Q&A: Delegate Carr talks about legislative goals in upcoming session
Delegate Alfred C. Carr represents Maryland’s 18th district. He serves a member of the Maryland House Health & Government committee. Del. Carr shared with the State of Reform his committee’s goals for the upcoming 2021 legislative session, and how COVID-19 will change the way the General Assembly operates in the new year.
Mansur Shaheen: Tell me about yourself, what career path led to you to become a state delegate and why did you choose to run for office?
Alfred Carr: I have lived in Maryland for about 23 years. My origin story of how I got involved in public service has to do with pedestrian safety. I live right on Connecticut Avenue, which is a very busy road, and at the intersection here there is no traffic signal, so there is no safe way to get across. My next-door neighbor enlisted me to help in that effort. And then I became interested in improving other traffic and pedestrian safety issues, so I got myself elected to the town council.
Then, some of the things I was interested in I learned were decided at the state level. There was a vacancy for the Office of State delegate in my district. It took a couple tries but I got appointed, and then elected to be a state delegate in 2007.
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MS: How long have you been on the committee, and what do you think is the goal of the committee?
AC: The Speaker of the House Mike Bush assigned me to the health and government operations committee at the start of the term in 2019.
The health and government operations committee has pretty broad jurisdiction over health care issues in the house. Whether it is health insurance, health occupations, hospitals, disparities in the healthcare system.
I think that the health and government operations committee is going to be busy this year with a lot of different things. We will be looking at prescription drugs, equity in the health care system, telehealth, occupations, nursing homes, Medicaid, medical cannabis. I think we all have a very full agenda.
Telehealth I think is particularly important and we really learned the value of that during the pandemic, so I think we will be looking to make some of those temporary provisions more permanent.
MS: What do you think is the standout achievement by the committee in the time you have been a part of it?
AC: I am really proud of the work we did to codify Maryland’s participation in the Affordable Care Act. So, if the Federal government messes with it then, at least in Maryland, you will be protected.
MS: What are your legislative goals for this session, what do you have on your agenda?
AC: On the health care front, I have got a bill to establish licensure of genetic counselors. Genetic counseling is a profession that we have in Maryland, as well as elsewhere. So, there is a need to ensure that genetic counselors have a pathway that they can get licensed in their profession. Just like we have licensing for many other health care professions. There is a bill I am doing with Sen. Clarence Lamb that would establish a pathway to licensure for genetic counselors in Maryland.
MS: What changes are being made to the way the legislature operates in 2021 due to COVID-19?
AC: We are going virtual, for most of our work, committee bill hearings, subcommittee meetings, committee voting sessions, will all be streamed on YouTube for people to watch. Testimony in the bill hearings will be remote, so people can testify remotely through Zoom, and they can submit their testimony electronically.
Times that you would have to convene as the House of Delegates are going to be fewer than in years past. Leadership wants to just limit us to those minimum times that we need to convene as a larger body. The house is being split into two separate rooms because our main chamber is a bit crowded.
The public will have limited access to the legislative complex. Legislators will still be available, but the legislature will be meeting virtually with people, either through a FaceTime or a Zoom call or phone call. People will still have the ability to interact with legislators.
It will be different. In some ways it would be a lot more transparent. In the past, people had to travel to Annapolis or physically be in Annapolis to do a lot of things like testify on a bill, or watch a committee vote on a bill, or watch a subcommittee, and that is all virtual now. So, in a lot of ways, we will be more accessible to the public than we were in the past.