D.C. statehood is as close as it’s ever been to becoming a reality. We hear from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) about this week’s House Oversight hearing on H.R. 51, the latest GOP arguments against statehood and what’s next.

And in Maryland’s General Assembly, Monday was crossover day. Which legislation will be considered during the last two weeks of the session? State Sen. Clarence Lam (D-District 12) of Baltimore and Howard counties joins us to talk about police reform, banning the “panic defense” and restricting ICE access to MVA data. Plus, we talk about the state’s vaccine rollout.

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 Cydney Grannan


  • Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton Delegate (D-DC), U.S. House of Representatives; @EleanorNorton
  • Clarence Lam Senator (D-District 12), Maryland Senate; @ClarenceLamMD


  • 12:00:22

    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 and Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.

  • 12:00:59

    TOM SHERWOODHello everybody.

  • 12:01:01

    NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be joined by Clarence Lam, a Maryland State Senator representing District 12. Right now joining us is Eleanor Holmes Norton, the D.C. delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Norton, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:15

    ELEANOR HOLMES NORTONThank you. It's hard for me to hear you. I've got it turned up.

  • 12:01:20

    NNAMDIOh, well, I'm going to try to speak as clearly and loudly as I can. Before we get to the statehood discussion, Tom Sherwood, it is significant that the Commonwealth of Virginia has abolished the death penalty, because even though on the one hand it has become the first former confederate state to do so, it also during the course of the past 400 years has executed more prisoners than any other state. How significant is this?

  • 12:01:49

    SHERWOODWell, you know, we often say things are historic. This is historic for the old confederate state to ban the death penalty. Twenty-three states now ban the death penalty. Maryland did...

  • 12:02:02

    NORTONI hear it on the phone.

  • 12:02:04

    SHERWOODI'm sorry -- I'm hearing Ms. Norton I believe -- Maryland in 2013, D.C. back in 1981, so Virginia is catching up to this region, but it's certainly a significant change. Seven governors -- previous governors have all commented on it with the Richmond Times Dispatch in recent days. Most of them saying than none of them liked the death penalty. Some thought the law just had to be enforced whatever the law was.

  • 12:02:33

    SHERWOODTim Kane, now the U.S. Senator from Virginia, said when he was running for governor back in 2005 that he was against the death penalty and his Republican opponent tried to oppose him, Jerry Kilgore, the attorney general at the time, who supported the death penalty. Tim Kane said he was elected and he thought that that was an indication then that the state -- Commonwealth of Virginia was changing. That the death penalty has been discrimination in the way it's been imposed on people, Black people in particular. And so it's time for this to go whether you're morally against killing someone or not, it was so poorly done that it had to be ended. And Virginia ended it.

  • 12:03:20

    NNAMDICongresswoman Norton, how do you feel about the death penalty being gone in the Commonwealth of Virginia?

  • 12:03:28

    NORTONWell, that penalty -- that tells you all you need to know about the huge changes in Virginia. Maryland and D.C. were of a pair when it comes to -- when it's gradually come to being a progressive jurisdiction. But Virginia lagged along. When you get rid of the death penalty you joined the trio. This is now a progressive region. And Virginia had the most death penalties in the -- had the most executions in the United States. So it needed to step up and get rid of the death penalty.

  • 12:04:09

    NNAMDIAll right. On to the issue at hand, on Monday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on HR-51, which would make D.C. the 51st state. What were your goals for this hearing and do you think it was a success?

  • 12:04:21

    NORTONI think it was tremendous success, if you look at the results of these hearings. We now have more than enough members to pass D.C. statehood who are close sponsors. The reason that D.C. statehood has become now mainstream is these hearings. The latest polls, data for progress, shows that more than 54 percent of Americans now support D.C. statehood. How did that happen? It happened, because the hearings and the markup told them what they did not know. Indeed polls before the hearing show that people were all over the map. Some thought we had the same rights as they had. Some thought we didn't. Many did not know.

  • 12:05:22

    NORTONThese hearings have made it clear that their own capitol city doesn't have the same rights as they have. And is the only capital in the developed democratic world that does not give the citizens of its capital the same rights as everybody else. So I think D.C. statehood is well on its way.

  • 12:05:47

    NNAMDITom Sherwood.

  • 12:05:48

    SHERWOODMs. Norton, thank you for joining us. I watched the hearing and I was impressed. I must say I don't want to make the mayor faint, but I was impressed the way she handled mostly the Republican members of your committee who asked the most asinine questions and comments about D.C. couldn't be a state, because it doesn't have manufacturing or it doesn't have an auto dealership or all that foolishness. So I thought that was really good for this, but I want to look ahead. I know you're still celebrating the movement in the House and you'll get a House vote. And Jamie -- I want to suggest -- I tweeted this.

  • 12:06:24

    SHERWOODWhen the District has its Senate hearing and I assume the Democratically controlled Senate will allow you a hearing, I was wondering if Congressman Jamie Raskin of nearby adjacent Maryland should sit there with the mayor. He's a constitutional expert, a strong supporter of statehood and he could answer a lot of the technical questions about the constitution that make it hard for elected officials to do. I just want to -- what's the game plan heading towards the Senate once you get the House vote?

  • 12:06:54

    NNAMDIAnd didn't you teach constitutional law too, Congresswoman Norton?

  • 12:06:58

    NORTONSure did. I sure did. I really think the mayor handled herself so well. She doesn't need any constitutional expert sitting beside her. She made minced meat of them when they asked these questions about the constitution.

  • 12:07:10

    SHERWOODYes, she did.

  • 12:07:13

    NORTONThe problem like I said won't be can the mayor answer the questions. The problem with the Senate is the filibuster. And I'm even optimistic about the filibuster. Perhaps you will note that the Senate was late organizing this time. The Senate is now controlled by the Democrats barely. But it's controlled by the Democrats. That means we have control by the Democrats of the House, the Senate and the presidency. They were late organizing because of the filibuster. The filibuster is -- appears to be on its last legs. We have gotten rid of the filibuster for nominations with judges and the like. The only thing that's left is legislations. The fact that the Senate held up organizing, because of the filibuster bodes well for statehood.

  • 12:08:11


  • 12:08:13

    NORTONIt's not because they're not doing it for statehood, they're doing it for legislation period, because the Senate under the Republicans has been unable to pass any bills. It is moribund. So there's great pressure to get rid of the filibuster. When the filibuster goes to legislation it will go for D.C. statehood.

  • 12:08:34

    NNAMDICongresswoman Norton, what do you say to concerns that eliminating the filibuster could come back to bite Democrats, when Republicans gain -- if and when Republicans gain control of the Senate in the future.

  • 12:08:47

    NORTONWell, it's come back to bite us on judges already. You see that the Republicans now have a majority on the Supreme Court. That's because we couldn't filibuster judges. Yes, what's sauce for the goose or however that goes, but we're much better off being able to get something done in the Senate than worrying about the filibuster for ourselves. And I think the Senate is moving toward that. For example, Manchin who is the Democrat who holds such power on such issues has now said -- he's at least for talking filibuster, which means that you couldn't just say filibuster and you got a filibuster. You got to sit up there and talk until you drop, and even he is moving against or leaning against the filibuster.

  • 12:09:42

    NNAMDITom Sherwood.

  • 12:09:44

    SHERWOODMs. Norton, my worry as a District citizen I've said before as a citizen, I am for statehood. As a political analyst I have questions. My concern is that the Democrats in the Senate may move forward without the filibuster, but they may decide to trade away and not vote on statehood for the District of Columbia. It may do infrastructure. It may do any number of things, voting rights, which we desperately need given the situation in Georgia. But my real concern is that in the give and take on Capitol Hill D.C. will be left behind again. Are you worried about that at all?

  • 12:10:19

    NNAMDIAnd we only have about a minute left. But go ahead, please.

  • 12:10:23

    NORTONNot in the least. We have wholesale support for D.C. statehood. You can't -- look, once you get rid of the filibuster, you've already got virtually every Democrat in the Senate, every Democrat in the House supporting D.C. statehood and the President of the United States. Nobody is going to leave behind. Look, we get two more Democratic votes. Why would they leave us behind of the filibuster goes? No. We've got ...

  • 12:10:52

    NNAMDII can see Joe Manchin -- I can hear Joe Manchin saying, I'll vote for these other things, but I won't vote for D.C. statehood.

  • 12:10:58

    NORTONYou can if you get rid of the filibuster. He can vote against it if he wants to do it, but the filibuster is gone and I think we could therefore get statehood even if we didn't have every Democrat, because we're getting more and more Democrats elected to the Senate.

  • 12:11:15

    NNAMDIEleanor Holmes Norton is the D.C. Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a Democrat. Congresswoman Norton, thank you very much for joining us.

  • 12:11:22

    NORTONAlways a pleasure.

  • 12:11:24

    NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back Maryland State Senator Clarence Lam. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:11:45

    NNAMDIWelcome back. Joining us now is Clarence Lam, a Maryland State Senator representing District 12, which includes parts of Baltimore and Howard County. Senator Lam, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:12:10

    CLARENCE LAMI'm happy to be here.

  • 12:12:11

    NNAMDITom Sherwood, this one coming out of Charlottesville is so hot that no analyst in Virginia seems to even want to touch it. So naturally we will. The mayor of ...

  • 12:12:25

    SHERWOODWe're going to graze it. I don't think we're going to touch it. We're going to graze it.

  • 12:12:29

    NNAMDIThe Mayor of Charlottesville, Mayor Nikuyah Walker, who has a history of being an advocate for racial and social justice that according to her online biography says The Washington Post. Nevertheless has apparently taken to writing poetry. And in her description of Charlottesville she says, "The beautiful ugly it is. It rapes you. Comforts you in its --" apparently a graphic word was deleted there, "stained sheet and tells you to keep its secrets." There was a longer version which says in part, "It's as if good old Thomas Jefferson is still cleverly using his whip to whip the current inhabitants into submissiveness. Charlottesville is anchored in white supremacy and rooted in racism." Not the kind of comment you would normally expect from a mayor about the city she's running. It's not exactly a comment intended to boost the city. Any idea what might be going on here?

  • 12:13:26

    SHERWOODYou know, we still need to know more about this, but it certainly is not a Chamber of Commerce poem. And I know she said Charlottesville -- she wrote Charlottesville is anchored in white supremacy and rooted in racism. Well, even if you just look at that in the history that's probably true. I think it could be safe to say it is true. But as the mayor of the city, as an elected member of the council, she hasn't quite explained yet why she did this. This came after a council session in which council members had questioned her giving gift cards to some people who have testified before the council.

  • 12:14:02

    SHERWOODAnd the council is I think if they haven't passed it already or trying to do some legislation that if council members want to pay somebody for testifying or something it needs to go through the whole council not just individual members. But that aside I don't know if that had anything in fact to do. She simply posted the poem and then when there was criticism posted a longer one.

  • 12:14:23

    SHERWOODSo I looked in vain this morning for a couple of hours hoping to see some updated information. Why she did it, what she hoped to achieve and I'm telling you, I'm a little bit stumped. It is an extraordinary poem for any elected official to post and to do so so publically. It's gotten international attention.

  • 12:14:44

    NNAMDII'd say she's P.O.-ed and she probably thinks that race is a part of this, but that's only speculation on my part.

  • 12:14:52

    SHERWOODWell, I think it's safe to say that race is a part of this, because I mean, her whole history of advocacy is that. I'm just wondering what she thought she might achieve by doing this, but will await further news stories.

  • 12:15:03

    NNAMDIWe'll have to see what happens next. And David Blair, the businessman who ran against Marc Elrich for Montgomery County Executive the last time around in 2018 has announced that he's going to do it again.

  • 12:15:18

    SHERWOODYes, he put out a video this weekend. Four years ago he only lost to the winner, Marc Elrich, in the primary by 77 votes, a very tight race. And so he's running again. He's been active in the county. He's a wealthy healthcare person. One of the things that was not in his video -- excuse me. One thing that was not in his video was what's he's going to do in terms of campaign fundraising? You know, Montgomery County is leading the way with public campaigns. So I contacted his campaign this week and they say that he once again will use his personal fortune and some contributions from people who can give up to $6,000. And he will run a traditional campaign.

  • 12:15:59

    SHERWOODHe will not run a public campaign. Marc Elrich, the incumbent, ran a public campaign in 2018. He has said he will run for reelection again. But he has not said how he will run or how he'll fund it. It will be an interesting race. He has lots of money, Mr. Blair does.

  • 12:16:14

    NNAMDII was about to say Senator Lam is not allowed to vote in Montgomery County. But I don't know if you wanted to weigh in on this anyway. Mr. Senator?

  • 12:16:22

    LAMI think I'll take a pass on that one.

  • 12:16:24

    NNAMDII thought you might.

  • 12:16:27

    SHERWOODKojo, can we just jump right in. And since you started the politics, Senator Lam, thank you very much for joining us. I got to ask you Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters this week wrote a really good story about Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Johnny O, maybe running for governor next year. What do you think about that?

  • 12:16:52

    LAMI think the -- Johnny has done a great job in Baltimore County. I think he has really tried to balance a difficult budget situation and has seen tremendous challenges with the COVID pandemic coming in within the first year or two of his terms. That's difficult for any county executive, and he's been able to navigate that and also bring in some fresh and new perspectives into the county executive's job, which I think was probably really needed for Baltimore County. I think for the governor's race it's early. You know, the gubernatorial campaign I think has been pushed back a little bit, because of the pandemic, but I think it will be a hardy campaign when we see it really kick up.

  • 12:17:32

    SHERWOODWell, if he were to win we would have all the state leaders, the speaker of the House, as president of the Senate, all from the Baltimore area. We might feel kind of neglected down here in the Montgomery, Prince George's area.

  • 12:17:48

    NNAMDIBut I don't think Senator Lam would mind that.

  • 12:17:54

    LAMWell, we have folks in Howard County that root for the Washington Football team as well. So, you know, we're kind of straddling in between here in Howard County.

  • 12:18:01

    NNAMDIWell, Monday was crossover day in the Maryland legislature where approved bills from each chamber head to the other for consideration. A big priority for this session has been police reform. Where do those bills stand now?

  • 12:18:15

    LAMSo there's been a lot of progress on police reform. The Senate has taken up multiple bills to try to address a lot of the angst that we've seen in the community when it comes to law enforcement and the need to improve some of our policies that really have not been updated in decades here. So those included the law enforcement officer's bill of rights, the use of force, the ability for independent investigations to take place for any police departments. All of those have been working their way through the Senate. Now are over in the House. The House actually put together an omnibus bill that includes many of the same provisions, but some differences as well. And it's packaged together into one single bill that's now come over to the Senate.

  • 12:19:04

    LAMI know the leaders in both the respective committees are working really, really hard to try to reconcile those differences, because this is a top priority for many of us, if not almost all of us, in the legislature. And so, these last two weeks will be critical to seeing how we can reconcile those differences and pass meaningful legislation when it comes to police reform.

  • 12:19:23

    NNAMDITom Sherwood.

  • 12:19:26

    SHERWOODDo you have any sense if Governor Hogan's administration is trying to weigh in on some of these bills, or is it that he is just awaiting whatever the legislature passes?

  • 12:19:41

    LAMI think when it comes to police reform, he is probably waiting to see what passes. There are still a lot of active discussions taking place, and there are even a lot of differences of opinion within our own caucus and other members within the House and the Senate. And so, I think there's a lot here to try to unpackage and to reconcile that still needs to be worked out. So, I'm hopeful, because it's a really important priority for many of us, particularly with what we saw take place last year, to see something pass. And it's long overdue, from my perspective, as well.

  • 12:20:15

    NNAMDIOne bill up for consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee would prevent Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration from giving federal agencies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement access to license information, driver's license information. This bill passed the House. You sponsored its companion bill in the Senate. Tell us more about this bill, why you think it's important, and whether you think it will become law.

  • 12:20:41

    LAMYeah, thank you for bringing this up. This was actually the last time I was on The Politics Hour, was with Tom, talking about this bill, too. And this bill really is intended to improve the privacy of the data that's being collected in our driver's license database here in Maryland, that it collects a lot of private information, including our photos. And what we have found is that ICE, the Immigration of Customs Enforcement, on the federal level, has had access to our photo database within MVA to be able to run facial recognition searches on it.

  • 12:21:15

    LAMWe think it's a violation of privacy. We think a lot of Marylanders aren't aware when they're getting their driver's license, that the photos that are being taken could potentially be used and run against photo facial recognition. And it's also a concern for many of those that are undocumented, that we have encouraged through our policies and provisions to seek a driver's license, so that they can drive legally. And it's a concern that...

  • 12:21:43

    NNAMDIWell, how come Maryland was the only state where this can apparently happen? Was this simply a loophole in Maryland law, or was there some form of activity that led to this?

  • 12:21:57

    LAMSo, we actually aren't the only state. The Georgetown Center for Law in Technology and Privacy actually looked at this and found that there were quite a few states that had this loophole. Maryland, though, has had one of the widest open doors for federal law enforcement to be able to access this database. And so, we have found this really concerning, when we did a tour of our local Public Safety and Correctional Services.

  • 12:22:24

    LAMAnd that's why this bill came about, because it really is to just put limitations on the use of this database and facial recognition when it comes to civil immigration enforcement, that we simply want the federal government to be able to seek a warrant -- to go before a judge, seek a warrant to be able to access this information.

  • 12:22:42

    NNAMDIHere is Wilma in Woodbine, Maryland. Wilma, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:22:47

    WILMAYes, hello. I wanted to say that NRA lobbyists are encouraging counties in Maryland to give up their Sunday free of hunting day. Sundays are a time when citizens recreate the most, and we would like to have that day that is free and safe. Will you vote to help Maryland stay free of Sunday hunting?

  • 12:23:14

    NNAMDISenator Lam.

  • 12:23:15

    LAMSo, I've always supported efforts to not see the expansion of Sunday hunting. And so, I will support that, and continue to support that, as well.

  • 12:23:28

    NNAMDIWell, thank you for your call, Wilma. Ann Wilcox, who is a statehood Green Party activist, who had run for the D.C. Council in the past, tweets: Does Senator Lam have a view on retrocession of D.C. to Maryland? Would he embrace it? Senator Lam, you only have about 40 seconds.

  • 12:23:47

    LAMI'm not familiar with retrocession from D.C. to Maryland, (laugh) so I apologize.

  • 12:23:54

    SHERWOODWell, would you -- the short question is, would you want the District to have voting rights for Senators and Congressmen in the state of Maryland, and for governor and all of that? I would think you wouldn't, but what do you think? Can I vote in Maryland?

  • 12:24:09

    LAMI wouldn't want to -- you know, I wouldn't want to bleed together the sovereignty of Maryland and the District, so I think I would be hesitant to support that.

  • 12:24:19

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation with Senator Lam. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:24:40

    NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Maryland State Senator Clarence Lam. He represents District 12, which includes parts of Baltimore and Howard Counties. I'll let Melissa in White Plains, Maryland start the conversation, here. Melissa, your turn.

  • 12:24:54

    MELISSAOkay. Fantastic, I got on. Okay. Hi, there. When we are stopped, pulled over on the side of the road by a police officer for suspected suggested speeding, okay, and we are told that we were going 75 in a 55 zone, okay. At that point, the vehicle is stopped and we are unable to verify the accuracy of what the officer is saying. We're unable to verify that we were speeding.

  • 12:25:24

    MELISSAIs it your -- because, at that point, it's at zero. The car's not moving. Is it your position that we ought to receive citations for charges that we cannot verify and points associated with them? And what action, at this point, do you think you can take on that? And that's not the only unverifiable charge there is. That's just one of the many unverifiable charges in Maryland traffic law.

  • 12:25:50

    NNAMDISenator Lam.

  • 12:25:52

    LAMSo, thanks, Melissa, for that question. I think, in that instance, the charges, then, would be brought up before a court of law. And I think that's where that would probably play out, to be able to kind of bring the evidence that you have and stand before a judge or jury to contend why you weren't speeding, or any other violation that the officer might be contending. So, I would let that play out in a court of law.

  • 12:26:15

    LAMBut what the law enforcement legislation that we're looking at now would help provide some more balance when it comes to misbehavior on the part of law enforcement officers and other means for civilian authorities to be able to have better checks and controls of the law enforcement that I think are really needed.

  • 12:26:35

    NNAMDIMelissa, you don't think that the officer could have proven that you were speeding? They always say, we clocked you at 75 miles an hour.

  • 12:26:43

    MELISSAWell, I'm aware of that. My issue is more so when you get to court, you know, you may or may not feel, you know, like a criminal defense attorney is appropriate for court. But what I would say is that it's always going to be bounced back and forth, a he-said, she-said, the officer's word versus the drivers word. And, unfortunately, the judge will always side with the officer.

  • 12:27:10

    NNAMDI(overlapping) Well, allow me to interrupt. Senator Lam, is that indeed the case? I haven't been in that situation in court. Doesn't the officer have to provide some evidence?

  • 12:27:22

    LAMThey do, and they oftentimes have to be there present, to testify.

  • 12:27:26

    NNAMDIOkay. Well, thank you very much for your call, Melissa. Following the deadly shooting in Atlanta where a white man targeted Asian women, we've been talking more about hate crimes and violence against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community. You are the vice chair of the AAPI caucus in the Maryland legislature. First, what conversations have you had with legislatures about having anti-AAPI violence? And have there been any productive conversations, or have they been mostly tense? And how are you and the members of the caucus doing in this trying times?

  • 12:28:01

    LAMI think you're right, that these are very trying times, not only for the caucus, but also for our broader community. I think the discourse and the rhetoric that's taken place over the last year, particularly fueled by the pandemic, has not helped the situation. There have always been underlying, you know, instances of crime and hate crimes and bias and discrimination towards the Asian-American community, but certainly, the pandemic has fueled that even further.

  • 12:28:26

    LAMWithin the legislature, we've certainly been open about talking about it, and also open about reaching out to leaders in our community and neighborhoods that we represent to highlight our concerns. We had a large rally in Columbia in Howard County just earlier this week, so that our community could come together and heal and have a public discourse about steps that need to be taken in the future.

  • 12:28:49

    LAMAnd I think that's a good first step, but there's still more that need to be taken when it comes to education, better reporting and data collection of these types of instances. And then a broader dialogue with the larger community, too, about what we can do to help reduce the temperature and also reduce instances of hate and discrimination bias.

  • 12:29:10

    NNAMDITom Sherwood.

  • 12:29:11

    SHERWOODAs a follow up to that, Governor Hogan went to Ellicott City this week, I think, for a major public demonstration against hate and racism, hostility. Were you invited to that?

  • 12:29:26

    LAMI was not, but we were also very busy in the legislature, and that took place during the day, in the middle of the week. And so, one thing that we have been trying to do within the legislature is look at a particular piece of legislation that could help reduce violence against the Asian-American community. I do have a bill in place that would help prohibit the use of panic defense in instances of a murder or assault case, so that someone who is claiming to have assaulted someone cannot claim to do so in defense of the fact that the victim was a particular race, gender or sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • 12:30:04

    SHERWOODWhat is the status of that bill?

  • 12:30:07

    LAMSo, the House companion bill has actually crossed over to the Senate. I know our Senate committee is looking very closely at both those bills to try to conform them and pass them forward this coming session.

  • 12:30:17

    SHERWOODI asked you about Governor Hogan on this issue, but on another issue, you are on the Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup. And then you're also, I think, a member of the joint COVID-19 response legislative workgroup, if that's still in place. How would you grade Governor Hogan's handling of the vaccine? Every state seems to have had some problem with vaccines and getting them into the arms of the citizens. But looking at the state of Maryland, where does Maryland stand?

  • 12:30:49

    LAMI think, early on, we were really struggling to be able to vaccinate our residents to the degree that we really needed to. I think when you look at the rankings of Maryland compared to other states, we were about 40, 41. We've since improved. We're now probably at about average when it comes to rates of vaccination, but we still have a ways to go, I think. We have been having weekly meetings with the acting secretary in order to address concerns that have come up, bring forth constituent issues, really help improve our state's vaccination program. And we've seen improvements take place over the last 10 weeks.

  • 12:31:24

    NNAMDIAt a press conference this week, Governor Hogan called the current situation, quoting here, "a race between the vaccines and the variants." There are two variants his administration is worried about. One, which is already in Maryland, another which is widespread in the Northeast. What should we know about these two variants, and how worried should we be?

  • 12:31:46

    LAMI think we do need to be concerned about the variants, because what the evidence has shown is that these variants can be more contagious, and they're more easily spread within the community. We have been able to gain some ground in the vaccines that have been administered, who have been successful in reducing the number of cases that we've seen here in Maryland. However, over the last week or so, we have seen our numbers creep back up.

  • 12:32:12

    LAMAnd that's concerning, because our vaccination rate is also increasing, as well, which means that, potentially, some of these variants are actually gaining traction within our community. We need to be extra vigilant. We need to maintain social distancing, proper masking and all other precautions in place so that we can continue to rein in the number of cases that we're seeing. But I think we're at a critical point right now with the lifting of many restrictions while the vaccines are still waiting to take hold.

  • 12:32:42

    NNAMDIThe Maryland Senate's Executive Nominations Committee will soon hold a hearing for acting health Secretary Dennis Schrader. You sit on that committee, and you also sit on the Vaccine Oversight Workgroup, which has weekly meetings with Schrader. Senate President Bill Ferguson has signaled that he will likely not support Schrader's confirmation. Where do you stand on Secretary Schrader's performance? And do you know yet if you will vote to confirm him?

  • 12:33:10

    LAMSo, we have a hearing with Secretary Schrader this coming Monday, before the Executive Nominations Committee. And I think we want to continue to press him on questions that pertain to the vaccination program, as well as other things that pertain to the Maryland Department of Health. I think the jury's still out.

  • 12:33:28

    LAMWe still have many questions that are outstanding, including requests for information and documentation on some of the emergency procurement contracts that have gone out to support the vaccine program. So, I think we want to take a closer look at that before we have a final decision on how to move forward with his confirmation.

  • 12:33:46

    NNAMDIOne thing we should mention is that you're a doctor, one of two in the Maryland legislature, so I don't want your listeners to be surprised, or our listeners to be surprised if we ask you some more medically focused questions. Briefly, could you tell us, what does your medical work focus on?

  • 12:34:02

    LAMSo, I specialize in preventive medicine and occupational health. And many of us in the legislature wear other hats. I also work at Johns Hopkins, where I'm the interim director for occupational health at Johns Hopkins Health System, overseeing the health, safety and wellbeing of some 50,000 employees across Johns Hopkins, many of whom are frontline healthcare workers.

  • 12:34:24

    NNAMDIOur guest is Clarence Lam. He's a Maryland State Senator, representing District 12. Tom Sherwood?

  • 12:34:31

    SHERWOODI just want to address that issue of people are less vigilant. Even though we keep hearing about strains coming down the East Coast, and all these other things, it seems to me people are starting to feel, not just frustration from the past year, but they think they're safer. I've got both shots, and people are wanting to go out and do things.

  • 12:34:50

    SHERWOODWhat is the most concise advice you can give to people, as a medical professional, about how they should view this period of time when everyone feels like we should reopen up, but there's still danger?

  • 12:35:03

    NNAMDIOnly about one minute left, Mr. Senator.

  • 12:35:05

    LAMSure. Yeah, we're at a critical inflection point right now where the vaccines haven't fully taken hold in our community because we still need to get a good percentage of our community vaccinated. But we are seeing more and more variants out there, and so we need people to hang tight with these proper vigilant protocols that involve social distancing, masking and other types of distancing so that we don't see the proliferation of COVID that we saw back in last year. Just a few more months will be able to help with this, but we're seeing vaccination rates increase much, much more.

  • 12:35:43

    SHERWOODI have a less-serious question. Do I have time, or do we have another break, Kojo?

  • 12:35:47

    NNAMDIWe're about to break in about 30 seconds.

  • 12:35:51

    SHERWOODI looked on your Twitter account, @clarencelammd. You have not tweeted since the November 3rd election. I just wondered what's happening?

  • 12:36:02

    NNAMDITen seconds.

  • 12:36:03

    SHERWOODHave you been blocked?

  • 12:36:07

    LAMI have not. I've just been busy as a healthcare provider, still seeing patients every week.

  • 12:36:12

    NNAMDISee, Tom Sherwood has nothing else to do but tweet. Today's Politics Hour was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up Monday, we check in on the vaccine rollout in the D.C. region and ask how worried we need to be about new variants. Dr. Leana Wen joins us to answer all your COVID questions.

  • 12:36:25

    NNAMDIThen Kojo for Kids welcomes WNBA superstar Elena Delle Donne, who led the Washington Mystics to a national championship. That all starts Monday, at noon. Remember, this is the final day of our spring membership campaign. Tom Sherwood and I will have a little bit more to say about that. But thank you all for listening. Have a great weekend, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

Topics + Tags

Most Recent Shows