Friday, August 04, 2006

Let's See What the AG's Office Can Do

Tom Perez, former prosecutor, civil rights attorney and consumer advocate, and current member of the Montgomery County Council, showed this writer a willingness to think outside the box to tackle important problems as he runs for Attorney General during an interview this week.

Saying that “only about 10% of the job” of the Attorney General is traditional criminal prosecution, he pointed to “the breadth and depth of experience I bring to the job” and the “number of unique perspectives on how government and the law can be used to serve people well” as reasons he would best be able to serve the people of Maryland.

Perez touted his own experience as being the best fit for the broad, diverse job of Attorney General of Maryland:

“Many people perceive the office to be a Statewide "State's Attorney" but it’s not. The bulk of the work is in the areas I described above -- consumer protection, health care, environmental protection."

"To be sure, there is work done prosecuting environmental crimes, health care fraud, etc. -- but that is a different kind of prosecution altogether that requires some manner of subject area expertise which I bring."

Perez presents a new perspective on what the Attorney General’s office can do, saying he wants to broaden the work of the AG’s office in innovative ways, for example:

"I think we can use civil rights laws to reduce health disparities for low-income and minority Marylanders. Consider, for example, that diabetes is a disease that disproportionately affects African-Americans. We can use the leverage of equal protection laws to ask why it is that most insurance companies don’t cover routine preventative foot exams to screen for diabetes. Cost = about $40. But the insurance companies happily cover the cost of below the knee amputations when diabetes takes hold. The AG has broad powers to investigate corporate practices, including those that might be discriminatory. I'm not suggesting necessarily that the practice is....but it’s worth asking the questions and seeing if we can’t find some reasonable solution with the insurance industry."

He pointed out that both of his opponents in the primary (former Baltimore State’s Attorney Stuart Simms and Montgomery County States Attorney Doug Gansler) “are criminal prosecutors by background."

The full post on my interview with Tom Perez is available at OnBackground.blogspot.com

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