Blogs from Center MD - Center Maryland - Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. Fri, 20 Jul 2018 04:32:32 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Cory V. McCray: McFadden's Multiple Residence The responsibilities of an elected state legislator are myriad. There are the official duties: showing up to vote, taking an active role in committee assignments, and attending community and statewide functions, among other responsibilities. But arguably the most important role of a legislator isn’t one that takes place in any official setting. Rather, it’s the time they spend in their district building relationships with constituents and learning the needs of the many communities that make up the district. This duty often isn’t performed in any sort of formal manner. It takes shape when you meet someone new at a grocery store or restaurant you both frequent – or at that person’s front door as you’re canvassing the neighborhood.

These moments are so important because they go on to inform the decisions that are made once you’re sitting in a committee hearing room or getting ready to cast a vote in the House or Senate chamber. It’s important that when the time to be decisive arrives, you understand that the issues presented aren’t just abstract political theory; they’re the same issues being talked about and debated by the voters who elected you to represent them.

It’s fitting then that the final question posed to my colleague, Nathaniel McFadden, at last month’s “No RoFo 45th District Candidate Forum” touched on this very subject. As the forum was concluding, he was prompted to address the fact that instead of living within the 45th District, he actually resides at the The Village of Cross Keys. It was regrettable that McFadden’s response sidestepped the actual issue.

Rather than answer the question, he made thinly veiled racial overtures to argue that a black man in 2018 ought to be able to own multiple residences without it being viewed suspiciously. Of course, this response misses the point entirely. No one is taking umbrage at the fact that McFadden owns more than one piece of real estate. The concern is that the home he lives in day-to-day is outside of the 45th District – the very district he is asking to continue representing in the state legislature. It’s a legitimate concern and the voters of the 45th District are entitled to more than dismissive doubletalk when the issue is raised.

It’s only intuitive that a legislator who resides in his or her district knows a little bit more about the challenges it faces than one who doesn’t. After all, the best way to get a sense of what’s happening in any given place is to spend time there and find out for yourself. Even more than just possessing knowledge of the local neighborhoods and their specific needs, residing in the district you represent feeds the passion you have as an elected legislator because, like them, you also have skin in the game. When you’re walking into meetings about policy matters that impact your respective district, you aren’t talking about what’s happening in some unfamiliar place – or somewhere you used to live – you’re discussing the concerns that you and your neighbors are confronting on a daily basis. 

So it should be fair game to ask a resident of one of the most affluent zip codes in Baltimore City how he can effectively advocate for one of the most economically distressed. To be frank, the issues faced by McFadden and his neighbors aren’t the same as those faced in our communities. That matters.

When an elected representative doesn’t reside in his district, the gas station at the end of the block loses out, as do the local diners and grocery stores. While that person spends the bulk of their time in another part of the city, public safety issues and vacant homes are still rampant in the areas they purport to serve – even if they remain out of sight.

I know that when I have conversations with fellow residents about the conditions of local schools and troubling upticks in crime, we’re having a dialogue about concerns that we share and are jointly experiencing – not ones I leave behind when I go home for the evening.

One of the reasons I am running for State Senate in the 45th Legislative District is that I believe it’s important to have a clear intention to sleep every night in the district you want to represent. Yes, I too am a black man with multiple properties, but let me be clear that each and every one of them is in the 45th Legislative District. It’s a place that I’m proud my family and I can call home and one that I would be honored to represent as your next State Senator.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Mon, 25 Jun 2018 00:25:09 -0400
Aaron Tomarchio: How Kevin Kamenetz Steered Sparrows Point Toward The Future In 2010, during his first campaign for Baltimore County Executive, Kevin Kamenetz said something about Sparrows Point that seemed politically risky at the time: Maybe it’s time to think about a future beyond steel production.

His words seemed prescient two years later when, after cycling through five owners in a decade, the steel mill closed, putting 2,200 men and women out of work. At that time, most of Maryland’s political leaders promised that they would work to find a new steel company to take over production – although, in retrospect, that outcome was not possible.

County Executive Kamenetz had the foresight and courage to say something different. He said, the steel mill isn’t coming back, but let’s figure out how to bring new jobs to Sparrows Point.

This wasn’t an easy leap for many people to make. For generations, Sparrows Point represented the power of American industry. But by 2012, much of the 3,100-acre former Bethlehem Steel steel mill laid in ruins. The huge waterfront site where 30,000 men and women once reported to work daily was a polluted ghost town.

Kamenetz realized it would take leadership to begin to implement a new vision for Sparrow’s Point’s future – and the county government would have to play an active role. So he pulled together business, government and community leaders to form the Sparrows Point Partnership, and charged them with coming up with a plan to clean up the site and put the Point back to work – with state-of-the-art manufacturing, maritime, and distribution and logistics companies.

Six years later, our team at Tradepoint Atlantic is putting that plan into action. With our state and federal partners, we are cleaning up Sparrows Point after a century of steelmaking.

Just as envisioned, we’re taking advantage of our prime Mid-Atlantic location with deepwater berths, and access to I-695, I-95 and I-70 – plus CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads.

We have worked with County Executive Kamenetz and his team to bring in exactly the type of tenants envisioned by the Sparrows Point Partnership – including household names like Under Armour, FedEx and Amazon.

And contrary to the politically polarized times in which we live, Governor Hogan and County Executive Kamenetz – and their teams – have quietly worked together with Tradepoint Atlantic to transform Sparrows Point from an industrial wasteland into North America’s premier industrial gateway.

Even while they were running against each other for governor, the County Executive and the Governor put bringing jobs to Baltimore County first. Both men were working to take Sparrows Point to the next level by working toward a public-private partnership to build the modern infrastructure needed to support 21st century employers. In fact, the revitalization of Sparrows Point shows what is possible when everyone works toward a common purpose from the White House, to the Congress, to the Statehouse, to the Old Courthouse in Towson.

The Tradepoint Atlantic project, which started as a contrary opinion from Kevin Kamenetz, a man who was never afraid to speak his mind, is now on track to employ 3,500 people by next year – over a thousand more jobs than during the steel mill’s final years. The well-known economist Anirban Basu projects that Sparrows Point will be home to 17,000 jobs when our project is built out.

Sadly, Kevin Kamenetz did not live to see his vision of thousands of people arriving to work at Sparrows Point each morning. But he was right. We could work together to honor Sparrows Point’s past, while giving the community a better future.

Today, the people of Maryland and Baltimore County are in the process of overcoming a devastating blow to our economy – the end of steelmaking at Sparrows Point. Working with County Executive Kamenetz’s successor – his longtime Chief of Staff Don Mohler – and Governor Hogan and county and state legislators of both parties, we will finish the job he started.

Aaron Tomarchio is Senior Vice President for Administration and Corporate Affairs for Tradepoint Atlantic.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 29 May 2018 01:22:05 -0400
Delegate Sandy Rosenberg: A Vision to Keep the Preakness in Baltimore Legendary horse trainer Bob Baffert wants the Preakness to stay in Baltimore.

He told the Baltimore Sun, “To me, it’s magical in here. There’s something about it. I’ve been watching it since I was 10, 11 years old…There’s so much history here.”

It’s true.

I’ve been watching horses run around the track at Pimlico for a long time – since I was in elementary school – and I’ve been serving in the House of Delegates representing Old Hilltop, the surrounding neighborhoods, and all of District 41 for 36 years.

We’ve seen a lot of changes at Pimlico during that time – good and bad. And we’ve seen a lot of changes in Park Heights, but the more recent debate about whether to keep the Preakness in Baltimore promises to be a turning point for the Park Heights community and the future of Pimlico.

The race track may be magical, but the investment required to update Pimlico is significant and could cost anywhere between $250-$322 million.

That’s a very high price for a one-day-per-year use, despite the significant economic benefit of Preakness Weekend for the Baltimore region and the state.

I recognize that.

That’s why we need a vision for Pimlico and Park Heights: economic and community development that would complement a 21st Century thoroughbred racing facility. We need a “365-day a year” vision that would allow for the necessary upgrades at Pimlico and help fulfill longstanding promises to revitalize the Park Heights community.

We can make this vision a reality. Some have contemplated making the infield a year-round facility for the adjacent neighborhoods and the region. The Baltimore Development Corporation has had serious conversations with various commercial enterprises.

Two 21st Century schools, Pimlico and Arlington Elementary Middle Schools, will be reopening within a mile of the track over the next 16 months.

LifeBridge Health expects to use its Preakness Way property on the eastern end of the site as a destination campus, including an outpatient care center.

The second and final phase of a Maryland Stadium Authority study that will include “visioneering and concept development of an ‘ideal’ Preakness venue” and assess “the site’s ability to accommodate various non-racing functions on a year-round basis” will be completed in December, just in the time for the 2019 legislative session.

The first phase of the Stadium Authority study concluded that “there do not appear to be any situational factors that cannot be overcome with regard to continue hosting the Preakness at Pimlico,…However, Pimlico Race Course is antiquated and in need of substantial renovation.”

Come December, we’ll have to decide if there is the political will to keep the Preakness in Baltimore and move forward with a revitalization plan for Pimlico and the Park Heights community.

"Governor Hogan has made it clear he wants to see the Preakness stay in Baltimore, where it has attracted visitors from around the country for over 140 years," said a spokeswoman for the Governor during Preakness Week last year. We look forward to his continued support.

Mayor Catherine Pugh is steadfastly committed to keeping the Preakness and redeveloping Park Heights. She made that point at a briefing on Park Heights redevelopment yesterday.

Pimlico can be an economic and community center for Park Heights year-round and support a 21st Century thoroughbred racing facility. Let’s hope there is enough Preakness magic left to summon the political courage to make it a reality.

Sandy Rosenberg has represented District 41 in the Maryland House of Delegates since 1983.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Thu, 17 May 2018 21:50:19 -0400
Tami Howie: Protecting Innovation Protects Patients and Our Economy Innovation is at the heart of Maryland’s economy and the wellbeing of patients in our state. New, groundbreaking cures and treatments save and extend the lives of patients, pushing the bounds of modern medicine, for the benefit of all. Innovative companies are able to leverage Maryland’s combination of technology know-how, business-friendly climate, and highly-educated, highly-skilled workforce to produce these cures and provide hundreds of thousands of Marylanders with well-paying jobs.

However, despite all this, the Maryland General Assembly is currently debating drug pricing legislation that would threaten the innovative potential that makes these benefits possible. New regulations, SB 1023/HB 1194, would create a government-controlled commission with broad leeway to influence drug prices and increase burdensome reporting requirements adding yet another layer of complexity to drug manufacturing.

In so doing, it creates new hoops to jump through for manufacturers to simply go about their business. It risks innovation by undercutting the incentive for the creation of new drugs, that, on average, take 10 years and cost $2.6 billion to produce.

Maryland’s innovation and the companies who contribute to it should be hailed as a success story. Maryland is home to more than 2,500 life sciences companies that contribute nearly $18 billion toward our state’s GDP. Our state has more than 70 federal labs and is the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The biotechnology industry alone employs 34,000 Marylanders. As a result, Maryland is among the country’s leaders in state-wide innovation and entrepreneurship according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Undercutting innovation threatens not only this status, but all of the organizations who benefit from it, and all of the well-paying jobs that they produce.

And in the end, the patients who rely on these innovative medicines – and future cures to come – are the ones who are punished. These patients will see their prices increase as fewer and fewer cures are produced with lessening competition among our state’s best and brightest. In the worst cases, they could see a loss of access to certain drugs all-together, forcing them to cross state lines simply to get the medications they need to get through the day.

Maryland’s General Assembly should reject this legislation, as it will do the exact opposite of what it intends: drive drug prices higher, not lower, all while hurting the innovative spirit that produces critical cures for patients.

The increasing cost of health care is a pressing concern for all Marylanders, and one all health care stakeholders need to address. The Maryland Tech Council supports policies to address these rising costs in ways that are patient-centric and promote access; the problem with SB 1023/HB 1194 is that it does neither.

Rather than attempting a comprehensive approach, working with various stakeholders to determine the true roots of ballooning health care costs, this bill myopically and inaccurately targets drug producers alone. It fails to account for the outsize role that insurers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and other middlemen play in setting drug prices. It fails to account for the true dynamics of a complicated, interconnected health care system, with a wide array of stakeholders possessing competing interests. 

If elected officials want to honestly and sincerely grapple with health care costs, they should examine approaches that are holistic, ensure access to Maryland patients and protect the innovation economy that helps them live longer, healthier and happier lives. Doing so requires that they reject misguided regulations like SB 1023/HB 1194.

Tami Howie is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maryland Tech Council, a community of more than 600 industry-leading technology firms and organizations

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Wed, 28 Mar 2018 12:24:00 -0400
ERIC DEAN: Promote Policies that Nurture Innovation and Jobs to Produce Cures The Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association (PILMA), a coalition of companies in the biopharmaceutical industry and building construction trades unions, is committed to dual goals of fostering innovation of life-saving cures and securing high-quality union construction jobs.

As Chairman of PILMA, I’m invested in the issues that are of importance to our biopharmaceutical industry partners and customers, to the extent that they are of importance and have a connection to the livelihoods of our members and their families. As our industry partners remain healthy, their investment in research and manufacturing facilities – to a very large extent built by our members – grows as well. 

Last month, the Washington Post wrote about proposed legislation in the Maryland legislature that would “create a commission to decide the maximum amount that health plans, pharmacies and state programs could shell out for the most expensive brand-name and patented medications.”

This so-called transparency legislation is being proposed in a number of states throughout the country, but the Maryland bill is the most egregious of any put in print. This measure essentially caps growth of businesses in the state. This creates a toxic environment for the biopharmaceutical industry that is not only anti-business but anti-jobs. If profits are capped, there is less incentive to discover new medicines, investment in new facilities dries up and jobs are lost.

The biopharmaceutical industry is a major economic driver in Maryland. In 2015, it provided over 24,000 direct jobs in the state and another 87,000 indirect jobs. Our partners in the biopharmaceutical industry depend on union labor to build state-of-the-art research and manufacturing facilities to rigorous standards. If this bill is passed, the effects on the building and construction trade unions would be significant both immediately and in the long term.

Here’s why – the building trades unions invest over $1 billion each year in apprenticeship training programs where members learn cutting-edge techniques to be the safest, most productive and highest skilled workers in the world. Behind every apprenticeship there must be a job supporting it. Apprentices earn while they learn, graduate debt free and all this is done using no taxpayer money. Without the promise of jobs provided by industries like the pharmaceutical industry, the program would not exist.

Aside from the loss of jobs, this legislation has other unintended consequences. The Federal Trade Commission has determined that the disclosure of this type of sensitive information could disrupt competitive forces within the industry, leading to price increases and medicine shortages. To make matters worse, there is nothing in the legislation that would prevent a company from being required to reveal confidential contractor bids, providing a roadmap for out of state, non-union, low cost contractors to underbid skilled union craft contractors.  

Several good ideas have been proposed to control cost and increase choice and access to medicines – but this transparency bill is not one of them. In New Jersey, state Senator Steve Sweeney (an International Vice President of the Ironworkers Union) saved the state an estimated $1.5 billion by creating a competitive bidding process for Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to win the state’s healthcare business. In Maryland, another proposed policy is eliminating the gag rule, which prohibits pharmacists from telling patients when a medicine would be cheaper by paying out-of-pocket and not going through insurance. This is an unacceptable, opaque policy that allows PBMs to pad their pockets when patients overpay at the pharmacy counter. There are systematic problems with third parties in the healthcare system that through reform, can result in direct savings for patients.

We all want laws that help protect our access to good and affordable healthcare, but this so-called transparency legislation is a failed approach at legislating. While it makes for good politics, it is bad policy. Of the three states which have passed similar legislation, two have been mired in litigation, costing state and taxpayer dollars.

It takes an average of 10 years and $2.6 billion to bring a drug to market. Without safeguards in place to protect this type of confidential information that promotes competition, the industry would lose critical incentives to discover life-saving cures and treatments. As a result, capital investment in research and manufacturing facilities that provide millions of jobs for working families could become at risk. 

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Wed, 28 Mar 2018 01:19:09 -0400