A Howard County resident since 1977, Bates has represented District 9A, which includes most of the western county, in the House of Delegates for the past 12 years. She is the ranking Republican member on the House Appropriations Committee, where she helped develop a state budget strategy for the Republican caucus.
Bates said she was concerned about how much the state has been spending.
"I think the issues, consistently, are taxing and spending," she said. "I guess in part because I have been on the appropriations committee while I have been in the House, much of what I deal with has been on the budget ... certainly that's an issue I've watched."
As a member of the Joint Audit Committee, Bates has, in particular, sought to reduce wasteful spending by government agencies.
For years, she said, agencies that were cited in audit findings didn't follow through with the solutions they proposed.
"What I've tried to do is get more accountability with respect to these audit findings," she said.
A bill she proposed several years ago to require the budget committee to withhold money from agencies with three or more repeat audit findings didn't pass but got the attention of the legislature. This year, the committee began withholding money from these "repeat offenders" — and the repercussions have been working, according to Bates.
"It's making a difference," Bates said. "We're actually making the system work the way it's supposed to."
A former math and home economics teacher, Bates said another goal of hers was to improve education throughout the state.
"Although we're the No.1 school system ... one of the issues I have is that there are still pockets of regions in the state where the kids are not getting a good education," she said. "I don't believe the quality of education should be ZIP-code dependent."
Bates said her experience as a delegate and a small business owner — she owns a small accounting firm — keeps her aware of the issues facing her constituents. "I've already run in about two-thirds of the district the last couple terms, so people know me," she said.
As for her approach to legislating, she said she's focused on making real changes.