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Rep. Sarbanes Talks Politics and Policy

The Democratic incumbent for Maryland's 3rd congressional district spoke with Patch about his work in the U.S. House of Representatives, and where he stands on the issues.

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 around Fort 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."

You can learn more about Sarbanes by clicking here to go to his campaign website.

You can also view an interview with Patch with Republican candidate Eric Knowles, Sarbanes' opponent, by clicking here.

Mike July 26, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Yesterday, Mr. Sarbanes voted against the people, siding the big banks and their big-business cronies. He voted against even allowing to people to SEE what the Federal Reserve is doing. He voted to let the Federal Reserve continue acting as secretly as possible. The Fed is the private banking cartel that drives the busts like the housing bubble and bails out the banks, including sending our money overseas to bail out foreign banks. It destroys the value of the currency, robbing all of us of what we've earned. This is disastrous for all of us, and particularly harms our seniors, and others living on fixed incomes. These people are unable to get fair returns on their savings, which instead evaporate away. While the bankers get rich. Be ready for the Fed's phony defense. They'll say that allowing the people to know what the Fed is doing will "politicize" its actions. But its actions are already VERY political. (For instance, you can bet the foreign banks that get YOUR money have clout with the Fed, where you do not.) Preventing the people from auditing the Fed doesn't make the Fed apolitical. The Fed is already extremely political. Stopping the audit simply keeps the already extremely political Fed UNACCOUNTABLE to the citizens. Everyone, especially Democrats who wish to stop the banks and big business cronies from stacking the deck against the man on the street, should be asking why Mr. Sarbanes is on the wrong side of this.
Mike July 26, 2012 at 02:57 PM
One further note: Just like the Democratic establishment, the Republican establishment ALSO sides with the Fed, the banks, and their big business cronies, protecting them from any prying eyes of actual citizens like you and me. The reason the Republican establishment has FINALLY voted for the audit of the Fed is that they were pressured into it. So it is important not to be fooled by any appearance of partisan poltics here. Those who voted to let the people audit the Fed are a mix of: 1. honest Democrats and honest Republicans who side with the people and not with the banks (kudos to them--we should support them for doing so). 2. establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans, who side with the Fed, but are concerned about the ballot consequences of siding with the Fed against the citizens. These guys didn't like voting against their buddies in the Fed and the banks, but political pressure from citizens forced them to do the right thing. We need to apply even more of that pressure.
Paul Drgos, Jr September 30, 2012 at 06:11 PM
How does what Mr. Sarbanes said comport to what the campaign finance reports say? http://www.fec.gov/fecviewer/CandidateCommitteeDetail.do

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