Solar energy projects are sweeping the region, from rooftop and community solar panels to large-scale farms. We'll talk about community solar programs, bigger solar projects and how these intersect with state legislation.
Last month, tolls on Virginia’s I-66 reached nearly $47, leading Delegate Danica Roem, who ran with road repair as a central campaign issue, to cry foul. She joins us to talk about that and Virginia politics after a contentious General Assembly session.
This week, Maryland’s Speaker of the House Mike Busch was laid to rest. Now, three Democrats are vying for his former position. One of them, Delegate Dereck Davis, joins us to talk about why he thinks he should be elected speaker of the House. He also gives us an overview of the Maryland legislative session, which ended earlier this month.
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Mark Gunnery
- Danica Roem Member, Virginia House of Delegates, District 13 (D)
- Dereck Davis Member, Maryland House of Delegates, District 25 (D)
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to The Politics Hour starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Dereck Davis. He's a Democratic member of the Maryland House of Representatives, representing District 25, which includes parts of Prince George's County. He's also a candidate to be the next Speaker of the Maryland House. He joins us later in the broadcast. Joining us in studio now is Danica Roem, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, representing District 13, which includes Manassas, Manassas Park, Gainesville and Haymarket. Delegate Roem, good to see you again.
DANICA ROEMIt is so good to be back, Kojo. Good to see you and Tom both.
NNAMDIOn a general topic first Tom Sherwood, Senators, U.S. Senators from Maryland and Virginia have warned Metro that if they buy Chinese railcars there will be no more federal funding. The $150 million dollars that the federal government puts in will not be available. Of course, there are no railcars that are made here in the United States, but the senators and others apparently fear that Chinese made railcars will have the spying devices on them that allow them to spy on whatever is going on in this region and may also be able to use them to disrupt Metro when they feel like it.
SHERWOODOh, yeah, it be like having secret listening devices when they go into the Capitol or things like that. But let me just snarkily thank the senators from Maryland and Virginia for being so concerned about Metro and saying you can't spend this billion dollars on 8,800 series cars, 'cause they said that and they offered extra no dollar signs at all. They said, you can't do this, but we won't help you do that. The issue is if you're going to buy them from South Korea or France, there is no place in the United States, well then that's understandable. But that's hundreds of millions of dollars more. China, of course, is undercutting the market as it's trying to control everything. But I spoke to the Metro Chairman Jack Evans this morning.
SHERWOODAnd he said, well if the senators are concerned about us buying the cars, and want us to buy them somewhere else, and it will cost us hundreds of millions of dollars more, step up to the plate.
NNAMDIIt just seems to me that the competition among nations has hit a fairly low bar when nations are accusing one another of spying as opposed to simply competing. But --
SHERWOODNo, no, but it is true. I mean there is concerns, you know, about the Chinese embassy here and all.
NNAMDII do know there are concerns.
SHERWOODThere is -- China is making a determined worldwide effort to replace the United States as the principle country in the world. That's something that Russia would like to do, but it's far behind, but it is a serious issue. But if you're going to have a serious issue address the entire issue, not just part of it.
NNAMDICare to comment Danica Roem?
ROEMThe chief issue I have regarding Metro right now is the bill, the Metro funding bill that was passed through the Virginia General Assembly last year where the Republican majority on a pure party line vote shot down the Governor's amendments that would have capped $35 million dollars of our local road money that we need for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to deal with our roads and multi mobile projects. And instead transfer that entirely over to Metro, when you actually include the base $45 million dollars on top of that as well as the local matches. We're talking about $100 million some odd dollars of lost revenue for our roads in Northern Virginia that we very much need.
ROEMAnd no one is saying that Metro doesn't need dedicated funding. Of course, we do. And at the same time we had a proposal on the table that last year came from the administration and this year was carried by Delegate Vivian Watts from Fairfax County that would have put an extra $.05 cents on every $100 for the grainers tax only affecting the Metro Compact jurisdictions of Fairfax, Fairfax City, Loudoun, Alexandria, Falls Church and Arlington and not including Prince William, Manassas, Manassas Park and my constituents from Prince William, Manassas Park on this. As well as $.01 cent on the transient occupancy tax which is the hotel tax.
ROEMSo if you're paying, you know, for an out of town person, who's paying $100 a night for a hotel stay in Northern Virginia an extra dollar a night, or $2 a night if you're in the fancy place in Rosslyn, you know. And they shot that down on a pure party line vote and they didn't allow us to recover the money. Here's the thing, if you're going to take our money away in Northern Virginia, you have to find a way to replace it somehow.
ROEMAnd so this year I was leading -- I was helping to lead the charge within my own caucus to vote in favor of the I81 bill that came up, because part of that brought home $20 million dollars a year for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and because of that, both myself, Delegate Chris Hurst down in Blacksburg, Delegate Wendy Gooditis over in Clark County. We really worked hard for that. And we delivered 48 out of 49 members of our caucus for that bill. The Republicans only delivered 12 of their 51, but we got it passed and for the amendments. And that was a huge deal for us.
NNAMDII warned our listeners in the billboard and then I made the mistake myself. Don't start by bringing up transportation with Danica Roem, because Danica Roem was a transportation reporter before she became a delegate and she will go into all of the finite details of every transportation so --
ROEMDo you want to hear about all this.
SHERWOODYeah, and there are plenty of (unintelligible).
NNAMDILet's go to Terry McAuliffe for a second.
SHERWOODOkay, very quick. I want to say one thing that Jack Evans said to me that I did neglect to say, of course, these four senators are making this policy for Metro, the District of Columbia is excluded. We do not have a senator.
SHERWOODOr two of them.
ROEMAnd by the way I do support DC statehood.
ROEMYes, you should have, you know, a full --
NNAMDITerry McAuliffe, he says he's no longer thinking of making a run for the White House. That he's going to focus his energy on Virginia politics. He wants to see if the Senate in the General Assembly can become a Majority Democratic Senate if the Virginia General Assembly in general can become Majority Democratic. And he's doing this because he feels that the major leaders of the state right now, the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Lieutenant Governor have all been wounded by the scandals in which they have been involved.
SHERWOODWell, I've talked to the former Governor, and he would have run for President if he thought he could win. He gave it, for a year he traveled the country. He worked very hard at it. He told Julie Carey of NBC 4 just last week that if he decided not to run for President that he would in fact help out in the State Legislature, not just for the Senate, but for the House, they're both 1 or 2 votes apart from each other. And so he's, what was interesting about that and I want to hear the delegate's conversation about this, 'cause I think he endorsed you in your first race.
ROEMOh, in the general election, yeah.
SHERWOODIn the general election, right. Is Terry McAuliffe left open a little bit of a door that he could help the Democrats get control, majority control of the House and Senate this year. And then maybe in a couple of years he might run for Governor again. There's only been one Governor, Mills Godwin who has actually run twice.
SHERWOODRecently. He ran the first time as a Democrat and the second time as a Republican. But I would ask the delegate, what would you think about it, 'cause we have to talk about the leadership in the state Governor and Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor. What would you think about Terry McAuliffe helping out this year, and then also maybe running for Governor again?
ROEMWell, you know, I would certainly support, you know, our former Governor, you know, campaigning across the state. And he's certainly welcomed in the 13th District any time. You know, the folks in Haymarket, Gainesville, Manassas, Manassas Park they elected me while he was still Governor. And so clearly, you know, they supported him. You know, arguably, they're clearly very supportive of him. And like I think when I look at what this means in, you know, in context of this year's race. And if he were to decide to enter into 2021, well imagine if he has Democratic majorities to work with instead of a 2 to 1 Republican majority in the House of Delegates that he had to work with. And how much we can get it, you know, get across.
ROEMNow that's not just to say, you know, I know better than to, you know, make endorsements early on. You know, especially at the end this far out, it's not what you're, you know, generally inclined to do at this point. But what I would say is that when we struggled so hard when he was Governor to get Medicaid expansion done, because the Republican majority was absolutely dead set against it, and then when we had the power of 49, when we flipped those 15 seats and we came in, we got it done.
ROEMAnd that was despite the majority, only, you know, a third of them actually ended up voting for it. You know, it was good that we had bipartisanship. It was really good that, you know, we found a way to work together to get it done. But at the same time --
SHERWOODAnd let's just point out, that if he were to run for Governor of Virginia again he would start sometime late next year. It wouldn't be all the way to 2021. He would start in the middle of next year. So we're not that far away.
ROEMAnd we served together for like 3 days. (laugh)
NNAMDIAll right. Last month tolls on I-66 hit almost $47. When you ran for office in 2017 he made road improvement a center piece of your campaign. What are your thoughts on the news about such high tolls?
ROEMWell, you know, I've been on record about this repeatedly from 2017 to 2018 and to 2019 of, you know, having, you know, very strong opposition to the tolls on I-66.
NNAMDIIn your Facebook post you called it an equity problem.
ROEMIt is an equity problem, yes. Now the first thing I want to mention here, because I know for my constituents my views align very much with the views of my District. For those of you listening, who are not from Haymarket, Gainesville, Manassas, Manassas Park, there are some folks who live inside the beltway, who have concerns, basically saying that, well if you're against tolls here then here are the counter points that they have with that. So I want to address a few of these things.
ROEMNumber one on this, there's the argument of well, it used to be that single drivers didn't have any option to get through on I-66 inside the beltway during the morning and that now you're giving them an option, even if it's an expensive one, when it hits its peak. I have a different take on that in that the hours of operation for those tolls and for what HOV turning into HOT, that was changed by an hour and a-half. And when I used to work over at the Watergate for the National Journal when I was writing for the hotline for 3-1/2 years, I would take that bridge, or I would take, you know, 395 whichever way I was taking that particular day. And if I was going over that bridge and I got there before 6:00 in the morning, I didn't have a problem. You know, like I could just use it.
ROEMWell now I've got constituents who have to wake up and they have to be out the door on the road in the 4:00 hour so they don't get whacked by those tolls and when I've got a constituent in particular, who I'm thinking of in the Western part of my District, who is a war veteran, who has combat related PTSD, he can't take mass transit. That's, you know, part of what he's worked out with his psychologist. He has to drive himself and when he's telling me, hey, like this is adding an additional 45 minutes on my commute, and when I'm having to go 66, 495 South and then battle out on 50 to get into the city, and then he's having a long commute going back. I understand the data points that have come from Vdot and I very much like the Vdot Secretary. Shannon Valentine is very good at what she does.
SHERWOODSo what's the solution?
ROEMWell, all right so there's a few different things here. Number one, the widening inside of the beltway should have been completed first. And there was legislation in 2018 that would have said that if you had paid more than $200 a month in tolls, that you would get a rebate on anything after that until that widening was complete, that's number one, but that was shot down in the State Senate on an 8 to 7 vote. And that was a bipartisan bill that you had a very unusual, you know, two state senators between Dick Black and Jennifer Wexton, who's now in Congress who had supported that. I liked most of that bill. Had it come to the House I would have offered a floor amendment to strip out the reverse toll lanes part, because I don't think that the way to combat tolls is by adding more tolls.
ROEMThere is a problem that I see in that if you are making the case for dynamic tolling, which is supposed to deal with congestion relief. It's not supposed to be based on how much money you bring in.
ROEMCongestion pricing. If you're dealing with that, then the reverse commute in no way effects your congestion pricing going into the city in the morning for example. And so I spoke out against that out on the House floor and we did get that defeated, but at the same time I've got a lot, and Kojo is waving his finger for me to not into the policy too much.
NNAMDIBecause I got to take a short break. And when we come back we will continue this conversation with Danica Roem and if you have questions or comments for the delegate, you can call us at 800-433-8850. If you have already called, stay on the line. We'll get out, do our best to get to your calls as quickly as possible. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Danica Roem. She's the Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing District 13. Here's Jude in South West DC. Jude, you're on the air, go ahead please.
JUDEHi Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. Hi Tom. Nice to listen to you again. I had a question for the delegate. I was really glad earlier when she mentioned the need for multi modal transit, especially in our area. But then it seemed like she just kind of dove back into the road situation. And so I was wondering with all the talk in today's Democratic party about the green new deal and the need to reduce emissions, how does her plan for all of this road work out in our suburbs, how does that mesh with that plan?
ROEMI am so glad you asked that question. Thank you so much Jude. So I got a few things for you on this. Number one, I was extremely happy last year to vote for HB768, which put a floor on the Northern Virginia Regional Motor Fuels Tax. That was a campaign promise fulfilled by the way, and because of that we now have the funding for the first ever commuter bus linking, it's an OmniRide bus linking Haymarket in the Northern Gainesville area along Heathcote Boulevard out to Arlington where it stops near 5 Metro stations every morning. We're having some minor hiccups in terms of reliability on the bus service right now.
ROEMBut the general concept of actually having it at this point is a first forever for Haymarket to actually have mass transit. And so here's the thing. Yes, we need to fix our roads. And that is still a priority. I've put in four pieces of legislation dealing with Route 28, you know, in the last two years for example. At the same time we also have to deal with multi modal. We have to deal with mass transit. And I put in two bills that would create a commuter rail efficiency studies so we can find cost effective ways to extend the VRE out to Gainesville for example. And because at this point when the VRE terminates over the broad run station in Manassas, and it's not getting out to Gainesville and Haymarket.
ROEMI understand from the data that they were saying, like oh, well hey, you know, we don't think it's going to have as many riders as you might hope it would. But the bottom line was, it was $660 million dollars to go 11 miles along the existing Norfolk Southern Freight Line, which means that there is clearly a problem when it's costing $60 million dollars a mile. And so part of my solution here deals with more trains. It deals with more buses and at the same time getting control over out of control development, because we can take care of all the road stuff that we want, but until we bring high paying jobs into Western Prince William County so that you don't have people commuting out to the Pentagon in the first place. And we bring those jobs over to Innovation Park, you're still going to have that demand on the roads.
SHERWOODBut the problem I hear from transit advocates all the time is no matter, name a road that has been widened, improved, intersections fixed, and where traffic has gotten better. And as you know induced demand generally affects all of, which road did you name?
ROEMI said Linton Hall Road in Prince William County is definitely a...
SHERWOODIs better now.
ROEM...is better as well as...
SHERWOODAnd foreseen to be better in the future.
ROEMYes. And Route 15 in Haymarket is definitely improved now compared to where it was when I started reporting in 2006 there. And I'm from Prince William. I've lived there my entire life. And so...
NNAMDIYour life isn't over.
ROEMNo, I have lived there.
SHERWOODConfuses everyone else there. Let's get, can move onto her politics?
SHERWOODYou ran in 2017, you beat, how many Democrats were running?
ROEMThere were three other Democrats who ran.
SHERWOODThis year you're running. You're not opposed in the Democratic primary, congratulations.
ROEMThank you. I am now the nominee. Yes.
SHERWOODYou're the nominee, 'cause you're not opposed, but you do have a Republican opponent. Her name is Kelly McGinn. She has posted a video on YouTube in which she opposes the ERA which you supported in the legislature.
ROEMAbsolutely. I was one of the chief whips for the ERA. And I got my entire caucus, every member of the Democratic caucus to sign on as a co-patron for it.
SHERWOODShe said that the problem is that she thinks the ERA would actually end up hurting women. And she also says in this video, have you seen it by chance on YouTube?
SHERWOODWhere she says that the ERA only protects the rights of people without the basis of sex, and she says, that's very confusing, 'cause we don't know what sex means anymore.
ROEMAs a transwoman I find that to be, you know, just that's not even considered.
SHERWOODWell, that's why I'm bringing it up. I thought it was a fairly strong statement on her part and I wanted to give you a chance to answer it.
ROEMWell, I'll put it this way. Right now I am wearing my mother's 1976 women's bicentennial ERA medallion. My mother is about as conservative and Republican as you're going to find. Whereas she said, she last time she voted for a Democrat for President was 1976 and quote, "that was a mistake," end of quote. Okay. And at the same time we have a very limited number of areas where on public policy where we agree. And ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment is one of them. And the way that I see this is that as I said to Michael Pope when I was interviewed about this.
NNAMDIHe's a reporter in Virginia.
ROEMRight, he's a reporter in Virginia. When you're talking about, you know, shall not, you know, create, or the federal government and the states shall not create any law that, you know, will allow for discrimination on the basis of sex. What you are looking at here is you were saying that one, we are all equal. And number two here is that you will not discriminate on the basis of sex regardless of that person's gender at any part of it.
SHERWOODHave you had any, well it's probably it's too early for any kind of forums or any, have you guys had any kind of faceoff? I presume you look forward for it.
NNAMDINo debates yet?
SHERWOODOkay. Let us know when they are.
NNAMDIThis was your second General Assembly session and it was a very tumultuous one with Black face scandals and sexual assault allegations shocking Virginians and bringing national attention to Virginia State House. You called for both Governor Northam and Lieutenant Governor Fairfax to resign. You're standing by those calls despite the fact that some of your colleagues have walked their calls back. Why are you standing by yours?
ROEMI stood by mine, because I stand in solidarity with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus as you heard from my colleague Delegate Delaney last week. And at the same time, you know, I understand that, you know, this is ultimately a decision that they have to make. And where my constituents tend to be, you know, have strong opinions one way or the other about staying or going. I've, you know, I've made my case. I've stated it. And at the same time I have to keep, you know, making sure that we're, you know, focusing on those core quality of life issues that affect the people of the 13th District every day that they elected me to deal with.
ROEMWhich is why I now have a record to run on expanding Medicaid of 400,000 people including my constituent Kara, who doesn't have an arm below her right elbow because she's an amputee, she got enrolled January 1st and now she was able to have surgery within a week of that. Someone explain to me or to my Republican opponent by the way, why it is that Kara shouldn't have Medicaid expansion, when she had been, gone through hell through the private insurers to begin with on this.
SHERWOODOn the politics, the polling, I think post poll or it was significant, maybe it was the Christopher Newport poll showed that the majority of African-Americans in the state of Virginia do not want the Governor to resign. It's not much of a majority, but it is the majority. Does that affect your view on any point? Have you actually spoken to Governor Northam since this controversy occurred?
ROEMNo, I have not.
SHERWOODAnd what about at the poll that shows the majority of people don't want the Governor to resign?
ROEMI had talked with my colleagues from the Legislative Black Caucus and I have listened to --
SHERWOODAnd they haven't changed their view?
ROEMI listened to them.
SHERWOODIt hasn't changed its view?
ROEMAnd you have to understand that when someone has lived experience with this, when you are dealing with someone who, you know, has been incredibly, you know, hurt, and incredibly aggrieved by what's happened, that the best thing that you can do as someone, who's not a person of color is to listen and to stand in solidarity.
NNAMDIThis week the Washington Post reported that Virginia's top three Democrats are struggling to raise funds in the aftermath of those scandals. You though are not. You've taken nearly three times as much money for your reelection campaign as the average amount that the other 14 new Democrats in the House have. How do you account for that level of support?
ROEMI account for that level of support, because there's a few things. Number one, my supporters have my back, 'cause they know I have theirs, like I was talking about with Medicaid expansion. We got that done despite being in the minority party. We've raised teacher pay by 5 percent, despite being in the minority party. And we got the largest transportation funding bill in the last 6 years done that's bringing home $20 million dollars a year to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority as members of the minority party when only 12 members of the majority even supported it in the first place in the House of Delegates. And so the case --
SHERWOODJust to give it a number here, 'cause I think this is, you've raised about just over $31,000 from 1,224 people.
ROEMNo, no, that was only from people who donated between a dollar and a $100.
SHERWOODRight, that's what I was going to finish.
ROEMSo we've raised more than $71,000 overall.
SHERWOODFor people who gave less than a $100, right.
SHERWOODAnd you're not taking corporate or dominion --
ROEMI don't take money from for profit corporations, their pacts, their lobbies or their trade associations. And I put in the House bill that Senator Chap Petersen authored in the Senate to band regulated monopolies like Dominion from being able to contribute to political campaigns, because, and this is very simple.
SHERWOODBut it hasn't -- but it didn't pass, right? Virginia has the most...
ROEMWell, actually it was the first time that we had gotten a vote for it in the House of Delegates and it got it on a party line vote, by the way.
SHERWOODWell, I know Virginia has the most lucrative free flowing campaign funds in the country.
ROEMWe are the wild, wild west of campaign finance and I don't think that the regulated should have that sort of influence over the regulators to be able to donate to their campaigns, because they are acting as a quasi-government agency at that point. It's a public service agency. They are doing work as regulated monopolies. They do not have competition, which means that if you cannot take money from the Office of the Attorney General for example, then you should not be taking money from a regulated monopoly.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very quickly. But Kelly e-mails I am Delegate Roem's constituent and I believe (unintelligible). Many of us in Buckhall commute through Clifton. Are there any plans to alleviate the near standstill that occurs daily on this route? It seems like there could be several lower or no construction solutions to simple improve the flow through these small roads.
ROEMSure. So, thank you, Kelly, for writing in. And, actually, I live near you, and I also vote at Buckhall. And I have been taking Yates Ford Road over the bridge from Manassas into Clifton since my freshman year of high school in 1998. And traffic has, in no way, shape or form improved during that time, in the last 21 years. And when I had a meeting over in Clifton that included the mayor of Clifton, it included one of the Fairfax County supervisors, and it included other officials there, what we found is that there is strong resistance from people who represent that area of Clifton to actually dealing with the roadway itself, other than very minor improvements.
ROEMWe were even looking at whether to put roundabouts in or around about over at Henderson, for example. And instead, what we're being told is fix Route 28 first, and then we can deal with anything else. And, you know, as I've said, you know, right now, the 28 66 interchange is now underway, and you can see it over in Centerville. Route 28's being widened to six lanes. I'm fighting for the 678 highway, which is part of why I fought so hard for the 81 belt. And I'm now working with the administration on an alternative intersection design quarter study for Route 28, between Yorkshire and Centerville. This way, we can take some of that traffic off of Yates Ford and put it onto the primary highway it's supposed to be on in the first place.
NNAMDIJust about out of time. Many people know that you're the first openly transgender person to be elected to a US State House. Less people know that you are most likely the first member of a trash metal band elected...
ROEMNo, no, no, not trash. It's thrash.
SHERWOODWell, it depends on your point of view, (laugh)
NNAMDI...to be elected to a legislature in this country.
ROEMAlthough Dave Albo very much did like trash.
NNAMDI(overlapping) This week, Montreal City Council unanimously approved a resolution honoring that city's contribution to heavy metal. How much of a contribution has Virginia made to the scene, and would you ever consider introducing a similar resolution?
ROEMI'll tell you what. We had a great heavy metal scene when I was playing from 2006 to 2017 in Northern Virginia. And so, you know, shout out all those bands who, you know, used to play out of the garage and Jacks and everywhere else in between, over at Ball's Bluff Tavern, up in Leesburg. I'm a big fan of the arts. I'd be happy to honor anyone who's, you know, made positive contributions to the art world...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) She told me she had to give up her band, because it takes so much time to practice for that, and also to do the work she's doing. But thank you very much.
NNAMDIDanica Roem is a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, representing District 13. And even though she's had to give up her band, as we go to break, we'll be hearing "Thrash Mob" by Cab Ride Home, featuring Danica Roem.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the Politics Hour. Joining us in studio now is Dereck Davis. He's a Democratic member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 25, which includes parts of Prince Georges County. Delegate Davis, thank you so much for joining us.
DERECK DAVISThank you very much for having me.
SHERWOODI'm surprised he has time to come in here and talk to us.
NNAMDIBecause the funeral of Maryland's Speaker of the House Mike Busch was held earlier this week, you worked with him since you were first elected as a delegate in 1995, and now you are seeking to replace him. Governor Hogan called for a special session on May 1st to choose a new Speaker of the House. First, what's the process for becoming speaker in the Maryland general assembly?
DAVISThat’s real simple. At this point when -- the special session's going to be May 1st, as you indicated. There may be caucuses, the Democrats may caucus, the Republicans may caucus prior, too. But at some point later that day, and we haven't set the exact time, as of yet, but there will be nominations on the floor. And from that point, we will vote.
NNAMDIYou are one of the three contenders, along with Baltimore City Delegate Maggie McIntosh and Baltimore County Delegate Adrienne Jones, who is Speaker Pro Tem. Why are you vying for this position?
DAVISI think I’m well qualified to do this. As you mentioned earlier, I've been a member -- this is my 25th year in the General Assembly, and I think I have mastered the legislative process, or as much as you can. Obviously, I'm known for working in a bipartisan manner with my colleagues, I think. Folks are tired of the politics that they see at the national level, and they're looking for people that can bring other people together to get things done. I believe I can do that. We've done that on numerous issues that's come before my committee, the House Economic Matters committee, whether it's on paid sick leave, minimum wage, the renewable energy bill, organ donation leave. Just a host of issues that are important to working families.
SHERWOODMike Busch was the longest serving speaker. He was well liked, and all the nice things that have been said about him since he has died, were pretty much said before, because he ran the place so well. If you're going to be speaker, he didn't really leave an heir apparent. You and Maggie McIntosh and Adrienne Jones -- they're from Baltimore area, so we'll get into that in a moment -- you know, he didn't leave an heir apparent on this and suggest hint anybody who should be next. Why do you think -- he was there so long, why didn't he do that?
DAVISI don't want to speak for the speaker, but I will say I know he thought very highly of all of us.
SHERWOODBut he was sick for two years, and he knew he was going to be leaving. He was looking forward to going to his beach house on the bay. He knew his time was coming to an end. We did not know he was going to die. Surprised, how thorough he was, that he did not.
DAVISThe speaker really loves the General Assembly. To be perfectly honest, I think Mike was planning all along to come back and to keep serving with us. He was such a fighter. Yes, he had been very ill and had some major surgeries, but being the fighter that he is, even to the end, we were all expecting him to get up off the mat one more time and return.
SHERWOODLet's talk about the raw politics of this. You need the votes. On May 1st, people have to vote the Democratic Party caucus. You have the majority of the legislature of the party votes. That's the next speaker. Is that correct? Republicans are trying to play a role. They have, like, 42 members?
SHERWOODBut some people are concerned that you might try to work out a deal where you'll have some Republicans vote for you, and some Democrats. And they think that that will disrupt the cohesiveness of the Democratic Party.
NNAMDIBecause you've met with House Republicans, saying you want to be a leader who is, quoting here, "open and inclusive of all members." But one of your opponents said that's not a good idea. We will work with Republicans on legislation, but we're not going to work with them to elect a Democratic speaker.
DAVISA lot's been said about that. None of it's been for me. I'm working hard across the aisle, as well as with all members of the General Assembly. What was also noted was that the other contenders for the position, they've spoken with the minority leader, as well. I think it's incumbent upon us to reach out across the aisle again. We're going to have to work with those folks. And just to let them know where we're coming from, Speaker Busch, as noted, had been speaker for 16 years. So, I just wanted to reassure and, you know, reaffirm that the same things that he brought to the table in terms of being inclusive, reaching out, making sure everyone has a seat at the table, that I would continue on that legacy, as well.
DAVISAs far as...
SHERWOODNo, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
DAVISI was just going to say, as far as anything else, I'm focused on winning all the votes, including in Democratic caucus. A lot of people have been trying to speak to what my plans are, what my thoughts are, but we're all political junkies in that way, so that's just part of the game.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Okay. The Baltimore Sun today endorsed Maggie McIntosh. Of course, she's a delegate from, where, Baltimore. And the Baltimore Sun editorial said, well, you know, it'd be too much power in the Washington suburbs, because Mike Miller is from the suburbs, and maybe it ought to be spread around. But isn't there some competition between Baltimore County, which is where Adrienne Jones is from, and Maggie McIntosh, who's from Baltimore City, and you, from the Washington suburbs? I haven't heard much from Montgomery County. It's got 24 delegates. It's got a lot of votes, but I haven't heard a lot. Have you gotten any public support from any of those folks? Can you name names?
DAVISI cannot name names, and I will say this: no one wants to pick the wrong horse, if you will, to be perfectly honest with you. People are making private commitments, but very few are actually making their choices known publically. I'm glad you mentioned that Sun article, because, as they mentioned at the end of the endorsement, that they have a parochial bias. And that, you know, they reference the fact that there was too much power from Prince George's. But the reality of it, when they mentioned Governor Hogan, Governor Hogan, yes, he is from Prince Georges County, but that was in the late '70s, early '80s. He's been gone for quite a while now.
DAVISHe actually lives in Anne Arundel County. And even Senator Miller, although his district covers part of Prince Georges, he's been in Calvert probably 15, 20 years now. And he's announced his retirement, you know, at the end of the term, so...
SHERWOODYou have to count votes, and that's -- the thing the speaker does is you run the railroad, and you have to count votes to know what to put up, what not to put up, what to hold back. Are you counting votes -- I know you can't tell me. But how competitive is it, and do you see Maggie McIntosh as your principal opponent? And is there any issue about whether she wins or you win or Adrienne Jones wins, it'll be historic. That, for the first time ever, it won't be a white male in that chair. How many votes can you tell us you need?
DAVISYou need 71 votes. It's very competitive among the three of us. I won't leave out the Speaker Pro Tem, Adrienne Jones. She's working very hard. She's well regarded, as is Maggie and hopefully myself, as well. So, you know...
SHERWOODIs she the compromise candidate?
DAVISI wouldn't say compromise candidate...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) I know you don't want me to...
DAVISNo, I wouldn't -- no. When I say compromise, that wouldn't be fair to her. She's so much more than that. It's just very competitive. I think we have -- I'd like to think we have an embarrassment of riches. Each one of us would be very capable.
SHERWOODWill you stay in the legislature, if you don't become speaker?
NNAMDIHere now is Joe in Hanover, Maryland. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEOh, thank you. I'd just like to ask Mr. Davis -- and I first want to say Prince Georges County has got some great schools, but people in Baltimore County were a little upset that the school bill didn't get out of committee. I just want to know how he felt about that, did he know much about it, and how would he approach that issue?
DAVISI got you. Thank you. The bill I think you're referring to, it did make it through the House of Delegates. It didn't make it through the Senate. It was, I believe, $2.2 billion that would have come for school construction. And we're going to continue to work on that. It's very common that sometimes things just don't make it through the first year. We have to keep working with our partners in the Senate. I'm confident that that'll happen next year, but, yes, I was disappointed that we weren't able to get it through this year. It would've meant a lot to the state, and certainly to Prince Georges County, which I represent.
SHERWOODSchool funding -- I'm sorry, go ahead. You have a caller?
NNAMDIYep, Victor in Tacoma Park, Maryland. Victor, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
VICTORYes. Unless I'm mistaken, Mr. Davis, you voted against the end-of-life option act, and that strikes me as legislation that will eventually happen. It's been adopted in DC, California. So, it strikes me as kind of an anti-reform, anti-progress kind of position.
DAVISI don't see it that way. You're absolutely correct, I couldn't support that. There are still issues, and it was very tough. I'll be honest about that. That was very tough. But, ultimately, there are just still issues that I had to work through, as it relates to that. You worry about certain abuses that, whether or not folks who are sick will feel pressured not to be burdens on their family to go ahead and exercise that particular option. Again, it was something that did pass the House of Delegates. It didn't pass the Senate, either. It'll be back, I'm sure, in future years, and I'll certainly keep evaluating my position as that issue comes up.
SHERWOODWhat is your opposition? You have personal opposition to it?
DAVISI have concerns. Maybe that's a better way of putting it...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Are they religious, or are they just abusive -- elderly abuse or...
DAVISThere are combinations. Certainly, my faith is a factor in that, but more so than just my faith, is the fact that the potential abuses, as I indicated. There is an underlying concern for me and for others that with this particular option, that some would feel pressured, you know, because of the cost, that being a burden may be on family members to pursue this, so that they won't be a burden on their family members. It's something that we're still having conversations with.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Advocates will say that's their individual opinion.
NNAMDILet's get Mike Tidwell in in Tacoma Park. Mike Tidwell, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MIKE TIDWELLYeah, thanks for having me, Kojo. And I'm glad you have Delegate Davis on your show. I have worked with Delegate Davis over the last 15 years as director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And we have passed a good half-dozen major bills to address climate change. Through his committee, every major clean energy bill and climate bill in the last 15 years that Maryland has passed in becoming a national leader on this issue has gone through Dereck's committee. And I just want to commend him for the Clean Cars Act, Healthy Air Act and most recently the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which passed on the last day of session with Delegate Davis' support, and will create 20,000 solar jobs in Maryland, 25,000 offshore wind jobs. I don't think he gets enough recognition for that.
NNAMDIBut do you think he should be the next Speaker of the House?
TIDWELLI think Delegate Davis would be a great speaker. I think he's already been an accomplished leader on my issues. And I judge politicians on the issues of clean energy and climate change. On my issues, he's been good.
NNAMDIThat's one supporter you have, Dereck Davis. You pushed for a bill this session that would've repealed rules that ban developers with pending projects in Prince Georges County from donating to county executives running for office, or slates that included them. That bill died. Why did you introduce it? Why was that a focus for you this session?
DAVISIn part -- and there are many bills that I had up, but on that, and I'm glad you raised that issue, I think it puts politicians from Prince Georges County at a decided disadvantage as it relates to statewide offices, particularly African American candidates. The reality is those races are expensive. I believe this all started with the whole Jack Johnson situation. We know where that came from...
NNAMDI(overlapping) And continued with a few other cases of members of the Prince Georges County Council.
DAVISNot for developers, though. As this relates -- again, that was...
NNAMDI(overlapping) ...other forms of corruption.
DAVIS...other forms of corruption. The thing that happened with the past county executive, that was just straight bribery. It had absolutely, positively nothing to do with any campaign finance violation, whatsoever. And so we put in something that basically wasn't going to have an impact, you know, in terms of stopping corruption. However, it would have an impact -- and we saw that with County Executive Rushern Baker. So, if we're going to have that, we need to...
NNAMDI(overlapping) I should mention to our listeners that County Executive Rushern Baker was running for governor, but that law prohibited him from accepting money from developers, even though, I think, he was term limited as county executive, right?
NNAMDIAnd could not...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Angela Alsobrooks, if she wants to run for governor, this would help her.
DAVISIt would put her at a decided disadvantage.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) She's the County Executive now in Prince Georges, right.
DAVISCorrect. And not just...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Why would it put her at a decided disadvantage? What happens in other counties?
SHERWOODThey rack up the money. (laugh)
DAVISRight. This restriction is unique to Prince Georges County. It does not apply across the board. And so, as we saw coming down, you know, the stretch in the Democratic primary last year, County Executive Baker, who was leading most of the way, simply did not have the financial resources to close it out. He had less than half the money of the eventual nominee, Ben Jealous, and that was a factor. And I see that going forward, as being a factor. So, we've got to level the playing field if we're ever going to have a representative from Prince Georges County.
SHERWOODI hesitate to bring up another transportation issue in the last one, but the Purple Line's really important. You know, there's a big dispute, and the state has a big say in this. The private developers are saying they need $300 million more, and that they can't open 2023. And the state and Prince Georges and Montgomery wanted to open in 2022. If you were speaker, what role would you play in making sure the Purple Line gets built, and built on time, and within reasonable budget?
DAVISThat's very important, I believe. We have a lot of transportation needs and, quite frankly, we don't have the funding to meet all of those needs. I would certainly work with the members of the General Assembly, specifically in the House of Delegates, to see what we can come up with, as well as the governor...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Well, your governor cut out $550 million from the original plan for what the state was going to put up. If you're speaker, could you maybe get some of that money back?
DAVISWe can certainly have those conversations. Maryland's Constitution sets it up so that the governor has powers that are unlike any other in the nation. So, we can't force anything, as it relates to spending. We can make cuts, but only the governor can actually fund projects. So, that's certainly a barrier, but I think we can have those conversations and we can move that forward.
NNAMDIJust this week, the Purple Line is getting a new CEO. The team of companies designing and building it has replaced its CEO. Is that a concern for you?
DAVISI wouldn't say it's a concern, as of yet. Obviously, oftentimes, you will see certain changes in top leadership. That's not unusual. But we'll see. We certainly need to sit down and find out what the plan is going forward, but that is very important, I know, to Montgomery County, to Prince Georges County and, really, the region. And so we're going to make that happen.
NNAMDIOne more on transportation, Jute Tweets in: does the delegate agree with Governor Larry Hogan's call for Maryland to take over the Baltimore Washington Parkway?
DAVISThat's a very good question. (laugh)
SHERWOODWell, we want to hear a very good answer.
DAVISAnd you're going to get one. At this point in time. I would be very, very reluctant to do that. It sounds like, you know, that we're heading toward more tolls. and that certainly isn't anything that I can support at this particular point in time. And it's a very big undertaking. The only way we could really manage, you know, 295 from a financial standpoint, really, is to put more tolls out there. And that's not something I want to do.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Yeah, the governor wants to take it over from the National Park Service, put two more toll lanes on it, and expand it in that way. You're not for that.
DAVISI'm not for that, but I do understand the governor's concern. They have to do a much better job of maintaining that than it's been done. And certainly, I know our congressional representatives are having those conversations. So, while I understand the governor's frustration with how it's been maintained, I certainly couldn't support that.
SHERWOODWell, Park Service is broke.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Shall we talk Peter Franchot in the little time we have left? You are the member of the House's Alcoholic Beverages Subcommittee. This session saw the stripping of alcohol and tobacco oversight from Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot. Both Republicans and Franchot have claimed that this is politically motivated, that you guys are carrying water for the distributors and the sellers. And Franchot wants to expand the rights of the craft beer distilleries in the state.
DAVISNonsense. First of all, the sponsor of that bill was Delegate Warren Miller, a Republic representing Baltimore County and Carroll County. It wasn't a Democratic member who sponsored that bill. Secondly, the issues, as it relates to the craft beer industry and the distributors, ironically once the comptroller was out of it, we were able to come to an agreement that all parties are satisfied with in terms of...
SHERWOOD(clears throat) Well, they agreed -- you came to an agreement that -- but it doesn't apply to future craft beer -- it's only for the people who are already in the state, the 100 or so that are already in the state.
SHERWOODThat's not true?
DAVIS...not my understanding. No. That...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Your understanding, then?
DAVISThe rules that we put in place will apply to anybody that comes in, ready to do business going forward.
SHERWOODBut if you're Speaker, will this affect -- this is -- it's not quite personal, but it was pretty tough between you and Peter Franchot. If you become Speaker, will you guys be able to get past this issue?
DAVISAbsolutely. We're both professionals. The comptroller and I, as well as other members of the legislature, we're going to have disagreements That's a part of the process. He's very strong-willed, and I'm no shrinking violet myself.
NNAMDI(overlapping) He says you hate him.
SHERWOODAll right. Quickly, the Redskins. You want the Skins to stay in your county, or are you willing to see them leave?
DAVISIt depends on what's being asked. A lot of money, a lot of taxpayer money was put into that particular project, the current one in Landover. I am very, very reluctant to add any more money, and certainly, the site that's been discussed down in National Harbor is a nonstarter.
DAVISRight, that's a nonstarter. So, I love my Washington Redskins, but I'm not willing to invest any more dollars, you know, into stadiums.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) And one more sports question: state money to help the Preakness?
DAVISI very much want to keep it in Baltimore.
SHERWOODMay 18th is Preakness, coming up.
DAVISYes, absolutely (all talking at once)
NNAMDIYou don't want it at all?
DAVISI want it to remain in Baltimore. It's good for the State of Maryland, no matter where it is. But it belongs in Baltimore. There's a lot of history made.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Horse racing, is that still a big business in Maryland?
DAVISIt's coming back from everything -- it died out, and it was struggling, but from everything we're being told, it's making a comeback. And I think the Preakness in Baltimore, what is history, is something that we need, and they're going to lead the way.
SHERWOODOkay. You can let us know next week how many votes you got.
DAVISI will definitely let you know before May 1st, how many votes I had.
SHERWOODAnd you'll come back? If you win the speakership, you'll come back?
DAVISI'll come back as often as you want me.
NNAMDIDereck Davis. He's a Democratic member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 25, which includes parts of Prince Georges County. He's a candidate for Speaker of the House in the General Assembly. Delegate Davis, thank you so much for joining us, and good luck to you.
DAVISThank you, sir. You all have a wonderful day.
NNAMDIThat's it for the Politics Hour. Today's show was produced by Mark Gunnery. Monday is Earth Day. We'll be looking at local species that are threatened by climate change, plus would you run an ultra, 50 miles? How about a century, 100 miles? We'll meet the runners who are taking marathons to the next level. Tom Sherwood, would you run an ultra-marathon, 50 miles?
SHERWOODI'm not even sure I would walk it.
NNAMDIHow about bike? (laugh)
SHERWOODI would bike it. I definitely would bike it. And may I also just say happy Passover and Happy Easter this weekend.
NNAMDIIndeed, happy Easter and happy Passover this weekend. That's all for now. We'll see you again Monday, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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