Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates District 15

Patch One-On-One With Del. Kathleen Dumais

In the first week of the Maryland General Assembly, Patch get’s Del. Dumais’ opinions about local issues.

Potomac Patch, January 15, 2011, by Frances Correa

Del. Kathleen Dumais represents the District 15. In the first week of the Maryland General Assembly, Patch asked Dumais for her opinions concerning some local issues. Here’s what she told us:

Patch: This year, some legislators are saying that the school system, that has traditionally been protected from budget cuts, will see more significant cuts this year. What is your opinion on that?

Dumais: I think that’s true. To be honest I commend Gov. O’Malley for what he has been able to do in his first few years, by maintaining the level of school funding that he did. You know, Maryland, just this week for the third year in a row it’s been determined that we have the best schools in the country. And I think that his keeping University of Maryland tuition steady and level for the last four years was also an important piece. We’ve done it and, hopefully with his direction, made good choices but we’re kind of at a point now that we’re going to have to cut in to the bone.

Patch: Are we going to be able to maintain the quality of schools we have without the same amount funding?

Dumais: I think so. Everybody is just going to have to feel the pain. I have a great deal of faith in our educators that they will continue to provide good services and we’ll just have to make due with less. It’s not easy but I believe that their commitment to the kids is what really makes the school system the best in the country and it’s not simply the funding.

Patch: Recently, Gov. Martin O’Malley voiced his support for the gay marriage legislation moving through the state legislature. You’ve publicly supported gay marriage in the past. How likely do you think it is that a gay marriage bill will pass in Maryland?

Dumais: I think it’s pretty strong this year. There’s no certainty, but I’ve been talking to the advocates in the advocacy groups and they think they have the votes in the senate and since the president of the senate, Mike Miller, has indicated he will allow it to come, you known, if it’s out of committee, he’ll allow the debates to occur on the floor. And, if it gets out of the senate then the house will take it up.

Patch: So, if it passes, do you see more bills to come providing added benefits to gay couples?

Dumais: I do. I think they would have all the rights that any married couple in the state currently have. I really see it, sort of, as a civil right and, you know. If they are in a committed relationship and would like a license from the state of Maryland then I don’t see any discrimination not to provide it for them.

Many different religions don’t support it and that’s fine. I’m not asking the Catholic church to issue a marriage license. But, if it’s a license issued by the state of Maryland, then I think it’s appropriate that if you apply for it, that it would be appropriate for you to have it.

Patch: You have gone on the record speaking against addressing the issue of illegal immigration on the state level. What is you opinion about the debate coming to the session about illegal immigration, the 16 pieces of legislation brought by McDonough placing limits on illegal immigrants and the DREAM act?

Dumais: I think we ought to pass it. Here’s the issue, I think we have to handle this in a compassionate and humane manner. I think it is very unfortunate that people come here illegally but our immigration system is broken and we don’t have a good process for people to get into this country. It’s hard for me to fault someone who is trying to put food on the table and take care of their family for looking for better opportunity. It’s not something I think we can fix on a state-by-state basis.

So, I hope that under President Obama, there is real effort to address the immigration issue. I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t know if work permits is sort of a way to look at it but just, sort of, looking at these individuals, many of whom come here because they want a better life, I think we have to handle this with compassion and very humanely, and I think that blanket black and white ‘get out’ isn’t the way to do it.

Patch: You have been an advocate for women’s issues. Will there be anything new in domestic violence legislation coming from you this session?

Dumais: One of the things we are considering doing is making strangulation a felony, as part of a first-degree assault. We’re also looking to perhaps create a separate assault crime for intimate partners to bring that more to the forefront.

I’m also working on a bill in the area of human trafficking. It’s a bill I’ve introduced before that would provide, at the time of an arrest in a human trafficking case, that the state, or police could actually seize property so that if there are cars or houses or cash that they find at the time of the arrest they can actually seize it and the perpetrator would have to forfeit his or her rights to that property, upon conviction. We do that in Maryland in drug cases, so we think it’s appropriate to do it in human trafficking cases.

And then on the child support area, its really just cleaning up some definitions. One would be a definition of what we call an “extra-ordinary medical expense” which is an expense that parties in divorce cases that have children share. It’s an old definition that has cumbersome and sometimes hard to interpret. It specifically says that an extraordinary medical expense is an expense over $100 for a single illness. A lot of times we argue over what’s the meaning of a single illness. Is it one doctor’s appointment for every time the child goes to the doctor. So it causes disputes. What the family law bar would like to see is somewhere along the lines of almost deductible where basically the primary parent sort of pays the first $250 in any given year and then after that the parties would split any remaining cost, in proportion to their income. So we just think it would be cleaner and easier to apply.

Patch: With respect to budget cuts, are you worried that MoCo will shoulder an unfair amount of the burden in budget cuts?

Dumais: We’re always worried about that. We’re going to have to take it on a day-by-day basis and see what the governors budget looks like. You know, and there are hard choices and just like every family is making hard choices the state’s going to have to make some really hard choices and I do think it is our delegation’s responsibility to make sure those hard choices don’t fall solely on our backs.

Patch: What is your opinion on the possibility of the teachers pensions being transferred to the shoulders of the county, instead of the state?

Dumais: I just attended a briefing this morning for the Montgomery County delegation that was given by former speaker Cas Taylor who apparently is on the commission that’s studying that. I don’t think any decisions have been made yet. We’re certainly not alone in this boat and I think that there will have to be changes to the pension system. Who pays for it I think is still an open question and it there is going to be something that’s shifted to the counties then the counties need to be able to talk about what it is they can handle and what they can’t. At the moment, we do not have the funds to sustain the existing benefits that are available to retirees and future retirees.

Patch: What are the options we have , if any, for revamping the Transportation Trust Fund?

Well, one of the way is to look at the detected source from the gas tax. That’s not the end all to be all solution but that’s one that I think we’re going to have to seriously consider. It’s not just new roads that need to be built, it’s really a matter of maintaining the infrastructure that we have.

Patch: There’s a big debate going on, specifically in Germantown, about the late-term abortion provider, LeRoy Carhart coming to Maryland. Opponents are calling Maryland “a haven for abortion performers.” What is your reaction to those statements? What is your opinion about this?

Dumais: It’s always been a tough personal issue for me but I do think that the law that is in existence in Maryland is fair and I think our medical profession treats this issue appropriately and with a great deal of sensitivity. I’ve never spoken to any position that thinks it’s a grew idea unless there’s a real reason for why it has to happen sometimes, medically, there are. It’s a personal decision for any woman that’s going to go through it. We’re not a haven. I don’t know of anyone that likes abortion but it is an individual woman’s choice and there are medical reasons for late-term abortions.

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