Web Exclusive: Full Interview One on One with Maryland Sen. Addi - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Web Exclusive: Full Interview One on One with Maryland Sen. Addie Eckardt

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Maryland Sen. Addie Eckardt (Photo: WBOC) Maryland Sen. Addie Eckardt (Photo: WBOC)

WBOC debuted a new segment called "One on One," in which we sit down with political leaders to get their take on the issues. WBOC's Mid-Shore Bureau Chief Tyler Bureau sits down with Maryland Sen. Addie Eckardt, who discusses the various issues of concern to her and her constituents. Below is the full transcript of the interview with Eckhardt.

Tyler Butler: Well, first up senator thanks very much for joining us here in the NewsPlex today. Now I know it's typically the governor’s job to do the state of the state address, but I figured I'd ask you to start off. What is the state of the state? How is Maryland doing right now?

Addie Eckardt: Well, Maryland is open for business, Tyler. That's the message that I think we're carrying out and the governor's carrying out and all of his cabinet's secretaries as well. When he spent that year working on “Change Maryland” there was message loud and clear recduce taxes, do what you need to do to get the economy going in Maryland, and let;s bring in more business and deal with regulations so that we can improve our economy, which then provides for the necessary services.

Tyler Butler: So a lot of things are changing I guess in your mind, though, what is the number one thing right now that needs fixing? What's the biggest thing the state needs to address right now?

Addie Eckardt: Our technology, I would say our infrastructure. I thought that, that was one place that if we could bring Maryland up to date and on par with a lot of other states that would really ultimately provide more efficiency in government. It's a cost outlay initially, but we've been patching and it's costing us. So to bring in people who are very skilled with that technology I think would be very important. And that again can only improve the business climate.

Tyler: Now I know you sit on the AELR committee so you've seen this one piece of legislation we've talked about a lot: the phosphorus management tool. You've probably seen four or five different versions of the phosphorus management tool. This most recent one, how do you think that turned out? I know I did a story a while back where people were saying that this was a good compromise that we finally found a good middle ground. How do you feel about it?

Addie Eckardt: It was a compromise. It buys time but yet it identifies those farms that have the highest phosphorus rating. Of course, they’re using the new phosphorus index instead of the previous tool. What I had proposed to do initially was run them side-by-side and I think there is some of that already in the legislation to do that. You're going to have folks on both sides that think that legislation didn't go far enough, either from the environmental side or from the farmer side, but the folks that I most, that I have a lot of respect for in the industry, believe that we needed to do something. If we’re going to continue, and we need to build chicken houses and grow chicken and make chicken, a big crop here in Maryland, we simultaneously have to look at the best practice for dealing with the increase in phosphorus that that brings with it. One of the things we do know well in Maryland and on the Eastern Shore, is that ag is our biggest industry; we grow food well and it is cost effective to grow food on the Eastern Shore. We want to continue to do that, but our Chesapeake Bay is a very precious estuary and we need to be cognizant of water quality and the implications of the increase or the excess of phosphorus.

Tyler Butler: Was there ever a way that the phosphorus management tool was never going to happen or was it a matter of it was going to happen, we just needed to find the right balance?

Addie Eckardt: I think part of the issue is whether you believe the phosphorus tool is accurate or not and there are arguments on both sides. The fact is, that as we continue to go forward, the science doesn’t always keep pace with what we were doing. Like we were trying to deal with phosphorus if you remember with some manure burning plants or how we get poultry litter into energy and we’ve been kicking that around for, I know, 15 or 20 years. It hasn’t happened yet, so that was part of the concern. We recognize, I think most of us recognize that nitrogen and phosphorus, you know we need to be moderate with that, we don’t want too much, we don’t want too little, and farmers do a relatively good job of that. If you go back to the days of nutrient management tools, you know, Maryland has instituted nutrient management tools in order to get those tools done, which is to know what is on every acre of your property if you’re a farmer and know what soil samples say and what the nitrogen and phosphorus is. You need specialists to help do that. We didn’t have the specialists available. We didn’t put it in the budget, so by the time that caught up and there’s again, new technology that needs to still be researched to be able to see what kinds of other uses, to see what can we do. If you remember we did a different kind of a floor for chicken houses with the folks here in Salisbury thinking that if we could reduce the amount of ammonia that’s excreted or absorb it in some way, that would make a difference.  That’s still being worked on. We still have other products we put in the chicken feed or there are other things that could go in the chicken feed that would reduce the amount of phosphorus that’s excreted or would have crops that would take up more of the phosphorus. All of that is, we’re just on the cutting edge of that. And Maryland is in the lead, because of this country and I think we should take pride in that, that as we all work together to find alternate uses for phosphorus and see it as a resource not as a negative. I think that reframes it and provides different opportunities for conversation and moving forward.

Tyler Butler: Now  you were a delegate for a long long time, now you're...

Addie Eckardt: Twenty years

Tyler Butler: Yeah, now I guess you're six, seven months into being a senator now, I guess, how's that transition been from one house to the other?

Addie Eckardt: I knew a lot of people in both houses because I was a freshman, I had opportunity to get to know the freshmen on the freshmen tour and this is one of the largest classes. Our class in '94 was a large one, but this one has us beat by a little bit. A number of my colleagues also went to the Senate and a number of the senators were either in my class of ’94 or were individuals that I’ve worked with through the years, so it was a real advantage to already have those established relationships, so that I could work together and have those conversations about phosphorus, about the bay, about child care, about health-related issues. So that was a very positive aspect that came to either being able to debate on the floor or behind the scenes. It was exciting to me to have more time to talk on the floor. There's a lot of good debate. Not that there wasn't good debate in the House but with fewer people the debate's a little bit different, the rules are a little bit different in the Senate, so I had to get used to that. There was a little bit more flexibility than I was used to in the House. The other opportunity was just sitting next to people who are new to me that I didn’t have the opportunity to interact with, who are both sides of the aisle. So that kind of sharing, there was more opportunity for that. If you look at how the House of Delegates is seated, we’re kind of crammed in there and you’re pretty much stuck. I mean, if you’re in the middle of the row, you can’t move, or you try not to move because it becomes an obstacle course and you don’t want to be out of your seat when a vote is taken. In the Senate, there is more opportunity because people are coming and going and the numbers are smaller, which is  what I anticipated, so that was...

Tyler Butler: Your voice can be heard a little bit easier.

Addie Eckardt: Yeah, yeah. And you can be recognized, or again, work behind the scenes. And work behind the scenes if there’s a question with the bill on the Senate floor you can find a companion and then see what’s going on in the House floor, that was a little bit easier to track. And one that everybody told me is that I would have to be knowledgable about more than I was, more issues, well with my health background and not being on a health committee there were a lot of things I did know and were a lot of new members on that committee. Now the judiciary committee is a little bit different. They have a lot of subject matter that I’m going to have to bone up on for next year. There was another bill, it seems like a really little bill, and it was for small businesses on when they provided their sales tax to the comptroller, it was to be done two different times during the year, or for every month. But small business to do that every month is not cost effective, so small businesses came to me, said this is an issue, and I put it through and it passed. And I’ve had a number of businesses come and say that means a lot. I’ve had a whole lot of bills this year. We had a number that-

Tyler Butler: I saw!

Addie Eckardt: Yeah, more than usual! I really didn’t think that was going to happen. We did, you know, we did the Farmstead Cheese bill a number of years ago. We found that our dairies who wanted to make cheese had to carry their milk to Pennsylvania, stay with their milk while it was made into cheese and thencart the cheese back to Maryland, so it’s a several day, you know five day process. So we were able to take away that obsolete language, so that was good for our dairies on the eastern shore who provide cheese. Our new delegates are just very thrilled with how their first session went and that’s exciting for them. We’re going to be meeting the health officers and education, we’re all going to be meeting and you know, talking about that, because there’s not a consistent way of delivering school health across the state. It’s left up to each jurisdiction. So then the question becomes, you know, are students who have diabetes, are they being managed well? Is the protocol accurate? What about our private schools versus our public schools, because we addressed the issue with out public schools, maybe we don’t with our private schools. And there are nurses who are responsible for school health in those facilities as well. So it just opened a whole, I guess, a whole opportunity to look and think about as we move forward with health care reform and we have children’s health coverage, but are all of those specialties being addressed, since diabetes is one of our large issues in our schools and it’s growing in population.

Tyler Butler: Enough to keep you busy through the session?

Addie Eckardt: I think so.

Tyler Butler: Well, Addie Eckardt, thanks very much for joining us today.

Addie Eckardt: You're welcome. Thank you, Tyler.

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