IMG_0308.JPG

POLICY

Here Is What I Am Fighting For

Gun Safety Reforms

     “Mass Killing in Indianapolis is a Distinctly American Story” should not ever be the headline.  The most recent incident, the FedEx Mass Shooting in Indianapolis, has really struck a nerve with Americans across the country.  Unfortunately, just like in the previous mass shootings, several lives were lost, families are heart-broken and we do not understand why the gunman committed this heinous act.

 

      As a registered gun owner and member of the NRA, I support the Second Amendment wholeheartedly.  In addition, I recognize and respect that the majority of gun owners take their weapons seriously such that they are not out here causing problems and shooting up public places.  The amendment was established so that American citizens can retain the right to bear arms.  I will work diligently to ensure that the Second Amendment will continue to be upheld.  I have no interest in taking away registered guns from law-abiding American citizens.  However, I will work diligently to support, draft and pass legislation for:

  • Universal criminal background checks:

  • This is extremely important and is warranted due to several mass shootings that have occurred recently.  A criminal background check is only as good as the information that it contains.  But, the investigator who is authorized to run background checks will need to know whether a handgun or rifle can be sold to the buyer.  This is where issues pertaining to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountibility Act (HIPAA) law needs to be addressed.  Because medical records, inlcuding mental health records, are protected under this act, there is no way for the investigator to determine if, in good conscious, that an individual may have or have had a history of mental illness or not.  Everything is digital now inlcuding your medical records.  There has to be a way that, when the background check has been initiated, a special code is returned with the results that informs the investigator that the buyer is NOT eligible to purchase a firearm.  The code will not be configured to reveal the reason why.  Most importantly, the coding system will not disclose any kind of diagnosis.  If the seller bypasses the results of the background check and sells the firearm anyway and an incident occurs with that particular buyer, the seller may be held criminally accountable to a certain extent.

  • More requirements for Handgun Qualification. This includes a minimum of 15 hours of target shooting at the range with qualified instructors. 

  • No one under the age of 21 will be allowed to purchase a handgun or shotgun.  There may be exceptions to this rule if the individual has accepted a position as a police officer, armed security guard or other law enforcement professional.

 
The Economy

       The COVID-19 pandemic has, without a doubt, wreaked havoc and chaos on the lives of many Americans.  Right now, people are still losing their jobs.  In addition, the banks and landlords are threatening and pursuing legal actions against those that are unable to pay their rents or mortgages.

 

       Even with a tiny bit of relief from the stimulus checks, many Americans just simply cannot make ends meet.  I have witnessed in my state how people are making decisions to pay for groceries and skipping out on their much needed prescription medicines because of expensive copays.  A large amount of the stimulus funds went to wealthy people and organizations that didn’t need the funding.  Furthermore, have you seen the price for a pound of bacon?  It’s $8!  I remember when a pound of bacon was as low as $1.49 per pound.  We are currently dealing with a crisis of inflation. This should not be occurring. 

 

       Instead of relying on the federal government to attempt to make things better, I will focus on and support policies that will help Maryland families get better wages and to make the state a top priority in getting direct emergency relief during economic crisis, lower taxes for all but the wealthiest Americans, eradicate student loan debt up to $150k and stop all interest from accruing with the loan servicers so that students can pay down their debt in a reasonable amount of time and not for the rest of their lives, reduce gasoline and oil prices, and to stabilize the overall economy by concentrating more on controlling inflation.

 

       Another important policy issue that I will focus on and support legislation for will be to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act to the fullest.  In 1999, President Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act which effectively neutralized the Glass-Steagall Act by repealing key components of it.  Because of this, many economists believe that this was a key factor that led to the housing market and financial crisis, known as the Great Recession, in 2008.  American s cannot afford to suffer from another financial meltdown.

 
Healthcare
Extensive Healthcare Services for Women

 

        For several different reasons, many women have concerns regarding the appearances of their bodies.  While Hollywood continuously demonstrates for us the faces of women that have long silky hair, gorgeous bodies with flat stomachs and flawless skin, many other women observe this and wish that they had the same.  As a result, some women will go to the extreme with making enhancements to their bodies by:

 

  • Flying to another country for cheap plastic surgery procedures to include breast implants, Brazilian butt lifts and liposuction,

  • Locating a private individual through “word of mouth” who states that he/she can perform certain procedures using Botox or silicone injections.  This individual typically performs these services in a motel/hotel room or in the basement of a house, and/or

  • Traveling to local plastic surgery “chop shops” located in small shopping plazas or in other major cities such as this place below

plastic surgery store.jpg

        The bottom line is that neither of these three ways provide a safe and sterile ambulatory environment according to U.S. regulations.  Furthermore, women should never place their lives in danger to make enhancements to their bodies in this manner.  Instead, women should first speak with their primary care physicians and get counseled, be referred to a board certified plastic surgeon and meet with that surgeon for a consultation.  This is a very important step because there are some women that may not be candidates for plastic surgery.

        Also, in general, it is the appearance of their bodies after giving birth to a baby that depresses many women.  Unfortunately, all women’s bodies do not return to the original shape after delivery.  In addition to performing stringent abdominal exercises, for many women the “mummy tummy” or “kangaroo pouch” does not flatten and tighten although the rest of their body has returned to the original shape.  This makes women feel more depressed due to a decrease in self-confidence about their appearances.

        Currently, breast reduction procedures are covered under most health insurance plans with a qualifying diagnosis/justification for the surgery.  To help women make the best possible enhancements to their bodies without placing their lives in danger, I will propose the following for women that have undergone pregnancy and have delivered their babies:

  • Abdominoplasty, also known as tummy tuck, to be covered as a healthcare benefit under the insurance plans at 100% of the cost.  If this is not approved, then 80/20.  The lowest I will fight for is 70/30.  The procedure may include liposuction.  That will be up to the discretion of the surgeon.  Women should have the option of getting a tummy tuck, if they need it, at some point after the delivery of their babies.  Of course, certain requirements will need to be met for this.  The maximum tummy tuck allowance is one per insured individual.

 

​        For women interested in other bodily enhancements, they will have to be financially responsible for the surgeries they elect to have.  I’ll try very hard to get other procedures covered such as liposuction by itself and maybe some facial enhancements.  This will be very difficult because the health insurance companies want to keep their profits high and their expenses/overhead low.  Also, electing to have plastic surgery, in general, is considered a cosmetic choice.  However, in some cases it should be a choice based on need.

 

       While driving through the great state of Maryland, I was amazed at its beautiful countryside. After visiting several places, I took notice of the fact that too many women are not getting top notch healthcare for their special medical needs.  These may consist of health issues pertaining to uterine fibroids, endometriosis, uterine prolapse, bladder endometriosis, gestational problems, post-partum depression, maternal and fetal health, breast problems, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual dysfunction and so much more.  I will work diligently with the state to construct a hospital strictly for women as well as construct satellite clinics within the counties in Maryland that have rural and underserved communities.  Every woman in Maryland should have access to comprehensive state-of-the-art care that is focused on her.  Also, every woman is physically and mentally unique and special. So, why are we all being treated in the same manner?  You see, women are the most precious living beings on Earth.  Without us, no one would be born.  I strongly believe that women, not the government, should be in control of their health and make the best possible medical decisions with their doctors.

Medicare

 

        I will support legislation to ensure that the Medicare system is not compromised any longer by eliminating copays and ensuring that all seniors are covered under the plan regardless of pre-existing health issues.  Furthermore, I will also support legislation designed to make all health insurance plans simple and affordable for all Americans.  With an emphasis on preventive care, no one should have any problems with getting their annual physicals and well woman exams.  

 

Mental Health

       With respect to mental health care, I will support legislation to eliminate the cap on the coverage.  There are so many Americans that are mentally ill.  In many cases, they need more than a measly twelve months to try to get better.  Mental health issues take time to diagnose and to get to the root cause of the problem. 

 

       Health insurance companies sometimes use restrictive standards to limit the coverage for mental health care.  These standards often include criteria that plan members must meet in order to qualify for coverage or treatment. These standards make it extremely difficult to get treatment covered unless a plan member is very ill.  I will support legislation that will eliminate this.

 

       In addition, the pharmaceutical companies have been killing Americans on the prices of much needed medications for health issues involving diabetes and other endocrine disorders, cancer, hypertension, anti-virals, and other life-saving drugs.  I will support legislation that is geared towards ending the price gouging that has strained the financial budgets of Americans.  Did you know that, in many cases, it does not cost the pharmaceutical companies a lot of money to make the drugs?  Many of the commonly used drugs are made overseas and sent back to the U.S.  Then, the pharmaceutical companies markup the prices and pass that on to us.

 
New FOIA Amendments

Additional Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

       As a federal government contractor for several years, I have worked with the FOIA extensively.  From issues

involving civil rights to issues involving law enforcement, national security, policy and statistics, I have worked behind the scenes reviewing, redacting and releasing federal records while at the same time always thinking of the possible harm that could be caused to an agency should certain records be released by mistake.  In addition, I have noticed two common major issues that have continuously plagued the agencies I have worked for during my career:

  • The filing of lawsuits on the 21st business day, and

  • Requests for records that are voluminous.

 

​       Many requesters believe and/or think that, when they submit a request to an agency, employees can easily

retrieve the records, review and redact them all within the twenty business day timeframe as established by Congress.  In most situations, this is NOT the case.  A plethora of federal records have been retired and are stored at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) or the Federal Records Center (FRC).  Someone will have to locate and retrieve these records if they exist.  Other records have been destroyed according to the agency’s retention schedules.  Furthermore, there are many other kinds of records that may require consultations with the custodian(s) of the records.  This takes time.  Also, because many employees have been retiring lately, those positions have not and probably will not be backfilled thus, causing a shortage in staffing. 

 

To help alleviate some of the problems associated with responding to FOIA requests, I will propose the following:

  • A bill to be drafted ending the filing of lawsuits on the 21st business day when requests have not been answered.  Many requesters know that it takes much longer to locate, review and redact certain types of records.  So, they will constantly request these kinds of records for the purposes of getting legal fees paid to them.  This could be considered abuse of government resources and taxpayer’s money since this is an easy way to “get paid” but only if the plaintiff prevails.  In September 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the Report to the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate titled, Freedom of Information Act: Litigation Costs for Justice and Agencies Could Not Be Fully Determined.  At the time when this report was published, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 3,350 FOIA lawsuits had been filed against agencies resulting in a 57% increase in lawsuits filed since 2006.  These lawsuits have placed a strain on federal resources and have become overwhelming for the attorneys that are litigating them. 

​        ​​For simple track requests, agencies should be able to respond within the twenty business day timeframe.  However, for complex requests (mainly involving policy), the agencies will need a minimum of 90 - 120 business days.  This will allow for more quality reviews and allow for consultations, if needed.  Most importantly, this should help decrease mistakes in releasing records that should not be released.

 
Housing

Housing Issues

        Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people's lives. Housing is

essential to meet basic needs such as shelter.  However, it is not just a question of having a roof over your head.

        Housing is definitely much more than that.  It should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe,

have privacy and personal space.  It should be a place where they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home.  The problem question is whether people can afford adequate housing or not.

        In addition, housing costs take up a large share of the household budget and it represents the largest single expenditure for many individuals and families.  By the time you add up elements such as rent, gas, electricity, water, furniture and repairs, the budget for the month is almost depleted.  This is the case with many Americans that are living while earning a low income, fixed income and/or are living in poverty.  This includes military veterans, senior and homeless citizens.

 

I’M A CRUSADER FOR THE HOMELESS!

 

        On June 4, 2009, I fell victim to the economic recession and became homeless.  My unemployment insurance had expired.  My oldest daughter was accepted into Morgan State University but I had to pay her fees for room and board and purchase books.  I took the rent money for the month of June and paid all of her fees plus incidentals.  I had just graduated from Howard University with a Master’s Degree and was unable to find decent employment.  Almost all of the employers that I interviewed with wanted/offered to take advantage of me by suggesting that I perform work duties equivalent to that of a federal government GS-12/13 employee for less than $45,000 annually.  This was totally insane.  Unfortunately, it was the “season of the employers” and if I wanted to be employed, I was forced to take whatever positions I could possibly get.  Also, the competition for jobs was so huge that, in many cases, other candidates that agreed to work for far less wages were chosen over me.  Nevertheless, I took any menial paying job that I could get.  I was homeless for approximately two years.

 

HUD Definition of Homelessness Under the HEARTH Act of 2009:

 

- “an individual or family who has a primary nighttime residence that is a room in a hotel or motel and where they lack the resources necessary to reside there for more than 14 days, who has no subsequent residence identified; and lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing;” (see HEARTH Act)

        Although this bill was signed into law on May 20, 2009, I was not able to benefit from it.  In the eighteen months after the bill’s signing, HUD was required to draft regulations to implement this new program.  While I was homeless during this time period, the Department of Social Services in my state was unable to assist me.  All they could do was to place my name on a waiting list.

 

Quantifying Homelessness in Maryland

 

        While most low-income households manage to stay housed, it remains precarious. A simple life event – illness, job loss, divorce – could result in a household falling into homelessness.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires each Continuum of Care (CoC) to conduct a Point in Time (PIT) count of those experiencing homelessness in a jurisdiction, during the last 10 days of January.  This is the only national count conducted each year and it serves as a basis for HUD’s annual funding allocations.  In 2018, the national total count was 552,830 individuals11. HUD Requires both sheltered and unsheltered counts in odd years, and leaves it optional in even years. The 2018 PIT count included totals of those living in shelter, but does not include unsheltered clients in Baltimore City, Carroll or Garrett Counties.  The annual totals presented in the chart below represents a total of anyone that was homeless and required services, shelter, or housing throughout the 2018 fiscal year as reported by CoC providers.  The annual figure is a more accurate estimate of the total homelessness in Maryland while the PIT count more effectively serves as an indicator of trends over time.  The 2018 annual total is approximately 1% higher than the total for 2017 and is 13% higher than the annual count collected in 2015, which may be attributed to increased access to services.  Comparing PIT count years when a sheltered count was taken (2016 and 2018), the totals show an overall decrease of 10% in the number counted.    

homeless chart.jpg

        The majority of homeless individuals in fiscal year 2018 were counted in Baltimore City, Baltimore Count        

Montgomery County and Prince Georges County, which is a trend that continues from prior years.  The annual numbers show 41% of the total served were in Baltimore City; 12% in Baltimore County; 9% in Montgomery County; and 7% in Prince Georges County.(see Annual Report on Homelessness)

 

        The bottom line is that these numbers are growing and are alarming.  I want to change this and ensure that Maryland’s homeless population is no longer homeless.  Thus, every homeless Marylander will have a home of their own to go to provided that I focus on the following:

  • For a homeless person, a government ID is key to becoming self-sufficient. An ID makes it possible for a homeless person to apply for a job, get public benefits and find a place to live. Individuals can obtain an ID without having a permanent address.

  • Seek out available lands in areas that are near public transportation and consult with contractors to build small energy efficient homes similar to those that were built by the Veterans Community Project. These homes will accommodate all homeless persons.(see NBC News article)

  • Ensure successful job placement and adult continuing education.

 

Hearth Act

 

2018 Annual Report on Homelessness

 

NBC News article

 
Housing

Housing Issues

     Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people's lives. Housing is essential to meet basic needs such as shelter.  However, it is not just a question of having a roof over your head. Housing is definitely much more than that.  It should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe, have privacy and personal space.  It should be a place where they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home.  The problem question is whether people can afford adequate housing or not.

       In addition, housing costs take up a large share of the household budget and it represents the largest single expenditure for many individuals and families.  By the time you add up elements such as rent, gas, electricity, water, furniture and repairs, the budget for the month is almost depleted.  This is the case with many Americans that are living while earning a low income, fixed income and/or are living in poverty.  This includes military veterans, senior and homeless citizens.

 

I’M A CRUSADER FOR THE HOMELESS!

 

       On June 4, 2009, I fell victim to the economic recession and became homeless.  My unemployment insurance had expired.  My oldest daughter was accepted into Morgan State University but I had to pay her fees for room and board and purchase books.  I took the rent money for the month of June and paid all of her fees plus incidentals.  I had just graduated from Howard University with a Master’s Degree and was unable to find decent employment.  Almost all of the employers that I interviewed with wanted/offered to take advantage of me by suggesting that I perform work duties equivalent to that of a federal government GS-12/13 employee for less than $45,000 annually.  This was totally insane.  Unfortunately, it was the “season of the employers” and if I wanted to be employed, I was forced to take whatever positions I could possibly get.  Also, the competition for jobs was so huge that, in many cases, other candidates that agreed to work for far less wages were chosen over me.  Nevertheless, I took any menial paying job that I could get.  I was homeless for approximately two years.

 

HUD Definition of Homelessness Under the HEARTH Act of 2009:

 

- “an individual or family who has a primary nighttime residence that is a room in a hotel or motel and where they lack the resources necessary to reside there for more than 14 days, who has no subsequent residence identified; and lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing;” (see HEARTH Act)

        Although this bill was signed into law on May 20, 2009, I was not able to benefit from it.  In the eighteen months after the bill’s signing, HUD was required to draft regulations to implement this new program.  While I was homeless during this time period, the Department of Social Services in my state was unable to assist me.  All they could do was to place my name on a waiting list.

 

Quantifying Homelessness in Maryland

 

        While most low-income households manage to stay housed, it remains precarious. A simple life event – illness, job loss, divorce – could result in a household falling into homelessness.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires each Continuum of Care (CoC) to conduct a Point in Time (PIT) count of those experiencing homelessness in a jurisdiction, during the last 10 days of January.  This is the only national count conducted each year and it serves as a basis for HUD’s annual funding allocations.  In 2018, the national total count was 552,830 individuals11. HUD Requires both sheltered and unsheltered counts in odd years, and leaves it optional in even years. The 2018 PIT count included totals of those living in shelter, but does not include unsheltered clients in Baltimore City, Carroll or Garrett Counties.  The annual totals presented in the chart below represents a total of anyone that was homeless and required services, shelter, or housing throughout the 2018 fiscal year as reported by CoC providers.  The annual figure is a more accurate estimate of the total homelessness in Maryland while the PIT count more effectively serves as an indicator of trends over time.  The 2018 annual total is approximately 1% higher than the total for 2017 and is 13% higher than the annual count collected in 2015, which may be attributed to increased access to services.  Comparing PIT count years when a sheltered count was taken (2016 and 2018), the totals show an overall decrease of 10% in the number counted.    

homeless chart.jpg

        The majority of homeless individuals in fiscal year 2018 were counted in Baltimore City, Baltimore Count        

Montgomery County and Prince Georges County, which is a trend that continues from prior years.  The annual numbers show 41% of the total served were in Baltimore City; 12% in Baltimore County; 9% in Montgomery County; and 7% in Prince Georges County.(see Annual Report on Homelessness)

 

        The bottom line is that these numbers are growing and are alarming.  I want to change this and ensure that Maryland’s homeless population is no longer homeless.  Thus, every homeless Marylander will have a home of their own to go to provided that I focus on the following:

  • For a homeless person, a government ID is key to becoming self-sufficient. An ID makes it possible for a homeless person to apply for a job, get public benefits and find a place to live. Individuals can obtain an ID without having a permanent address.

  • Seek out available lands in areas that are near public transportation and consult with contractors to build small energy efficient homes similar to those that were built by the Veterans Community Project. These homes will accommodate all homeless persons.(see NBC News article)

  • Ensure successful job placement and adult continuing education.

 

Hearth Act

 

2018 Annual Report on Homelessness

 

NBC News article

Our Military Veterans
 

Issues Pertaining to Our Military Veterans

     Unfortunately, many Americans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars need mental health care. However, they aren't always getting enough from the Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Health Administration, according to the results of a congressionally mandated investigation.  Go here: Gulf_War_Illnesses

 

        The military is aware of what the veterans have been exposed to, especially the ones that went to combat.  Many of these veterans have witnessed their friends/colleagues get killed.  Also, they have had to endure the intense bombing campaigns that released chemicals and dust into the air.  As a result, many of these veterans currently suffer from disorders such as sleep apnea, respiratory problems and mental illnesses such as PTSD, depression and addiction.

 

        It is important to note that these veterans, men and women, were taken overseas as healthy individuals and several of them became broken.  When they returned home, these broken individuals did not get fixed. The Veterans Health Administration repeatedly denies benefits to veterans depending on one of the eight priority groups to which they belong. 

 

        Most veterans are eligible for VA’s medical care but must enroll to receive treatment. Veterans are assigned to one of eight priority groups based on their service-connected disabilities, income, combat status and other factors when they apply.  VA determines how many priority groups it can serve with the funding approved by the Congress.  Veterans in the lowest-priority groups would be the first to be denied service.

 

Go here: VA_Spending

 

       The bottom line here is that no military veteran should be denied the right to receive medical care.  In addition, military veterans should receive the same high-quality care that the active duty personnel receive on the military bases. Thus, the VA hospitals and clinics should be structured such that the same high quality of care is afforded to them if they are not able to access the bases.  After all, our military veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice for us which is to protect our homeland and our freedoms.

 

As your Senator, I will fight for the following for our military veterans:

  • Propose legislation to create specialty mental health centers with the primary focus of treating the underlying cause of the mental health issue and not just treat the symptoms,

  • Examine how the VA hospitals and clinics can be structured such that military veterans receive the same high quality of care as the active duty personnel, and

  • Ensure that funding is restored to the Veterans Administration and propose legislation that this funding is never cut under any circumstance.

Mental illness is real and has had devastating effects on thousands of families across the U.S.  Let’s cut out the bureaucratic bullshit and take care of our military veterans.

Child Support Amendments

Amendments to Current Child Support Laws

      Often times in child support cases, the mothers have the upper hand with respect to the courts ordering fathers to pay.  However, there have been several instances where the fathers have ordered paternity testing that has resulted in negative outcomes.  Men should not have to continue to pay child support for children that are biologically not theirs.  Furthermore, the courts should reverse the decisions and clear their records.

        In instances where men have signed birth certificates and the paternity tests confirm negative results afterwards, the birth certificates should be corrected/amended with the removal of the incorrect father’s name.  While it is important that the states recover, as much as possible, the funds spent on welfare programs, it is totally unfair for any man to pay support for a child once the paternity testing has confirmed the negative results.  It is not my intention to make changes to the current child support laws.  Rather, my intentions are to fight for the men that have been wrongfully ordered to pay child support for children that are not biologically theirs.

        In reference to funds that have already been paid during the course of the child support orders, the fathers should be entitled to a state tax credit.  At this point, it would not be feasible for the courts to order mothers to pay back child support funds in civil proceedings because of willful deception or if it was an honest mistake.  The men will have to take the responsibility of filing civil complaints against the mothers if they choose to do so.  Hopefully, that option will be available depending on the state that they reside in; not all states allow this.

 
Criminal Justice Reform

        In the state of Maryland, approximately 75% of the inmate population consists of African Americans.  Also, the Maryland State Prison System is overcrowded which is not uncommon.  Unfair sentencing guidelines, the inability to pay fines and fees, and many people sitting in jails simply because they either cannot afford to make bail or they have violated the conditions of their probation/parole is the result of our inefficient and repressive criminal justice system.  This is usually the case throughout the country.  The bottom line here is that the prison systems are inundated with too many people that do not need to be there for long periods of time especially for convictions of non-violent crimes. 

 

According the the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014):

  • The 401,288 state prisoners released in 2005 had an estimated 1,994,000 arrests during the 9-year period, an average of 5 arrests per released prisoner.  Sixty percent of these arrests occurred during years 4 through 9.

  • An estimated 68% of released prisoners were arrested within 3 years, 79% within 6 years and 83% within 9 years.

  • Almost half (47%) or prisoners who did not have an arrest within 3 years of release were arrested during years 4 through 9.

  • More than three quarters (77%) of released drug offenders were arrested for a non-drug crime within 9 years.

  • 44% of released prisoners were arrested during the first year following release, while 24% were arrested during year 9.

  • 82% of prisoners arrested during the 9-year period were arrested within the first three years.

       These statistics clearly show that there is a serious problem with inmates being released without the preparation for reentry into society.  For many of the formerly incarcerated, securing employment, adequate housing and healthcare has been extremely difficult.  As a result, these issues have led some of these people right back into the streets to do what they know best – to live a criminal life just to survive.

 

        I will push Congress to pass the Next Step Act of 2019 which was introduced by Senator Cory Booker.  It is time to reform sentencing, the prison system, recidivism and law enforcement practices and it is long overdue.

 
The Environment

       When I first purchased my home, approximately once each month someone was knocking on my door offering for me to switch how my electricity was being delivered to me, from fossil-fuel to wind and/or solar power.  To do my part and help the environment, I purchased solar panels for my home.  This was an awesome and rewarding investment.  During the summer seasons, I barely get an electric bill.  The main reason for this is because my home gets full sun approximately 12 to 14 hours each day during the spring and summer seasons and 6 to 9 hours during the fall and winter seasons.  For the past three years, I have had the pleasure of experiencing the benefits of having solar energy to power my home while at the same time decreasing pollution.  I feel great about this positive contribution to the environment.  However, this is not enough.

 

       The health of the environment is extremely important if we want to continue to inhabit this land for hundreds of years to come.  As of now, we need to make some serious changes to restore the health of our planet.  Pollution from fossil fuel combustion, oil spills, plastics and other trash in the oceans is drastically changing the climate, killing precious species, destroying ecosystems and causing severe lung and other health problems for humans around the world.  It is imperative that we transition to clean energy sources and reduce carbon emissions in our country and globally.  This will help to increase energy efficiency.

 

        In the Senate, I will work diligently to support legislation geared towards reversing the Trump Administration’s rollbacks of clean air, clean water and fuel economy standards.  In addition, I will propose that special clauses are included to prevent future sitting presidents from tampering and/or rolling back these key components again.  Also, I will push for the U.S. to re-enter the Paris Climate Accords and work with other members of Congress to draft a more robust treaty that will force the most polluting nations around the world to take aggressive action on decreasing pollution that is being emitted into the environment by switching to clean energy.  The developing nations around the globe are not historically responsible for the majority of the world’s increased emissions.  Nonetheless, we will all need to work in unison to make this right – no excuses.

 
Bilateral Relations/Foreign Policy

       Since 2016, the U.S. has experienced the greatest drop in global confidence.  The world's trust in our country, which is extremely divided politically and has stirred global alarm over the U.S. killing of an Iranian general during the previous presidential administration, has dropped by more than 50%.  According to the 2020 Best Countries report, this is the sharpest drop of any country assessed. 

 

       The U.S. cannot afford to be in a position where its global relationships and partnerships are strained due to coarse, discourteous and ethnocentric attitudes towards other nations.  This, of course, is not the proper diplomatic way to communicate and conduct business.

Therefore, I will push for the U.S. Congress to work closely with our foreign relations experts and security advisors to mend these broken relationships with the goal of regaining the world’s trust in the U.S. and building new partnerships.

 

       With respect to Ukraine, I understand that strategically and geographically this country lies at the crux between Russia and Europe only because they broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991.  But, since Ukraine was recognized as an independent country, there has been a hodgepodge of incidents dealing with this country while at the same time causing the U.S. to be at odds with Russia.  This right here sounds like there is a bit of Cold War rivalry occurring with Ukraine all up in the middle of it. Although the Cold War is over, the U.S. still sees Ukraine through the lens of Russia.  So, is Ukraine going to lean East or West? Did the U.S. get played like “Pacman” when Congress authorized a $400 million military aid package for Ukraine in 2019?  When presented with the offer to investigate a U.S. presidential candidate and his son in exchange for the military aid package, the president of Ukraine carefully considered doing so. The look in his eye said it all. 

 

       On that note, I will push for the U.S. Congress to work on strengthening bilateral relationships with its top ten allies.  This is of the utmost importance and the U.S. must accomplish this.  Regardless of what occurs in this world, the U.S. will forever remain militarily vigilant and stand its ground at all times.

 
Maryland Issues
Community Policing

 

       Now more than ever, members of the public are making their own assessments of use of force encounters by the presence of cell phone video recorded by third parties and by police dashboard camera or body-worn camera footage that is then distributed via social media and provided to the news media. As more of these encounters are captured on video, members of various communities are demanding that law enforcement agencies take additional steps to hold personnel accountable and prevent some of these deadly uses of force from occurring in the future.

 

        I will support legislation that emphasizes the role of daily problem-solving, as well as more intensive problem-oriented policing, to address community problems and proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues.  In addition, I will push for more funding to be directed towards the establishment of community recreation centers, annual refresher and diversity training for police officers, and to conduct periodic town hall meetings so that the community can meet the police officers, sergeants and captains that are assigned to their districts with an emphasis on building a bridge of comfort and trust between them and the community.

Reallocate/Redirect Funding
A Brief Overview

 

       According to the Brookings Institution, to “defund the police” means to reallocate or redirect funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality. It does not mean to abolish policing.  That would not make sense at all because crimes are still being committed thus, law enforcement will still need to be involved.  Defunding the police also:

  • highlights fiscal responsibility,

  • advocates for a market-driven approach to taxpayer money, and

  • has some potential benefits that will reduce police violence and crime.

       As a result of defunding the police, departments will need to undergo some serious but much needed changes. They are as follows:

  • Remove all underperforming police officers from the department.  This includes those that have tarnished employment records, are known for being racist and having racist actions, and for all of those that simply take advantage of their positions through abuse of power.

  • Provide mandatory annual “diversity” and “compassion for the community” training to all staff members whether interacting with the public or not.  This includes the chief of police, the commissioner, desk personnel, all police officers no matter their ranks and non-police staff members.  These training requirements should be mandatory and taught in the police academy too. 

  • Police officers, in particular, should definitely be retrained such that they can effectively communicate with members of the communities in which they serve.  To accomplish this, police training has to be much more effective.  In addition, the trainers need more available resources.  Based on suggestions that were gathered from veteran officers and trainers, here are some ways to make police training more effective:

  • Start with the right people - one of the best ways to improve the training of law enforcement officers is to recruit individuals who have life experience and people skills. Many of today's recruits are directly out of college and have never faced any complicated situations or learned how to relate to people from different backgrounds. The majority of recruits have also never faced danger.

  • Establish a national standard - Each state has its own standards for peace officer training. Some law enforcement trainers would like to see every officer nationwide trained to the same standard, kind of a national Peace Officers Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) program.

  • Pool training resources - Precedent has been set for cooperation between agencies on a variety of operations, but often training isn't one of them. One way to cut the costs of training would be for agencies to share it. In addition to pooling their funds to provide specialized training, agencies could share training equipment from simulators down to padded suits and replica guns.

  • Update the methodology - The vast majority of law enforcement training is still conducted in the classroom or hands-on such as scenario and defensive tactics sessions. Many instructors are now talking about the concept of blended learning, which combines some online lessons and classroom, resulting in more time for hands-on training. The idea is to reduce "butt in seat" time and downtime between scenarios with online lessons divided into easily digestible chunks. This blended learning approach could be used to preload information for academy programs and to reduce classroom time for in-service training.

  • Complete the scenarios - Practical scenario training with live subjects is extremely effective. But some experts say agencies are doing it all wrong. The scenario shouldn't stop the minute shots are fired. Instead, the scenario should play out to the end with backup arriving, suspects handcuffed, searched, and readied for transport, emergency medical called and the other actions that would be taken in a real incident.

  • Write the reports - Documenting what happens when officers encounter the public is one of the most critical skills in law enforcement. But it is often given short shrift in academy, FTO, and in-service training programs. Trainers recommend that agencies spend more time teaching officers to produce quality reports. One way to incorporate more report writing into training programs is to require officers to write a report on what happened after completing a simulator or live scenario exercise.

  • Teach to case law - legal instruction for officers would be more effective if the concepts were taught both in the classroom and in practical scenarios and defensive tactics sessions. One way this could be applied would be to have students articulate how their actions in the scenario would be legally justified once the scenario is completed.

  • Practice consistent discipline - Some believe that disciplinary actions in the academy are not being consistently applied. One trainer said that recruits need to know when they have made a mistake and be given some discipline to correct the issue.

  • Teach communication skills - This applies to the officers' ability to communicate with other officers, other first responders, and the public. With other officers and public safety professionals, proper communication skills are critical in disseminating necessary information. When dealing with the public, officers need to know when to be commanding and when to be friendly and reassuring.

  • Teach decision making skills - In the academy and in-service training, officers need to learn how to analyze situations in ways that lead to the desired outcome. Officers need to learn how to conduct realistic and reasonable threat assessments that will lead to better decisions about when to use weapons, when to initiate vehicle pursuits, and when to undertake other dangerous actions. For example, the officer should know that TASERing a suspect running down the street could result in serious injury to the suspect and reason whether the threat presented by that suspect warrants the action.

       Police officers are not licensed physicians, counselors, social workers, school teachers, psychiatrists, medical technicians, attorneys, security advisors, IT specialists or any other profession that often places them in a situation where they may have to or are expected to operate outside of their scope of practice.  Police officers are law enforcement officers in our communities.  Their job description is simple:

 

  • Answer 9-1-1 calls.

  • Patrol an area or community.

  • Interview complainants.

  • Conduct accident investigations.

  • Act as caretaker of property and evidence.

  • Escort criminals to and from court.

  • Issue traffic citations and direct traffic.

  • Make arrests when necessary.

  • Interrogate persons suspected of criminal acts, witnesses and other persons involved.

  • Gather evidence.

  • Write up and file reports.

       Most importantly, funding should not be taken away from the goal of community policing which is for the police to build relationships with the community through interactions with local agencies and members of the public, creating partnerships and strategies for reducing crime and disorder.  All communities in the State of Maryland need and should have this benefit. 

 

       Community policing officers act as the primary link between the police department and the neighborhoods they serve. They monitor crime trends in their assigned sector, take the lead in establishing and maintaining community partnerships and facilitate problem-solving within their areas.  In order for this to work well, there needs to be trust between the police officers and the communities they serve.  This is a lot of work and it cannot be achieved overnight. 

 

        In addition, parents must strive for excellence by keeping their children positively engaged and informed about their education and well-being for the betterment of their lives.  For more information on community policing, check out the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Monthly Newsletter, the Community Policing Dispatch: https://cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/

 

Also, for additional information feel free to read these documents:

 

Community Policing Defined, Importance of Police-Community Relationships and What Works in Community Policing

References

what-does-defund-the-police-mean-and-does-it-have-merit

ways-to-make-police-training-more-effective

community-oriented-policing-attitudes-police

https://www.justice.gov - download

seattle-police-chief-budget-cut

 

Jobs

 

        In December 2020, the unemployment rate in my state was 6.3%.  Approximately 198,384 civilian workers were unemployed.  I will push for cutting tax rates to boost aggregate demand, more education and training opportunities to help reduce structural unemployment, geographical subsidies to encourage more businesses to invest in depressed areas and employment subsidies to encourage more businesses to hire the long-term unemployed.