For the first time since the Civil War, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned early. This was a difficult decision in which leadership balanced the need to pass essential legislation with the need to stop the spread of COVID-19. In an effort to limit contact and stay safe, while also fulfilling our constitutional requirements — balancing the budget for the upcoming year; support our students and teachers; and pass emergency legislation — we worked extremely long hours and throughout the weekend before adjourning on Wednesday, March 18.
Protecting public health and safety remained our top priority through these unusual times. The recommendations of the Kirwan Commission dominated the focus of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, where I proudly serve as the Vice Chair. SB1000/HB1300, known as the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” will transform Maryland’s public education system and help our children reach world-class student achievement levels. I focused on strengthening our investments in pre-Kindergarten and English Language Learners. This landmark piece of legislation passed after a long night of debate and will certainly go down in history.
Even with the abbreviated calendar, I was successful in enacting several key initiatives. Some of my bills that have been sent to the Governor’s desk will:
- Reduce the burden our health care workers are facing during this public health crisis by authorizing telehealth services;
- Improve our 9-1-1 emergency system by:
- Verifying the accurate collection and remittance of 9-1-1 fees;
- Providing more support and training for First Responders; and,
- Restructuring the Board to include more 9-1-1 Specialists.
- Enhance our democracy with prepaid postage for absentee ballots allowing more people to avoid voting in-person during the era of Coronavirus;
- Saving taxpayers and nonprofits time and money by streamlining government grant processes across State agencies;
- Increase transparency in several State Agencies by posting their meeting agendas online, streaming the meeting, and sharing their meeting minutes; and
- Strengthen accountability in government by expanding the one year “cooling off period” to statewide elected officials and raising the penalties for public officials who accept bribes.
Like most of you, my staff and I are teleworking. If you need help with a State agency or want to share your opinion, please contact me at Cheryl.Kagan@senate.state.md.us. I am also very active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I encourage you to sign up in order to stay informed!
Please stay healthy and stay safe!
Cheryl C. Kagan
District 17 (Rockville & Gaithersburg)
P.S. It can be difficult to find trusted information about the Coronavirus pandemic. I have compiled a list of resources that might be helpful.