Thanks to constituents and friends across the region, I have been able to serve as a progressive voice in the Maryland General Assembly for over 25 years. This website allows me to share my views on both specific issues and my long term vision for the state. At the same time, I want to foster a dialogue and hear from you on these very same issues. We have worked to improve life for our state’s working and middle income people but we have much more to do. I encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions regarding these important issues through an email or phone call. I would like to be known not only as a leader, but a leader who listens. If you like what you see on my website, create a bookmark and forward a link to this web page to your friends and neighbors. Enjoy!
Annapolis Advocate Newsletter
This session, I’ve directed much of my effort to improving our community, offering solutions to our state’s economy, and addressing education, public safety, and environmental issues. Now that the session has adjourned, I wanted to offer a brief update on some of these issues.
The Environment and the Chesapeake Bay
The Governor signed legislation I co-sponsored to permanently ban fracking (natural gas extraction). The Governor vetoed a bill I co-sponsored last year, increasing the state’s reliance on clean energy. This year the legislature overrode the governor’s veto.
President Trump’s budget proposal severely cut Chesapeake Bay cleanup funding. Maryland’s congressional delegation issued a bipartisan condemnation of the cuts, but Governor Hogan has been silent. In response, I sponsored a senate joint resolution condemning the cuts and calling on the Governor to publicly oppose them. The resolution passed.
Last year the legislature ordered a count (stock assessment) of the Bay’s oyster population. This year the Department of Natural Resources proposed reducing oyster sanctuary boundaries before the stock assessment has even begun. In response, the General Assembly passed a bill prohibiting changes to the sanctuaries until the assessment is complete. The Governor allowed the bill to become law without his signature. I opposed a Governor-supported bill easing penalties for oyster poachers which was ultimately rejected in committee.
These anti-Bay efforts along with the Hogan Administration’s firing or reassigning of Bay scientists revealed a true antipathy towards Bay cleanup efforts.
Antibiotic resistance, the creation of ‘superbugs,’ is a growing public health threat. This problem is caused, in large measure, by adding antibiotics to animal feed given to chickens, cattle, and swine who aren’t sick. This three year battle to remove these antibiotics ended in successful legislation banning such use in Maryland. I was pleased to join grassroots efforts and served as lead-sponsor of the bill.
Labor, Business, and Taxes
A bill finally passed this year to require paid sick leave for all workers. As a cosponsor of the proposal, I believe that no one should ever have to make the choice between staying home to nurse a sick child and going to work to put food on the table.
Corporations often avoid paying any corporate income tax in Maryland. Two bills, I introduced, would have required that they pay their portion. Another bill I sponsored would ensure that hedge fund managers pay their fair share of taxes, which they are now able to dodge. This reform was supported by both presidential candidates during the campaign. All three bills failed. A rule prohibiting internet service providers (e.g. Comcast, Verizon) from selling your browsing history was reversed by President Trump. Legislation I co-sponsored in response passed the Senate, but failed in a House committee.
These defeats signal the continued stranglehold the corporate sector has over state policy.
Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy Devos have proposed privatizing schools with vouchers and for-profit charters, as well as increasing our reliance on standardized testing. In response, the legislature passed legislation to block these proposals. As Education subcommittee chair, I led the fight to pass the bill. After the Governor vetoed the bill, which may suggest Governor Hogan’s support of such positions, the General Assembly overrode the veto. I also cosponsored separate legislation to limit standardized testing to provide more time for instruction. The bill passed.
Too many nonviolent defendants remain in prison before trial because they can’t afford bail while many dangerous defendants can afford bail and get out of jail when when they should be detained. The Court of Appeals issued a new ruling directing low or no bail for non-violent prisoners who are not flight risks and requiring dangerous defendants to remain behind bars while awaiting trial, rather than setting bail. I led the efforts to support the court’s new policy and opposed a reactionary bill supported by the bail bondsmen to reverse the rule. Despite a close vote and strong opposition, the bill passed the Senate, but thankfully failed in the House of Delegates.
President Trump’s immigration enforcement policy has spread fear throughout immigrant communities. I cosponsored the Trust Act to ensure that state and county law enforcement do not hold undocumented immigrants beyond their scheduled release date, absent a federal warrant. I am sorely disappointed that the bill failed.
Elections and Money in Politics
I sponsored legislation to allow people to register to vote on election day (already allowed during early voting.) The Senate and House of Delegates didn’t work out their differences before the end of the session, so the bill failed.
I introduced the Democracy Resolution (SJ4) calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of their revenue (e.g. your cable bill) in political campaigns. As a result of House inaction, the resolution failed.
Close to Home
Locally, the delegates and I were able to secure funding for the construction of a Veterans Memorial and to renovate the Maryland Milestones Heritage Center, both in Hyattsville. We also secured funds for the Maryland Multicultural Youth Center to expand a community center in Riverdale.
Thank you for your ongoing interest and support and should you have additional questions, I can be contacted at email@example.com or (301) 858-3155.
On Dec 3, 2016 I held a town hall meeting at Lamont Elementary School. Prince George’s County Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell spoke about our schools including his response to abuse allegations made against some school employees. He took questions from constituents as well. Adam Ortiz, the county’s Director of the Environment also spoke about some of his initiatives. I then gave my view on the election of Donald Trump and my agenda in Annapolis for the 2017 legislative session. I then answered questions from constituents. You can watch entire morning unfold above. Thanks to Greenbelt Access Television for recording and broadcasting the town hall.
Donald Trump’s election stunned almost all of us. We’re only now coming out of the shock — and we’re realizing that things, at least in the short term, are going to be getting much rougher.We face a Trump administration committed to reversing decades of progress on social and civil rights. Trump appointees will be frustrating our efforts to combat climate change at every opportunity. They’ll be pushing hard to deregulate banks and the corporate sector and privatize public education.How did this political shocker happen? What did we miss? How did he win?Everyone has an opinion, so here’s mine. We missed the signals, but they were there. If we had looked more critically at the political landscape, we probably would have seen them.“Make America great again,” Trump shouted. Hillary’s response: “America is great now.”Now that response makes sense if you read Trump’s appeal as simply code for “Let’s turn back the clock on human and civil rights and put women, gays, and immigrants back in their place.” But, in fact, America really isn’t great right now for many people. Income inequality has left millions of Americans economically insecure. People are losing jobs and pensions. Affording health care and housing just seem to get ever more difficult.It’s true that some of Trump’s votes came from people who’ve bought into racism and sexism and misogynist behavior and anti-immigrant sentiment. We will never get them back. They do want to set the clock back. And some of them do rate as deplorable.But many of the Americans who voted for Trump didn’t particularly like him or much of the ugliness his campaign exploited. In 2016, many voters went for Trump despite his campaign’s racism. In 2008 and 2012, let’s remember, many Trump voters in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania cast their ballots for candidate and then President Barack Obama.A significant percentage of Trump votes, we also need to keep in mind, came from people who want a better life and feel shut out and ignored. Government isn’t working for them. They see government working instead for Wall Street and business elites. They’re tired of the status quo.Donald Trump poked the institutions of this status quo right in the eye, leaving Hillary positioned as their defender. She may have been as qualified as anyone who ever sought the White House. Her election would have cracked the glass ceiling in historic fashion. But, for many voters, Hillary represented the old way of doing things that had brought few results for working families. Her message — and the message of the Democratic Party — did not inspire and, in some cases, just fell on deaf ears.Trump took a right-wing populist approach, playing to people’s basest instincts. He promised to give people what they wanted and scapegoated immigrants, minorities, and women for getting in the way. He blamed government for just about everything. He promised everything, too, from better jobs to a better life.
During the primaries, Bernie Sanders offered up an alternate populism. Bernie spoke to people’s immediate needs, as Trump did, but Bernie’s progressive populism offered a real way forward.
Bernie laid out a vision and identified those who actually do stand in the way of social progress. He called out Wall Street bankers and drug company CEOs. He went after billionaire campaign contributors and the politicians who rely on their money.Bernie didn’t defend a dysfunctional status quo. He spoke unequivocally about the way things should be. And he won tons and tons of votes from many of the same people whose votes put Trump over the top.I served this past summer as a Sanders delegate. But I campaigned for Hillary after she won the nomination. Could Bernie have won in November? That question is, to me, at this point immaterial. What is material is the message he offered. What is material is the question we all need to ask ourselves: Which way forward?Our next great battle will be over the future of the Democratic Party. Will the party move in a progressive direction that can deliver real change for working Americans or play it safe and defend the status quo?Consider, for instance, health care. Eighteen million more Americans now have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This “Obamacare” has been an important step forward. But health care costs continue to rise, insurers are leaving the program, and the system now in place is confusing.Many in the progressive wing of the Democratic party have pointed out, from the very beginning, that if we want to get health care right, we have to get the insurance companies out of the way and start telling drug companies they’ll have to negotiate with the government over drug prices. And if these companies continue with outlandish price mark-ups, government needs to step in and use its power to deny them our tax dollars.We have Medicare today for seniors, and Medicare controls health care costs. Why can’t we do the same for everyone? Some say that’s too radical. But other nations take that approach. Why can’t we? We have to offer real answers to real problems, not just warmed-over same old.In Maryland, we have an election for governor coming in two years. Incumbent Larry Hogan has certainly distanced himself from Trump. But Hogan remains a governor who believes in fewer protections for the public. He opposes the progressive changes we need.Like Trump, Hogan panders to people’s baser instincts. He lowered tolls on some Maryland bridges, but didn’t explain that this move will leave less money to repair those very same bridges in the future – when he’s long gone as governor.To help the Ocean city tourist industry, Hogan expanded the length of summer break all across the state and limited the number of school days. Many-low income people in Maryland cannot afford a vacation in Ocean City. Now their children will not have the opportunity for more classroom time.We have a big task ahead. Trump and his undesirable cronies are essentially asking us to give back and go back. I say we must fight back — and go forward.
301-858-3155 (D.C. Metro area)
410-841-3155 (Balt. Metro area)
11 Bladen Street
220 James Senate Office Building
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1990