Rep. Sarbanes Talks Politics and Policy

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) has served Maryland's 3rd Congressional District since 2007, and he's hoping voters elect him for another term this November.

The 3rd District, which stretches from Annapolis to Baltimore County, is considered by most political analysts to be safely Democratic. In 2010—a particularly difficult year for both incumbents and Democrats—Sarbanes held onto his seat with 60 percent of the vote, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

He took a few moments to answer Patch's questions about where he stands on issues facing the nation and the 3rd District.

Health Care

Sarbanes supported President Barack Obama's health care reform legislation known as the Affordable Care Act, and he said "I’d like them to know that I continue to view it as an important step forward for the country."

He said the most important element going forward is ensuring the law is implemented correctly.

Sarbanes said he thinks the "out of control rise" in health care premiums will be reined in when the health care exchanges start in 2014.

"One thing is you get rid of these free riders. They use the health care system, but they don’t pay into it, and that raises everyone's premiums," Sarbanes said. "If you’re a small business, you're paying as much as 20 percent more for your benefits than a large corporation. Health care exchanges will allow you to pool coverage and bring down costs."

He said there is also a mechanism kicking in requiring health care companies to refund customers if they have been charging more for overhead costs than is considered reasonable.

Committee Appointments

Sarbanes sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It's an appointment that he said allows him to stay involved with health care legislation because his committee is "where much of the health care legislation was debated and drafted."

He said the committee appointment also allows him to be front and center on energy issues—including alternative energy research and development.

"I have some concerns about some of these new techniques like hydraulic fracturing," Sarbanes said. 

Gay Marriage

"I’m on record as being a very strong supporter of marriage equality," Sarbanes said. "Obviously I recognize that we are talking about civil marriage here. You can’t impose that view or standard onto any particular religious faith."

Transportation and Infrastructure

In July, Sarbanes worked to make changes to the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill that allowed Annapolis to use federal dollars for operational costs associated with its buses again.

And he said he's been working to ensure adequate funding for transportation improvements aroundFort Meade

"The benefits of the BRAC opportunity, which is bringing about 5,000 new direct jobs in the area, should not end up being compromised by congestion," Sarbanes said.

He's worked to secure $6 million to upgrade intersections along Maryland 175, and $2.3 million to upgrade intersections on the base as well. 

The Towson-based Democrat said he would like to see a national commitment to strengthening our infrastructure through the creation of National Infrastructure Bank, which would combine public and private investment to repair things like roads, bridges and water treatment systems.

Redistricting

Maryland's newly re-drawn congressional boundaries will head to voters this November after a group opposing the new districts collected enough signatures for a referendum vote.  

Sarbanes said he's not focused on how his district could shift in the future.

"This is my new district, and these are the people I have to answer to," Sarbanes said. "My prospective on redistricting is: The process results in a certain set of boundries, and it's incumbent on whoever wants to run in that district to make the best case possible."

Campaign Finance Reform

Sarbanes said he does not accept PAC contributions, and he believes "there is a lot of cynicism on the part of people because they think their democratic institutions are being corrupted by people with a lot of money."

A few months ago he pledged not to touch $750,000 in private funds from high-dollar donors until he got 1,000 new donors who each contributed less than $100, according to the Huffington Post.

"We passed that milestone on June 30, which I was excited to do," Sarbanes said. 

Sarbanes plans to work on campaign finance reform legislation if re-elected.

Key Takeaway

The congressman said if people remember nothing else about him this November, he wants them to know "that I put my constituent service first. To me that’s the number one responsibility that I have, and that informs the work I do in Washington."

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