working towards free tuition at public colleges and universities increases our talent pool and makes Maryland more marketable to companies.
Common Sense Gun Laws
People deserve to feel safe. I support background checks and banning any type of firearm from criminals, the mentally ill, and anyone with a history of domestic violence. I understand people in rural areas have different views toward gun ownership than those in densely populated urban areas. I believe in a balanced solution that promotes gun rights for those who want to possess them while ensuring their safe and secure use so that they cannot be used to harm fellow human beings. No matter what, nobody should have access to a weapon that is designed to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time as possible. Hunting rifles and certain shotguns are fine. Assault weapons and large magazines are not. Moreover, we must plug the gun show loophole which allows private sellers to sell firearms to private buyers without background checks. Of course, this will not prevent all gun violence, but it's a good start. We have a crisis in addressing mental health illness in this country. When people are hurting and are prepared to do hurt others, we must do something immediately. We do not have a reliable system in place right now, and we should.
A Transparent and Accessible Democracy
We must ensure that politicians are accountable to their constituents, not their donors. That's why we need to transition to public funding of campaigns for state office. Moreover by publicly funding candidates for state office, we expand the candidate pool for citizen-legislators.
We also need to make it easier for people to vote. If you've ever wondered why we have Election Day on Tuesdays, it's because 200 years ago Congress needed to pick a day for people to vote. We were an agrarian society and traveled by horse and buggy. Farmers needed a full day to get to the county seat, vote, and a get back home - all without interfering with the three days of worship. That left Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but Wednesdays were market days. So then that left Tuesday. The laws that made it convenient for Americans to vote in the 19th century are now an inconvenience for many Americans in the 21st century. I support giving people the day off on Election Day. In most other democratic societies around the world, elections are held on a weekend day or a voting holiday. We can choose from a few options. We can either move our Election Day be on Veterans Day which is already a bank holiday, we can celebrate Veterans Day on the first Tuesday of November by voting, or we can simply move Election Day to the weekend.