Name: Richard B. Weldon, Jr.
Party affiliation: Republican
Place of residence: Brunswick
Date of birth: Sept. 26, 1958
Current occupation: Consultant, incumbent
Education: William Penn High School; coursework in technology management⁄public administration, University of Maryland.
Community associations, involvement: Board member, Frederick County Mental Health Association; board member, Frederick Community Action Agency; board member, Friends for Neighborhood Progress; member, Frederick County Cancer Coalition; member, Committee for Frederick County.
Professional Associations: National Conference of State Legislators, Council of State Governments, Executive Board, Rural Maryland Council, Rural Maryland Health Association.
Family: No answer
Campaign office address and telephone: No answer
Candidate’s Web site: No answer
What are your top three priorities for the next four years, if elected?
Improve access to and affordability of health care in Maryland. Every Maryland resident should have health insurance. Gimmicks like the bill that singled out Wal-Mart don’t actually increase access to health care at all. What is needed is comprehensive reform, which must include carrier’s reimbursement of providers and personal responsibility in the health care decision-making process.
Provide greater transparency of government processes. Currently, local governments and public bodies routinely close meetings under an administrative function justification. Residents deserve a fully transparent governmental process at all levels. When our money is being spent, we should have access to our decision-makers.
Address the high cost of workforce housing. In order to make housing more accessible, especially for teachers, police officers, and career firefighters, we need to modify state law to give local governments the tools they need to waive fees and taxes for qualified projects.
How would you rate the performance of the current representatives of your district: excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?
Excellent, but I’m a little biased. I have established an outstanding reputation in Annapolis as a legislator who can work across party lines to accomplish important policy objectives for my district and for all of Maryland.
Case in point is my groundbreaking initiative to give preference to relative caregivers, which has now become a national model. I worked with a broad, bi-partisan coalition to overcome substantial objections and get the bill passed and signed into law.
Another example is my open meetings bill, making it easier for residents to gain access to government processes. Every single member of the Maryland House of Delegates voted for this bill. I also served as the floor leader for a major state procurement reform bill, a rare occurrence for a freshman member of the minority party.
Do you support amending the constitution to give the legislature more budget authority?
Not necessarily. The legislature is dominated by Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, and the City of Baltimore. Giving the legislature more budget authority would probably mean that the rural and suburban counties would suffer at the hands of the urban legislators who control the votes. This practice has negatively affected western Maryland in everything from public education funding to transportation investment.
Is the rate of growth in Maryland too fast, too slow or about right, and why?
The rate of growth statewide is representative of the demand for housing to support the Washington, D.C. employment sector. In southern Frederick and southeastern Washington County, the rate of residential growth is an issue based on the sheer numbers of lots approved or in the pipeline for approval.
Urbana will almost double its size, and Brunswick will more than double over the next 10 to 15 years. While land-use decisions are not a state legislative matter, the funding for critical services is. We need to continue to receive our share of state funding for school construction, transportation, and other critical services. I have fought successfully for local grant funding, highway transportation investment, and record amounts of school construction funding.
What programs would you like to add or cut from the state budget? How would you pay for additional programs? What would you do with the money from any cuts you make?
I wouldn’t add any programs to the state budget that didn’t have a clearly defined revenue source. There are a number of initiatives in the health care arena that I intend to pursue, but I will ensure they all have a funding source. The Massachusetts Universal Healthcare initiative is essentially revenue-neutral, so I know it can be done.
There are a number of programs, including health coverage, food stamps, and other forms of assistance for undocumented or illegal immigrants, that I would reduce or eliminate. I believe these programs serve as incentives for illegal behavior, regardless of the merits of the program. Proof of citizenship, or least proof of the pursuit of citizenship, including proof of payment of taxes, should be a prerequisite to these benefits.
Are there specific taxes or fees that you would cut?
Taxes and fees pay for services that have either been requested by or designed to address specific community needs. I would immediately remove septic users from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, as the legislative leadership insisted on including these users, even though they do not significantly contribute to bay nutrient pollution.
Do you support slot machines for Maryland? Why or why not?
I have, and will continue to, support slot machines in locations where the infrastructure for gaming already exists. While I don’t gamble, I recognize that Maryland residents spend several hundred million dollars per year gambling in West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey.
I would rather see that revenue spent here, in our state, to build schools and other civic facilities. Also, the Maryland thoroughbred and standard bred horse industry, long a proud and significant part of our state heritage, is on the verge of disappearing in Maryland.
Placing slot machine gaming facilities at horse racing venues would allow purse adjustments that would compete with West Virginia and Delaware, and would reinvigorate the horse breeding, training, and associated industries. Additionally, the revenue from legal slots gaming would allow for a commitment to continue improving public education in Maryland.
Do you support giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants?
No. In fact, I don’t believe there should be any positive incentives for people who have broken federal law to come here. What message are we sending otherwise law-abiding citizens to encourage an illegal immigrant by extending driving privileges? It is an established fact that some of the 9⁄11 hijackers used validly issued Virginia driver’s licenses to obtain their airline tickets.
Do you support in-state tuition to illegal immigrants?<P> See above. In this case, the problem is even more serious. By extending in-state tuition status to an illegal immigrant, you actually are creating a positive incentive for a person who has already broken a federal law to locate in Maryland.
There are a number of immigrants from other countries who are painstakingly working through a formal process to gain full and legal status. We’re telling them they’ve wasted their time; they’d do better to just squat and take full advantage of the social benefits of citizen status without the hassle of legal compliance.
What is the biggest problem facing higher education and what would you do to solve it?
The only issue with higher education in Maryland is the rising cost of tuition, and the lack of a continuing federal commitment to provide grants-in-aid for college students. I voted for a budget that dramatically increased funding to the state university system, as a way of reducing the impact of increasing tuition.
One of the most important initiatives I have supported, and will support in the next term, is the emergence of our community college system as a center of excellence for workforce training. We need to increase funding levels for training programs that prepare workers for 21st century jobs, and we need to financially partner with the technology businesses that seek those employees.
Where would you get more money for the Transportation Trust Fund?
Maryland residents continue to subsidize major mass transportation projects out of this fund. We support two urban mass transit systems, one in Baltimore and the D.C. Metro. The cost of ridership for these systems does not come anywhere near covering their actual cost to provide the service.
Similarly, the state has an obligation to provide financial support for certain operations at BWI Airport. In order to free up more funding for long-overdue highway projects, mass transit users will need to offset a larger share of the cost of their services through farebox recovery. Similarly, BWI users should bear a proportionally larger share of the costs of the services they depend on.
What specific transportation projects do you see as priorities for the state?
For District 3B residents, nothing is as important as Interstate-270. The agonizingly slow, multi-modal study of the I-270 corridor needs to be wrapped up, and solutions identified and incorporated into the transportation capitol budget as soon as possible.
Also, Md. Route 15 through Point of Rocks up to Jefferson needs to be a top priority for safety improvements. I have been working with State Highway on planning and designing these enhancements. Md. routes 75 and 80 will also need safety improvements, especially given the development focus by county government.
Should there be a dedicated funding source for Washington and Baltimore mass transit?
I would support dedicating 1-2 cents of the sales tax for mass transit funding, if in exchange the fuel tax revenue offset would be committed to road and highway projects, with a percent set-aside for rural roads.
If mass transit users have to bear the actual full cost of the service, the services would not be used. The answer is to increase fares, but not to the extent that rate increases would result in usage reductions. We need a balanced transportation funding strategy, not one that favors disproportionate mass transit over road funding.
Would you re-regulate the electricity industry?
Yes. I have concluded that the factors presented to the General Assembly during the 1998 Session considered an unrealistic scenario for rate competition in the utility industry.
Instead of competition and lower consumer prices, we have seen consolidations, acquisitions, and dramatic rate increases. I would certainly consider a revised regulatory environment for electric generation as a way of protecting consumers against market forces and corporate consolidations. The problem is not the Public Service Commission, the problem is the relaxation of utility regulation in a climate where market forces are negatively affecting consumers.
Do you believe Maryland’s gun control laws are too strict, not strict enough or just right?
The issue with firearms regulation is basically consistency of enforcement and punishment, not a lack of regulation. Adding additional firearms laws on Maryland’s books will do nothing to alter crimes committed using firearms, as the criminals who commit those crimes have already demonstrated their lack of respect for the rule of law.
In fact, there are a number of existing requirements, notably the ballistic fingerprinting laws, that have not worked as envisioned. I would roll back unrealistic and ineffective regulation on law-abiding firearms owners and sportsmen.
What is your position on abortion?
I consider abortion personally to be morally unacceptable. That said, abortion rights have been granted, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the procedure, in spite of my personal beliefs, is legal. I respect the process through which the Founding Fathers allowed for judicial review of legislative initiatives, and intend to respect the law as written and interpreted through the constitutional process.
I absolutely support parental notification for underage patients seeking abortion procedures. I am also opposed to the ‘‘morning after” pill being dispensed to teenagers and made a part of the state Medicaid program.
Should the Maryland constitution be changed to allow same-sex marriages?
Marriage, when defined as a theological or religious ceremony to join two individuals under a faith, should not have to conform to governmental dictate, especially when the marriage in question would conflict with the belief system of that faith. On the other hand, same-sex couples seeking legal rights not granted otherwise should be able to have access to those rights through a legal instrument, such as a civil union.
Does the state need stricter controls to protect the environment?
Yes. Effluent emissions from power plants and factories continue to present serious public health threats, and federal laws to control these emissions are weakening, not strengthening, the ability of state and local entities to enforce them.
I have much more confidence in the state’s ability to provide the necessary oversight. Also, while the Chesapeake Bay Restoration efforts of the Ehrlich Administration will help remove nutrients from the Bay, we’ll need to prevent massive runoff from residential development from further damaging our natural resources.
Does the county’s commission form of government still work? Should we adopt a charter government, or code home rule?
In my opinion, we are several years past the point where a change in the form and structure of county government is necessary. Frankly, a level of ignorance and fear of change has fueled some of the objections over the years.
Frederick County is facing several years of political back-and-forth over the growth debate, while someone should be making the technical decisions to build the necessary infrastructure. We already pay a county manager and several senior county employees to act as de-facto executives, with the commissioners making the final decisions based on staff input.
I believe it would be more efficient to elect an executive, with the qualifications to run the county business operation, while separately electing a council to deal with the legislative questions and land-use decisions that require substantial resident input. Controls can be written into a charter to prevent an executive from having too much independence or power.