Candidates for the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Sentences: In what cases, if any, would you support legislation requiring judges to impose mandatory sentences? Do you feel Maryland should build a maximum security facility for juvenile offenders? Please explain.
Spending: In which areas of government should the state spend more money or less? Please be specific.
Legislation: Give three examples of legislation you intend to propose.
Thomas R. Falcinelli (R), 47, of 12405 Mylott St., Silver Spring, is an attorney in private practice. Previously, he worked in education and insurance fields. He has presented testimony at federal, state and local levels and has done pro bono work related to health, elections, education and social security. He is active in civic, church and professional groups.
Sentences: The General Assembly has provided funds this past session to determine the need for the state's first maximum security juvenile facility. Current law requires judges to impose mandatory sentences in several areas. State correctional policy is directed away from confinement and toward rehabilitation. Federal courts have ordered state officials to reduce overcrowding in our state prisons. We do not need another facility nor additional mandatory sentences. We need innovative leaders in the General Assembly and creative judges to reduce the current increase in crime.
Spending: In Maryland, unlike other states, the governor -- by force of the constitution -- submits the state budget to the General Assembly, which then enacts same by approving it or decreasing the amounts contained therein. Spending limitations are a proper legislative function. Enactment of the state budget is a major action of the General Assembly. Accordingly, I would set ceilings on state spending pegged to the growth of personal income of Marylanders, since state spending has increased at a rate of twice that of personal income.
Legislation: 1) State income tax reform: (a) Permit tenants to receive a renters' tax credit deduction on their return, as the state of Michigan presently provides; (b) Increas the retirement and/or disability income exclusion for the senior citizens and disabled, as other jurisdictions have done.2) Government reform: Allow citizens to place statewide legislation on the ballot through the initiative process. 3) Election reform: (a) Shorten the ballot to avoid confusion by changing the time and method of conducting county and statewide official elections; (b) Elect members of the House of Delegates on a single-district basis to assure greater citizen participation in the electoral process.
Sheila Ellis Hixson (D), incumbent, 49, of 1008 Broadmore Cir., Silver Spring, a member of the House of Delegates since 1976, serves on the Environmental Matters Committee. A former legal aide to the secretary of the Democratic National Committee for 10 years, she has served on the Montgomery County Democratic State Central Committee.
Sentences: I have introduced legislation calling for "equal sentencing for equal crimes," leading to establishment of a summer study by the Judiciary Committee, the legislature and eventual support by the Maryland bench for this concept. As opposed to mandatory sentences, I support even-handed justice. Additional facilities for the incarceration of juvenile offenders are desperately needed to keep young offenders segregated from hardened criminals. I also support mandatory minimum sentencing of multiple offenders and for those committing capital crimes such as murder. Finally, I favor continued efforts to rehabilitate juvenile offenders and would urge more financial support for rehabilitation than for building maximum security facilities.
Spending: Because of New Federalism the options open to the state on how to spend more money are limited. In fact, holding the line is the first priority. If additional money is available I would recommend additional funding for law enforcement, school facility maintenance and health care facilities as well as health care.
Legislation: 1) I will continue to introduce legislation protecting consumers. Control of the lenders "interest rate" must be maintained. I will introduce legislation to continue to limit finance charges in Maryland and also to ensure that credit grantors will be attracted back to Maryland. 2) I will maintain my interest in tax relief for homeowners and parents by introducing legislation to ease the burden of local taxes and granting relief to parents of college-age children. 3) Finally, I will be introducing a rewritten bill to end age and sex discrimination in the insurance industry -- legislation which I introduced last session in coordination with federal legislation introduced by the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. John Dingell.
Diane Kirchenbauer (D), 38, of 10414 Lorain Ave., Silver Spring, a former aide in the U.S. House and the state Senate, was legislative representative for the Maryland chapter of NOW for two years and chaired Del. Stewart Bainum's legislative advisory board. She was appointed by Gov. Harry Hughs to the 6th circuit's Judicial Nominating Commission.
Sentences: Mandatory sentences are appropriate in those instances where the individual has demonstrated, through the commission of a violent crime, that s/he poses a threat to society. In the vast majority of cases, however, I believe judicial discretion in sentencing is preferable. The administration of justice is not an exact science. To be fair, the circumstances surrounding each case must be considered. Experience has taught us that inflexible mandatory sentences often encourage "charge bargaining," which essentially circumvents the goal of mandatory sentencing laws. Juveniles who commit crimes must be held responsible for their actions. To increase their chances for rehabilitation, however, juvenile criminal should be incarcerated in separate facilities. Maximum security facilities are extremely expensive and before committing the necessary tax dollars to such a project, I would like to see a critical analysis of current practices and existing facilities to determine the best and most cost-effective way to resolve our juvenile crime problem.
Spending: I would like to see our state government spend more of its limited economic resources on programs with a high-yield potential and less on special tax subsidies to wealthy corporations. (a) Maryland should spend more money to enforce certain provisions of the state tax code. Millions of gas tax dollars are lost because the state does not adequately audit out-of-state trucking companies. This is one area where a modest increase in state spending would yield a large return for Maryland taxpayers. (b) Maryland should reduce or eliminate its subsidy of wealthy corporations. For example, by prohibiting oil companies from deducting their federal windfall profits tax payment from their taxable state income, Maryland could save about $20 million over the next five years. In today's economy, we can no longer afford to be so generous with our tax dollars.
Legislation: 1) Employment: The state must be the catalyst for reducing unemployment. Studies indicate that much unemployment is the result of "mismatching" -- job skills of the labor pool don't match job needs of industry. To meet our short-term needs, we must establish labor training programs designed to meet the specific needs of employers, focusing on the long-term unemployed for the first training programs. At the same time, we must look ahead to determine where our future job needs will be and provide this information to school counselors to assist students in making career plans. 2) Probate reform: By removing the percentage fee for attorneys' fees and other modifications, this bill would simplify, expedite and reduce the cost of settling an estate. 3) Medical cost containment: The state must restrcture its third-party reimbursement to health care providers to create an incentive to keep costs down. Highly specialized "outpatient" clinics provide quality care at a fraction of the hospital care cost.
Ida G. Ruben (D), incumbent, 53, of 11 Schindler Ct., Silver Spring, a member of the House for eight years, chairs the Montgomery County delegation, serves on the Economic Matters Committee and is vice president of the Women Legislators' Caucus. She is international vice president of B'nai B'rith Women and is active in civic and political groups.
Sentences: (a) I support mandatory sentences for crimes of violence, such as murder, rape, robbery weith a deadly weapon, use of a handgun in a commission of a crime, assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to rape. Recidivism has been on the rise and mandatory sentences for these crimes would serve as a deterrent and protect the innocent, law-abiding citizen. At the present time we do have provisions for mandatory sentencing, but they involve third- and fourth-time offenders. I also would be in favor of strengthening these existing laws. (b) Maryland is in need of a maximum security facility for juvenile offenders because of the increasingly greater numbers of incorrigible juveniles that may not and should not be placed with adult offenders.
Spending: If additional funds were available in the state, I would propose increasing our expenditures in the areas of social needs such as housing, medical care, child support, day care centers, senior citizen centers, transportation, crisis shelters, handicapped, retarded, mentally ill, vocational training and prison systems. I do not feel that it is feasible at this time to spend less on our present programs, particularly in light of the New Federalism, which will diminish our existing resources. Unfortunately, I do not know where the state of Maryland will have funds available to cover all of its needs unless the federal government continues to fund programs or unless the federal government provides the money along with the responsibility of the New Federalism.
Legislation: 1) Legislation that will enable the unemployed to be retrained and reeducated to suit available employment. 2) Mandatory covering of loose loads on trucks. 3) Legislation to provide for the recording of child support payments through the courts and that payments be disbursed properly immediately after receipt
Gerald Schneider (Libertarian), 44, of 12503 White Dr., Silver Spring, is an art investment counselor. He has a PhD in environmental education and was the first executive director of the Audubon Naturalist Society. He is active in the Coalition for Representative Government and other citizens groups, and is a proponent of a nuclear weapons freeze.
Sentences: I would consider mandatory sentences in cases of crimes against person or property in which firearms were used and in cases of forcible rape. I am opposed to a maximum security facility for juveniles, preferring instead to compel juvenile offenders to make restitution to their victims.
Spending: There is no area in which our overtaxing state should spend more money. Among the many areas where state spending should be severely reduced or eliminated are new highway construction, the Housing Opportunities Commission and the construction of unwanted sewage treatment facilities.
Legislation: 1) I will propose ending the double taxation of Takoma Park by the establishment of tax credits for residents who pay municipal taxes. To be fair to persons not residing in municipalities, I will propose comparable tax credits for payment to citizens' associations used for service that would otherwise be provided by the counties or the state. 2) I will propose a statewide referendum on a nuclear arms freeze. 3) I will propose a system for guaranteeing unbiased judges, which will allow both defendants and aggrieved parties the right to challenge judges in the manner by which jurors may now be challenged.