Annapolis, Anne Arundel County
Full-time legislator and part-time adjunct professor at Towson University
BA Political Science, Towson University MS Public Policy, The Johns Hopkins University
Current State Senator – Election in 2018, Government Affairs National Aquarium, Student Regent USM Board of Regents, President District 30 Democratic Club
What is the most pressing issue in your district?
With the entire district bordering the Bay, District 30 remains highly susceptible to the impacts of sea-level rise and climate change. While I have sponsored legislation to update stormwater standards and finance resilience infrastructure, there is more work to do to protect our homes, small businesses, and historic structures from flooding. My District, like the entire State, continues to face gun violence and crime, and there remains work to be done to fight poverty, reduce gun violence, and create safer communities.
How will you help your constituents deal with inflation?
Inflation and the rising costs of basic goods are negatively impacting the day-to-day lives of District 30 residents. As a member of the Budget & Taxation Committee, I was proud to help pass nearly $2 billion in economic support to help provide relief to Maryland families and small businesses, including over $1 billion in tax relief to those 65 and over; $115.6 million in “Family Budget Boosters” like sales tax exemptions on health care and family products (including my legislation to exempt diapers from the sales tax); and funding to suspend the gas tax to ensure that Marylanders were less impacted by rising costs at the pump. I was also proud to support bills to stabilize our critical child care industry and work to increase funding for affordable housing. Moving forward, I will continue to find creative policy solutions to help keep down the cost of living for Marylanders.
What do you see as the top transportation priority in your district, and how would you address it?
District 30 remains a bedroom community with many residents commuting every day to Baltimore and Washington DC. I proudly voted in favor of legislation to take bold action, such as the Transit Safety and Investment Act and the Maryland Regional Rail Transformation Act, but there is still work to be done. I look forward to fostering partnerships and prioritizing funding to realize the Parole Transportation Center and provide a hub for commuters to easily get back and forth to work and I will continue to work to expand better regional transit throughout South County. We also must continue to expand access to electric charging stations throughout the State to better incentivize the use of electric vehicles. As a District of peninsulas, we also must continue to ensure that there is effective communication and emergency planning related to transportation during those all-too-often emergency events that can shut down communities.
What should schools do differently during the next pandemic to help students, families and teachers?
The pandemic exacerbated pre-existing gaps in our infrastructure, perhaps most keenly felt in schools. A large challenge that residents of District 30 experienced was the lack of clear and consistent communication from local schools and school systems. We must use this experience to, looking forward, ensure that families, educators, and students can contribute to decision making. Digital connectivity, and a lack thereof, was also exacerbated by the pandemic – and I am proud to have sponsored legislation that created the first Statewide Office of Broadband to ensure all Marylanders are able to connect. The pandemic also compounded crises for our schools, including insufficient staffing levels, food insecurity, and mental health challenges, and as we move back to normalcy we must ensure that our schools are properly staffed by increasing educator salaries and have the essential mental health screenings and interventions in place.
How equitably do police officers treat people of color?
Police officers enter public service to serve and protect our communities – but they are not immune to implicit biases that disproportionately impact Marylanders of color. These biases, when combined with inadequate staffing and lack of critical mental/behavioral health support for both those serving and those being served, have created a level of distrust throughout our communities. The challenges are systemic – and not limited to public safety – and so the policy solutions must be equally systemic. We must focus on establishing adequate oversight, providing additional resources, training, and educational opportunities for police officers, and advancing community-centered public safety strategies to encourage meaningful engagement and relationship-building between police officers and members of the public.
What would you do to make sure Maryland’s voting system is secure and accurate?
Free and fair elections remain at the bedrock of our democratic republic, and I believe that Maryland remains a national leader in secure, accurate, and fair elections. I am proud of the work that we have done as a State to expand access to the voting booth — including through the passage of the Student and Military Voter Empowerment Act that I sponsored to ensure that active-duty service members and students in higher education institutions are better able to cast their ballots – all while also maintaining critical funding and the security of our elections. Moving forward, we can build on the transparency of mail-in balloting by providing real-time scanning and tracking of one’s mail-in ballot from the Board of Elections, to the post office, to one’s home, and back again. This will provide greater accountability and peace-of-mind – all while supporting greater access to this fundamental right.
What are the right goals and deadlines for Maryland to reduce carbon emissions and develop renewable energy sources?
The effects of climate change are here and impacting our day-to-day lives: District 30 experienced two tornadoes and the fourth highest flood on record in just one year. I am proud of the work we have done to mitigate the effects of climate change and expand renewable energy sources over the past four years, including through legislation such as the Clean Energy Jobs Act and Climate Solutions Now, both of which set ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and developing renewable energy sources. The key – and challenge – before us is to meet these goals as quickly as possible and in such a way as to create good-paying jobs and mitigate the harshest impacts on the most vulnerable Marylanders. My job over the next four years, especially as a member of the Budget Committee, is to fund and build the infrastructure needed to meet these goals.
What’s Maryland’s best use of federal COVID relief money?
As a member of the Budget & Taxation Committee, one of my primary jobs was to strategically invest the federal COVID relief money in a way that supported the most vulnerable in our communities. I am proud of our work to provide meaningful relief to Marylanders and make critical one-time investments in our communities such as stabilizing the child care industry, supporting food banks, small business support, and the arts, funding affordable housing, and more. Certain industries have still not yet bounced back and new policy challenges are still arising from the aftermath of COVID – we must focus the next phase of federal funding on filling these gaps. Workforce development, affordable housing, and mental and behavioral health support need to be prioritized in future investments.