By Nickolai Sukharev, Suzanne Pollak, Neal Earley, and Kathleen Stubbs
The annual session of the Maryland General Assembly will begin in Annapolis Jan. 9 and, as usual, The Sentinel contacted the members of the county’s legislative delegation to find out what they think will take up the most time in the statehouse.
We asked each legislator about their priorities and what they believe is the toughest job ahead of them. Here is our coverage:
Del. Anne Kaiser (D14)
Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kaiser said one of the main priorities for the General Assembly will be making adjustments to Maryland’s healthcare laws. Since Congress repealed the individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance, Kaiser said the General Assembly will work on a piece of legislation that will reintroduce the individual mandate for Maryland.
For the upcoming session, Kaiser said her priorities are infrastructure and education. As a member of the Kirwan Commission, Kaiser said the General Assembly will work to expand pre-kindergarten education — which is one of the recommendations of the body — but will hold off on adjusting how the state allocates school-construction dollars, which is the most contentious issue the commission has studied.
Kaiser said the General Assembly could spend about $300-million in funding for school programs around the state, most of which are recommendations from the Kirwan Commission.
“There is no doubt we have school-construction needs. Right now, the focus is what happens inside the school building,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser also said that transportation infrastructure is a major priority for her coming into the session, as the Maryland Department of Transportation officials are considering alternatives to plans to expand I-270.
Del. Eric Luedtke (D14)
As chair of the Education Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, Luedtke said school-construction funding is a major priority for him. The General Assembly is not likely to change the school-construction funding formulas in the 2019 session, as it awaits a recommendation from the Kirwan Commission.
But for Luedtke, there could be a new way for the state to get revenue for school-construction funding — marijuana legalization. Luedtke, a supporter of legalizing recreational cannabis, said he will push for legalizing it in the upcoming session, adding that revenue from such taxation could help fund public schools in the state.
“It’s potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue,” Luedtke said. “I think we can capture and use it to fund our schools and think now is the time we can do it.”
Luedtke said he also wants to fix Maryland’s Dream Act, which allows undocumented immigrants to have in-state tuition at state universities if they graduate from a public high school and complete a 2-year program at a community college. Luedtke wants to remove the community college prerequisite for undocumented immigrants from the Maryland Dream Act.
Del. Pam Queen (D14)
Beginning in the new session, Queen will move from the House Judiciary Committee to the Economic Matters Committee, which, she said, interests her more.
In the next session, Queen said she plans again to sponsor a bill that would provide additional benefits from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP, during the summer months, to families with kids. Queen said during the summer months, when kids are on summer vacation, low-income families are in greater need of government-paid meals, as children are not receiving the free and reduced-cost meals from school.
Last session, Queen sponsored a similar bill, but it failed to pass the General Assembly. Queen said she is hoping that this year it can make it through both the House and Senate, or Gov. Hogan can make room for it in his budget.
“This is to just do that in the summer months for families that are receiving the SNAP benefits anyway,” she said.
In the hope of reducing gender-pay discrimination in the state, Queen will co-sponsor a bill that will prohibit employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their pay history. Queen said that since women generally make less than men, they are at a disadvantage when a prospective employer asks about a female applicant’s pay history, saying she knows this from personal experience.
“I’ve had it happen to me personally, where the job asked me to provide a W2 before they make me an offer,” she said.
In addition to her personal legislative priorities, Queen said she supports funding a plan to expand pre-kindergarten education in the state, something that the state Commission on Innovation and Excellent in Education, otherwise known as the Kirwan Commission, has recommended.
Sen. Brian Feldman (D15)
During the past year, Feldman has led state commissions on healthcare and has said he plans to make adjusting the state’s healthcare laws a priority in the next session. As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Feldman will lead the way on several healthcare bills.
First will be a bill to reintroduce the mandate for residents to buy health insurance. In 2017, Congress repealed the federal mandate from the Affordable Care Act, which requires U.S. Citizens to purchase health insurance or face a fine. Feldman said that he will be sponsoring a bill to reintroduce the mandate back for Maryland, but with the caveat that anyone fined by the state could use their fine as credit to buy health insurance.
“If we’re successful, it could be a model for the rest of the United States,” Feldman said.
Feldman’s other main priority for the session is passing a bill that would double the state’s commitment to using renewable energy. If passed, 50 percent of the state’s energy will have to come from renewable sources by 2030 — double the 25 percent that the state is required to reach by 2020. Gov. Larry Hogan previously vetoed the 2016 bill to require setting the 25-percent renewable energy goal by 2020, but his veto was overriden by the General Assembly.
Feldman also said the General Assembly is likely to make increasing the state’s minimum wage a priority in this session — something like the increase in the renewable- energy standard — which would require a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly.
“I think those are important national issues, and I’m hopeful we can do the same collaborative work on these two very big issues,” Feldman said.
Last, a bill that could preempt the County’s regulation of small cell antenna and towers could make its way through the Senate Finance Committee. Feldman declined to say where his view falls on the issue, but said he and other members of the committee will watch what the Montgomery County Council does when it comes back into session in January.
Del. Kathleen Dumais (D15)
Four-term Maryland delegate Kathleen Dumais will be transitioning to her new role as Majority Leader, becoming one of the highest-ranking members from Montgomery County in the House. Taking over from Delegate Bill Frick, who left his seat to run for Montgomery County Executive, Dumais said much of her focus this session will be on the Democratic leadership’s priories, such as legalizing sports betting, raising the minimum wage, supporting a referendum adding abortion rights to the state’s constitution and more funding for renewable forms of energy.
In 2017, the Montgomery County Council raised the minimum wage, after months of debate. Now Democrats in the General Assembly are looking to make increasing the state’s minimum wage a priority in the 2019 session.
“I still think there’s a lot of work to do that, but I don’t think anyone disagrees on that,” Dumais said of the Democrats’ efforts to raise the state’s minimum wage.
While it is unclear how much support it has from the Democratic leadership, Dumais said that members of the General Assembly plan to push for marijuana legalization in the state.
For her part, Dumais will sponsor a bill that will ban the “ghost guns,” which are partially assembled guns sold online that do not require a serial number. Dumais said these guns are potentially dangerous in Maryland, because people can easily assembly the partially assembled guns and have a legal gun without a serial number.
Dumais also plans to sponsor legislation updating the state’s childcare guidelines and the state’s trust and estate laws.
Sen. Susan Lee (D16)
Lee identified domestic violence, human trafficking, cybersecurity and child abuse as her main priorities for the session, adding that she’s a leader on these issues in the State Senate.
Changing the threshold for law enforcement to act on threats of mass violence, enhancing penalties for violating ‘stay away’ orders, making a probation before judgments a disqualifier for gun possession in the state, creating child advocacy center accreditation and making possession or ransomware for a malicious purpose a felony, are just a few of the bills Lee said she plans to introduce.
She added she plans to introduce legislation on labor trafficking, defined by the National Human Trafficking Hotline as modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion — adding that most of the state laws address human trafficking.
Lee, who was first elected to the State Senate in 2014 after serving three terms in the House of Delegates, explained that ensuring healthcare affordability and universal pre-kindergarten is a priority not only for her district but the county as a whole.
“Thank goodness that our attorney general now has the power to file suit against the Trump Administration,” Lee said, when asked about the current administration. “What we’re trying to do in Maryland is protect what we have … like healthcare, education, DACA students and the environment.”
As Gov. Larry Hogan (R) begins a second term, Lee said he hopes to work with him on a bipartisan basis, adding that most of her bills are “bipartisan.”
Del. Ariana Kelly (D16)
Kelly said her main priority during the session would be to expand healthcare access to the county’s residents. She added that her efforts during the session would focus on the cost of healthcare across the state.
Referring to the Trump Administration, she said the cuts and changes to federal programs have forced lawmakers across the county to lead at the state level.
“It’s really allowed us to become the incubators of policy,” Kelly added.
She explained the Kirwan Commission and its upcoming recommendations as potential budget shortcomings.
“We’ve known for several years that Montgomery County needed money,” she said.
First elected in 2010, Kelly said that mental health accessibility in schools would be her project, not limited to just her district or the county but the state.
With Gov. Larry Hogan (R) reelected to a second term, Kelly said she hopes to work with the Governor on bipartisan issues.
Del. Marc Korman (D16)
Korman said the upcoming recommendations of the Kirwan Commission and school construction funding would be a “top issues” for him during the legislative session.
“We have a lot of overcapacity schools in District 16, and we’ve had great success over the last few years increasing funding for school constructing coming from state-allocated dollars,” he added. “But we need to continue on that trajectory … because there’s a lot of schools that have maintenance issues or just overcapacity and have too many students to fit them.”
First elected in 2014, Korman added that the short-term budget situation is “relatively strong,” but added that there are a lot of “long-term challenges” and “needs in the state.”
Going into his second term representing portions of Potomac and Bethesda, Korman explained he would look for additional funding for the Josiah Henson Park, a Civil War-era cabin believed to be the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
With a Democratically controled Congress set to be inaugurated on Jan. 3, Korman added that the risk of a government shutdown still exists.
In working with Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Korman said he hopes the Governor will continue to defer to the legislature on specific issues.
Del.-elect Sara Love (D16)
As one of several freshman members of the county delegation, Love said she plans to pursue the overcrowding of schools, a higher renewable-energy portfolio, a ban on single-use plastics, and alleviating restrictive housing, such as double celling confinement, in the state’s prisons.
She explained the economic effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, frequently called the ‘Trump tax bill,’ will be an issue for the legislature.
In working with the Governor, Love said she plans on working with former State Sen. Chris Shank, who currently serves as Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) chief of staff, adding, “We will work together when we can and not work together when we can’t.”
Love added she previously worked “well” with Shank while serving as the policy director for Maryland’s ACLU.
Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D17)
Kagan said 9-1-1 reform and education funding are top priorities for her. As the chairwoman of the 9-1-1 commission, she plans to continue working for additional reform because it impacts the safety of her constituents. A few constituents have died during the past few years after their phones could not connect with 9-1-1 services.
The Kirwan Commission, which discusses education policy and funding, was scheduled to present a review this year. However, it was recently announced that the review is not finished.
Kagan said Montgomery County will likely be affected by changes in education funding because the Kirwan Commission’s review of funding to education is incomplete.
“It’s unclear whether it will be presented with a whole120 package this year or as a partial package,” Kagan said about the Kirwan Commission findings. “They couldn’t back up their work; the question is, are they going to wait another year and not propose any funding modifications at all, or will they respond with [some changes]?” Kagan asked.
Del. Kumar Barve (D17)
Barve said he is opposed to the idea of allowing fishing in an oyster sanctuary in the Chesapeake Bay. “The [Hogan] administration wanted to open the sanctuary to the oystermen, and we stopped them,” Barve said. “We’re going to have to re-look at that.” Barve is chairperson of the House Environment and Transportation Committee.
The legislature will need to review the most-recent stock assessment for the oysters in the sanctuary before it can decide whether to allow fishing there. Barve said the assessment may indicate whether the stock of oysters is mature enough to be fished.
One of Barve’s long-term projects is searching for potential sites for future ground-level solar panels, as opposed to those on top of buildings, as a sustainable source of energy.
He wants to continue to monitor the level of silt in the Conowingo Dam. “It’s not the main source of pollution [in the Chesapeake Bay], but [we] must keep eye on that,” Barve said.
“None of these environmental issues are simple,” Barve said.
Del. Jim Gilchrist (D17)
Gilchrist plans to focus on retirement income for seniors and legislation in the land use and ethics subcommittee for the legislative session along with local projects for Lincoln Park in Rockville and nonprofit funding for Manna Foods.
He explained that health care is a major unaddressed issue, and the repeal of the federal individual mandate will force the state to consider a mandate at the state level and explore fees on insurance companies.
“It will help the budget pay for a lot of healthcare for a lot of Marylanders,” he said.
The fourth-term delegate also explained that the new facilities at the Universities at Shady Grove and Montgomery College require state funding.
“It depends on what his priorities are and how he plans for his second term,” he said about Gov. Larry Hogan (R). “Previously, we had to override his veto on the environmental portfolio … and we’ll have to override when it’s important.”
Regarding the Trump Administration, Gilchrist added that the immigration issues and Chesapeake Bay clean-up programs will be something the General Assembly will be have “to look out for.”
Del.-elect Julie Palakovich Carr (D17)
Palakovich Carr, an incoming freshman, said she plans to propose a couple of bills pertaining to voter reform. She plans a proposal, along with Sen.- elect Ben Kramer (D-19,) that would allow voters to file a permanent registration in the state for an absentee ballot. In addition, she plans to propose to change the language in the state code, which is to indicate that absentee ballots are vote-by-mail, and voters don’t need to be absent to vote by absentee ballot.
“It’s pretty exciting to be part of such a wave of new people coming in,” Palakovich Carr said.
One of her projects will be making sure families have easy access to inspection reports of child-care providers. “Hardly anybody knows that you can access this data,” she said.
She said she hopes the legislature and Governor Hogan will be able to work together — she believes cooperation is vital in funding and regulating public school education.
Palakovich Carr said she believes some aspects of Hogan’s highway-widening plan, which includes Interstates 270 and 495, are unrealistic. She called Hogan’s commitment to protect housing near the highways from demolition “unfeasible.”
Sen.-elect Jeff Waldstreicher (D18)
Waldstreicher intends to push hard to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15, pass legislation requiring that half of the state’s power come from renewable sources, and to restrict access to illegal handguns and military-style firearms.
The new senator said he would emphasize constituent service and dealing with “small, discreet local issues that make a big difference in the quality of life for my constituents.”
The self-described “proud progressive” would like to adopt some of the Kirwan Commission recommendations “to drastically improve education and accountability in Maryland,” improving the schools for all students and increasing school construction.”
Upset with what he sees in national politics, Waldstreicher said he will strive to “model civil and competent governance. Our government can be a force for good, and Maryland can lead the way,” he said.
He also vowed to work with Gov. Larry Hogan “and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure my constituents and all Marylanders live in a state they can be proud of.”
Del. Al Carr (D18)
Carr, who first was elected to the State Assembly in 2007, intends to work on redistricting, education, healthcare, taxing and regulating adult use of marijuana, shifting electricity generation to renewable sources, making sure the state’s cashless road tolls work smoothly, tenants’ rights, and increasing minimum wage to $15.
During this term, Carr plans to encourage economic activity by providing flexibility for entry-level workers, require consent from the County before new toll roads can be constructed, create a mechanism for better oversight of new transportation-related projects, reduce paperwork and fees for small businesses, eliminate the suspension of vehicle tags for minor infractions, improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles, and improve broadband competition.
Carr also intends to work on placing a hold on Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s advanced metering program.
During the next two years, Carr hopes that Gov. Larry Hogan will be more transparent. “In the past, the Governor has often instructed his agencies not to attend bill hearings or take a position. This makes it more difficult to address policy matters,” he said.
Del.-elect Jared Solomon (D18)
Newly elected Del. Solomon intends to stress education — working to improve early learning, career and technical education and ensure full funding for public schools. He would like to see more state funding for the County’s school construction projects, banning school districts from arming its teachers and lowering acceptable lead levels in public school drinking water.
“I think funding for our public schools as well as our unmet school construction needs will be the biggest budget issues we will face this legislative session.”
Solomon also intends to focus on better MARC service and expansion of services for seniors.
He plans to make sure Marylanders can obtain affordable health coverage and fight climate change, regardless of what the federal government cuts.
Solomon referred to the proposed state plan to widen Route 495 as “disastrous,” and vowed to work with colleagues to stop it. He also said he would work to improve pedestrian safety.
He is optimistic he can work with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to increase funding for school construction.
Del.-elect Emily Shetty (D18)
Shetty intends to work on improving public transportation, seeking more transparency for patients at the pharmacy and requiring that all state bills include information on how they will impact the environment. She also intends to fight the federal government’s efforts to stop immigrants from receiving benefits.
“These citizens and residents are legally entitled to these benefits, and this policy will further marginalize these communities,” she said, adding, “The upcoming Census and the Administration’s decision to include a question on citizenship will only compound this issue and further alienate these residents.”
As a newly elected state official, Shetty plans to be “highly responsive” to her constituents.
She also intends to coordinate care better for opioid users and “be a vocal advocate” for residents fighting the expansion and privatization of Interstates 495 and 270.
Shetty also wants to reform the state’s education funding formulas, as recommended in the Kirwan Commission guidelines.
“I care deeply about the outcome of these discussions and will be highly engaged to ensure that we are working with our entire delegation in unison to meet the needs of all of Montgomery County’s children,” she said.
Sen.-elect Ben Kramer (D19)
Kramer considers healthcare, including keeping prescription drug prices down, a top priority.
“Our residents, particularly seniors on fixed incomes, should not be routinely faced with decisions about spending for food, or using that money to pay for needed prescription medications,” he said.
He also intends to work on education, including early education, and ensuring the County “receives its proportionate share of very- much-needed education funding.”
He will work to alleviate problems for residents that he said were created by the Trump Administration, including the environment, healthcare, immigration and gun control.
“It will be up to state legislatures throughout the country to fill the void that has been created by the irresponsible actions of the White House,” Kramer said.
His other priorities include working “on legislation to protect our elderly residents from financial exploitation and physical abuse.”
Kramer also is interested in addressing the rise in hate crimes, as well as animal welfare, the environment and transparency in government.
“We are very fortunate in Maryland to have a budget surplus at the moment; however, we should always be mindful of potential changes in the economy and ensure that we keep a healthy reserve for those times when revenues are in decline,” Kramer said.
“Funding for the recommended increases to education, that will be coming from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence In Education, will certainly be a challenge that the legislature will be working on.”
Del. Bonnie Cullison (D19)
Cullison, who took office in 2011, intends to focus on healthcare coverage, education and the environment, including improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
The way “we address environmental needs, given the federal government’s disdain for the dire scientific information about the current rate of decay in environmental sustainability,” will be a top priority, she said.
“In addition, strategically addressing transportation issues—the right balance of transit and roads — will be on the front burner.”
Providing funds for health care and making pre-kindergarten available to all will cost a lot, and Cullison said she would like to work on seeing how they can be accomplished.
She intends to continue her efforts “working with the Chambers of Commerce, retailers and the Commission on Civil Rights on providing compensation for residents who have been deliberately discriminated against in a place of public accommodation.”
As chair of the Insurance Subcommittee, she said: “I will be focusing on working with all stakeholders to increase accessibility to healthcare for those who are currently uninsured and maintain it for others.”
She also would like the federal government to provide more funds for roads and bridges.
Cullison said she has a good working relationship with Gov. Larry Hogan and his staff but is concerned that in his second term, Hogan may try “to solidify his politically conservative identity.”
Del.-elect Vaughn Stewart (D19)
Stewart’s agenda includes increasing funding for education and pushing for 100-percent renewable energy. As a first-time delegate, he hopes to introduce bills on affordable housing, pedestrian safety and wage increases.
“I am interested in finding ways to stop pedestrian crashes in Aspen Hill, move the school buses from Shady Grove, create a safer environment near the intersection of Georgia and Norbeck and resurrect the bus pilot program.”
Utilizing the state’s “unexpected surplus,” Stewart hopes to increase infrastructure and education spending.
Stewart called President Donald Trump “a threat to our federal workers, our neighbors with preexisting [medical] conditions, our immigrant communities, and the Chesapeake Bay.”
Therefore, he said, Maryland legislators must fight back, noting, “Any compromise with this president is bound to harm Marylanders.”
Stewart said he hoped Gov. Larry Hogan “will live up to his bipartisan image” and not treat his duties “as an audition for Republican primary voters.”
Del.-elect Charlotte Crutchfield (D19)
Crutchfield hopes to spend her first session in Annapolis working on healthcare, a minimum-wage increase, education as it relates to the Kirwan Commission, criminal justice – especially regarding the female prison population – and redistricting.
She also intends to look into ways to increase pedestrian safety, noting, “My legislative district has suffered from several pedestrian fatalities and injuries as a result of dangerous road conditions. I would like to work on reversing the trend and finding solutions to ensure safety for pedestrians.”
Crutchfield also would like to address “gaps in the budget for funding for Montgomery County projects.” She expects the County delegation in Annapolis to make sure local projects are funded.
She also expects the County delegation to stand up to both Gov. Hogan and President Trump, noting that Hogan will “most likely continue his resistance to most legislation introduced by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.”
On the federal level, she predicts the County delegation will continue battling many of the Trump Administration’s policies to “protect Marylanders from hardships that Mr. Trump will continue to seek to impose.”
Sen. Will Smith (D20)
Smith said he plans to bring back what he called “oldies but goodies,” which include discrimination of tenants based on the source of income, preventing state and county law enforcement agencies from being used to enforce immigration law, reforming body attachments for civil offenses, and consumer protection.
Known as the Home Act, Smith said the bill would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income, calling it the “next frontier of Civil Rights legislation.” On the Trust Act, which will prevent police agencies in the state from cooperating with federal immigration law enforcement agencies, Smith added the bill is necessary for constitutional purposes due to large numbers of detainees being held indefinitely for minor traffic offenses in breach of the Fourth and TenthAmendments.
Smith, who was appointed to the seat following Rep. Jamie Raskin’s election to Congress, said he hopes to see a more bipartisan approach from Gov. Larry Hogan (R), adding he may have “national ambitions” after winning re-election by a “resounding margin.”
Referring to the governors’ plans to widen Interstates 270 and 495, Smith stated that the creation of “Lexus lanes” in Virginia did not alleviate traffic.
Smith identified the Kirwan Commission recommendations as potential budget issues.
Del. David Moon (D20)
Moon labeled criminal justice reform, ending subsidies to country clubs and increasing local control for speed limits as his major priorities for the legislative session.
The second-term delegate explained he has several bills addressing criminal justice issues in the state, including a voter referendum on legalizing cannabis in the state, further decriminalizing marijuana and eliminating jail as a penalty for payment failures.
“Mental health, to me, is the perennial underfunded issue,” Moon said about unaddressed issues in the state budget. “One of the aspects of this that I see in the judiciary committee, constantly, … there are thousands of Maryland residents who have diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues and then end up in the criminal justice system instead of the public health system.”
With the county’s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic fatalities, Moon explained allowing the county to lower speed limits on certain roads “was an important piece of that puzzle.”
He added that constituent requests often deal with pedestrian safety improvements.
“We’ve done a good job of tackling certain things like healthcare,” Moon said concerning the Trump Administration — explaining that the state imposed a fee on health insurance companies to stabilize the state’s health insurance premiums.
Moon said the legislature is likely to implement an individual mandate at the state level but said immigration is going to be the biggest unmet challenge from the federal administration.
He also said the relationship with Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who is term-limited, will be “interesting” and “a little bit of a mystery.”
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D20)
Focusing on tenant rights, Wilkins said just cause eviction is her “top priority” for the upcoming legislative session, adding that the bill ensures that “renters will stay in their homes unless a landlord is able to provide a reason” for their eviction.
Appointed to fill the seat of Sen. Will Smith, who in turn filled Jamie Raskin’s seat, Wilkins identified expanding support for traumatized students and 2020 U.S. Census inclusion as her other priorities.
With the high population of renters in District 20 and across the county, the delegate said her ‘just cause eviction’ legislation is particular and local to her constituents, but that her other bills also have statewide impact.
She said the Trump Administration’s approach to the public charge is designed to make immigrants “nervous” about accessing public benefits, adding that “we’re already seeing the effects, [given] the high population of immigrants and immigrant students.”
In working with the governor, Wilkins said she reached out on U.S. Census inclusion, stating her bill “would augment” the previous work on the issue but added: “It takes two to work together” and she hopes the Governor will communicate with her.
Serving on the Ways and Means Committee, Wilkins said the Kirwan Commission recommendations will be a significant budget issue.
“We will need to find a way to meet out unmet education needs,” she said.
Del.-elect Lorig Charkoudian (D20)
Coming into her first term, Charkoudian said she plans to introduce bills on regulating how police respond to mental health emergencies, expanding restorative disciplinary practices in schools, building local food systems, and incentivizing energy efficiency.
The advocate, who resides in Takoma Park, said she her legislation on police practices will create a CIP technical assistance center and establish a standards and training commission.
With prior experience in food security advocacy, Charkoudian explained she would explore ways for the state to diversify food sources, adding “if all of our food is coming from California, we could be in real trouble.”
Like Moon, Charkoudian says pedestrian and transportation safety will be her pet projects for District 20.
“How you work together is you work together,” Charkoudian said of working with the Governor, explaining that she’s been in contact with the Governor’s office on issues, including her food-systems legislation.
“It’s my goal to use an equity lens to think about where money needs to come from,” she added, mentioning the state budget. “We need to look at bringing back the millionaires’ tax, estate tax, tolls, certain fees and closing loopholes for yachts.”
Del. Kirill Reznik (D39)
Reznik said a top issue in the upcoming session is going to be education – both the policy and funding of it.
“I see millions of unaddressed budget issues,” he said.
Reznik said he believes the state is underfunding social services such as temporary disability assistance, which went decades without a rate increase, and that he plans to try to change that.
He has a vision for a new way of paying for healthcare or health insurance and plans to reintroduce a bill that would establish it.
Reznik said he anticipates it being difficult to work with Governor Larry Hogan, because he believes Hogan does not seem to want to work with the legislature.
“I will work with the governor to the extent that he is willing to work with us,” Reznik said. “The governor talks a good game about bipartisanship, but has consistently acted as if the legislature needs to do what he tells us to do or otherwise we’re being unreasonable.”
He said he’s doubtful the governor’s plan for Interstates 495 and 270 will not take away housing, as the governor had claimed.
Del.-elect Lesley Lopez (D39)
Immigration reform is an issue for Maryland, given the past actions of the Donald Trump administration, in ensuring that the immigrant population feels safe.
“In my district, there’s a huge immigrant population, and making sure those people feel protected and safe to [go about] their lives and be contributing members of our society, as they are, that’s a priority to me,” Lopez said. “The Trump presidency– not only is it dysfunctional but it is also filled with a lot of hate-filled speech.”
Lopez, an incoming freshman delegate, said education is an important issue because the Kirwan Commission — a group of legislators that reviews education policy and education funding — announced that its anticipated review of education funding is not ready.
Lopez said a pet project for her is to be to have constituent services and engagement with constituents that is easier to reach and communicate with, so residents can obtain the services they need more easily.
She may propose a few bills, but during most of the session, she will focus on learning as much as she can, so she can be informed during the next legislative session.
Del.-elect Gabe Acevero (D39)
Acevero named transportation and education as his top two priorities for both the county and his district. “My priority … is ensuring we’re bringing back as much dollars as possible so that we can invest in school construction, professional development for our educators and the Universities at Shady Grove.”
On transportation, Acevero explained he would prioritize multi-modal transportation and “not just expanding roads.”
“If we can work together to put together an incentive package of 5 billion dollars to lure Amazon HQ2 … we can secure the funding to ensure that each and every one of our children has a quality education they deserve and we can provide,” he said of the Kiran Commission’s yet to be released funding recommendations.
Having been endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America, Acevero said he will also support a living wage, expanding collective bargaining rights, and ending mass incarceration in an effort to create a “just economy.”
In addition, he plans on working to secure funding for the state’s numerous nonprofits that “do critical work.”
He identified the Dec. 2018 Federal Government shutdown as an immediate issue for Maryland under a Trump Presidency.
“The General Assembly and the Montgomery County delegation is committed to working with this Governor to move us forward in terms of education, living wage, climate mitigation and free tuition at public higher education institutions.”
Sen. Nancy King (D39), Sen. Craig Zucker (D14), Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D15), and Del.-elect Lily Qi (D15) did not respond before press time to participate in this legislative preview.