Senator Edward Kasemeyer, along with Delegates Eric Ebersole, Terri Hill, and Clarence Lam from the Maryland General Assembly, came to the University Center last Tuesday night to meet with students and discuss the upcoming legislative session.
The night began with a structured question and answer portion led by Felix Facchine and Meghan Lynch, the president and vice president of the College Democrats, respectively. Following this, the floor was opened to the audience, who were welcome to ask the representatives questions.
Facchine, a senior political science major with a minor in environmental science, said the event was organized over a short time, only three or four weeks. “The College Democrats have a close relationship with the local elected officials, and we thought this would be a good way for students to meet the legislators who directly represent us,” he says.
Lynch, also a political science senior, echoes this sentiment, noting that while the College Democrats have always met one on one with the representatives, they thought it would be a good opportunity for other students to get involved. “It’s an opportunity to let them know UMBC remembers them, and that we take what they do seriously,” she notes, stressing the importance of student engagement at a local level. “It’s really beautiful, it shows democracy in action, and the legislators are great people who want to be here and have a genuine interest in their constituents.”
Each legislator spoke about their entrance into the political landscape, and then discussed their plans for the upcoming legislative session, beginning Jan.10. Senator Kasemeyer expressed his faith in the paid sick leave bill introduced in an earlier session, while Delegate Lam said that, as a physician, his focus was on protecting the healthcare of the 300,000+ Marylanders who benefited from the Affordable Care Act, should repeal efforts on the federal level resume.
Delegate Ebersole, a former teacher, spoke on the importance of the Maryland legislators’ responsibility to protect Marylanders, and the importance of broader evaluations of Maryland schools. Specifically, he encouraged less reliance on test scores alone and a shift away from school vouchers and charter schools, which has recently been pushed at the federal level.
Delegate Hill also stressed Maryland’s importance in the current political environment, expressing hope that the Assembly can find the means of supporting the school system, health care and making sure no one gets left behind.
Students then got the chance to address questions to the representatives. Some asked about their opinions on the upcoming Maryland Democratic primaries, which will take place in June prior to the upcoming election for governor in November. The representatives expressed their hope that whoever receives the nomination will be someone well-suited for the office, and who will be able to activate Democratic voters across the state.
The audience also asked about voter access and voter rights, and Delegate Ebersole discussed possible legislation to aid in voter registration and ways to improve Maryland voting.
Students seemed to respond to the event. Senior statistics major Malcolm Heflin appreciated the chance to meet his local representatives, and added “I appreciate the passion of our reps, and the people elected in Annapolis really represent us.”
Junior Gerardo Herrera-Cortes, a graphic design major, feels that the event was an interesting way to learn what was happening on the local level when much of the focus is on the national stage, adding, “those who can vote should get knowledge of the issues.”
Facchine and Lynch hope that events like this will increase engagement around campus and continue to grow UMBC’s political environment. “I hope students get a better understanding of who represents them and how they can voice their opinion in Maryland politics,” Facchine says.
Lynch adds, “Students should know that this is the time to get involved and make a difference.”