Cheryl Kagan | Maryland State Senator - District 17
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2019 Session Wrap-up

April 2019

Dear Friend:

I am proud to be the Senator from Gaithersburg and Rockville. As a “Municipal Superstar,” I have advocated for our 157 cities and towns. This session was, in some ways, influenced by last year’s election results. Of 47 Senators, 18 were freshmen, and a record 72 of 188 legislators were women. My achievements were noted in Maryland Matters, a blog that covers Annapolis, which named me as one of the “Winners” in its annual round-up. Highlights include:

  • Investing in our public schools;
  • Keeping Marylanders safe;
  • Preserving our environment;
  • Focusing on job creation;
  • Supporting working families;
  • Strengthening health care;
  • Protecting consumers; and,
  • Reforming our election laws.

These accomplishments are especially impressive in light of the serious challenges facing both presiding officers. In January, Senate President Mike Miller announced that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. Then, after many months of failing health, House Speaker Mike Busch tragically died the day before adjournment. Having served with Busch for eight years in the House, I will miss him in Annapolis. Despite their illnesses, both of these leaders dedicated themselves to making this an especially fast-moving and effective 90 days.

Investing in Maryland’s Public Schools

An ambitious plan crafted by an expert commission guided efforts to return our education system to the best in the nation. The plan to bolster our public schools will require 10 years of significant investment projected at $3.8 billion. “The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” launched the first two years of this innovative and comprehensive effort with a $700 million down payment. Included are incentives to increase teacher salaries; provide grants to high-poverty schools; and fund school-based health centers across the State. It also established an Office of the Inspector General to ensure that taxpayer funds are used responsibly. The magnitude of this commitment may require us to identify revenue sources in future years, but I am committed to creating a world-class public education system.

Unlike Governor Hogan, I believe that our taxpayer monies should be spent exclusively on our public schools. To rein in his budget to private and parochial schools, I have insisted that grants be restricted solely to institutions that comply with nondiscrimination policies.

To protect our students’ health, I collaborated with Montgomery County Del. Jared Solomon in the final days of session to address the dangerous levels of lead in our schools’ water fountains. This toxic metal builds up in our bodies and is especially dangerous to young people. Testing required by the Maryland legislature in 2017 revealed that over 3,000 schools had elevated levels of lead.

Expanding the DREAM Act

The 2012 DREAM Act permits undocumented immigrants who have graduated from a Maryland high school to qualify for in-state college tuition rates. A new bill will enable these students to enroll directly in a four-year institution without graduating from a community college first. (Passed! Kagan co-sponsor.)

As floor leader, I defended HB118 related to Senatorial Scholarships.  We can already craft our own criteria and processes to distribute awards to our deserving constituents. This would allow us to include Marylanders who are not yet citizens. For me personally, I appreciate the flexibility as I serve my diverse district. Scholarship applications for Fall semester are available on my website and due by Friday, April 19, at 4:00pm. Please spread the word and encourage college or graduate students you know to apply!

Keeping Marylanders Safe

Updating Our 9-1-1 Systems

On July 27, 2010, Rockville activist Carl Henn died when 9-1-1 failed. His tragic death inspired me to dedicate the past five years to improving our emergency response system. I created and chair a statewide 9-1-1 Commission, whose 29 members worked thousands of hours to prepare a 67-page report. Our 23 recommendations were approved unanimously and incorporated into three bills. The largest, most comprehensive, I fittingly titled “Carl Henn’s Law.”

We must enhance our technology, cybersecurity, staffing, and oversight, as we prepare to implement Next Generation 9-1-1, or “NG911.” It also adjusted our funding structure that currently provides an average of just 37.5% of the costs of our emergency centers. We also proposed to raise the $1 fee by 25 cents and charge it on each device that could contact 9-1-1. Together, these changes will save lives.  (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

NG911 will enable us to send texts, photos, and videos. While this will help First Responders, it also means that images of the worst moments of people’s lives will become part of the public record. I negotiated a careful compromise to provide a reasonable balance between privacy and transparency by giving the victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and child violence a voice in preventing those records from being released. (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Our “First, First Responders” or 9-1-1 Specialists have an extraordinarily challenging job that is about to become even more stressful with NG911. One in six suffers from trauma-related disorders. The hundreds of dedicated 9-1-1 Specialists I’ve met over the years are there to answer our calls for help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic can apprehend an alleged criminal, revive a child, or extinguish a fire, 9-1-1 Specialists must move on to their next call immediately without knowing the resolution. My bill reclassifies the position and recommends appropriate compensation and benefits as an integral part of the Emergency Response team. (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Tackling Police Recruitment Challenges

Countless reports document the recent difficulty that police departments have had attracting new officers. According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average number of full-time sworn officers decreased by 11% nationwide between 1997 and 2016. Montgomery County had 300 fewer applicants in 2018 than 10 years earlier.

In addition to helping resolve the police recruitment challenges, my “Freedom to Serve” legislation allows Legal Permanent Residents who have been honorably discharged from the military and applied for citizenship the opportunity to become police officers.  This will enhance the linguistic and ethnic diversity of our applicant pools. I crafted this legislation with Tom Manger, Montgomery County Police Chief and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. He is retiring this month, and I am thankful for his leadership and 15 years of service to our County.  (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Limiting Access to Guns

Obtaining a gun can be too easy. In Maryland, police evaluate applications and issue permits to carry, wear, or transport firearms. Applicants who have been denied could appeal to the Handgun Review Board. Appointees by Governor Hogan on the Board have overturned or modified police denials an astonishing 83% of the time. To take politics out of the process, appeals will now be heard by Administrative Law Judges. (Passed! Sen. Kagan co-sponsor.)

Protecting Maryland’s Environment

Banning “Styrofoam” Statewide/#FoamFreeMD

Expanded polystyrene foam, or “Styrofoam,” is dangerous for both our environment and our health. A recent study found that foam or foam pieces accounted for 42% of all debris collected in Baltimore City. Fish and mammals eat it, thinking it is food; we then ingest the toxic chemicals. Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Anne Arundel Counties, Baltimore City, and Annapolis have already enacted bans for sales and use in food service. In total, over 52% of Marylanders live in a jurisdiction covered by a ban. My bill passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses, so Maryland will become the first state in the nation to ban Styrofoam.

Over the past three years, I have worked closely with Del. Brooke Lierman, and a broad coalition of forward-thinking business leaders and environmental advocates, including Trash-Free Maryland, the Maryland Sierra Club, and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. With our #FoamBan, Maryland will be safer, more environmentally friendly, and even more beautiful! (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Implementing Recycling Programs in Office Buildings

We all recycle at home, but too few businesses recycle in their workplace. I partnered with a Republican Senate colleague to require that office buildings larger than 150,000 square feet collect paper, cardboard, metal, and plastic. Increased recycling not only minimizes the need for new raw materials, but it also reduces the volume of our landfills. (Passed! Sen. Kagan co-sponsor.)

Sustaining our Oyster Population

Oysters are crucial to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. They improve water quality and form natural reefs that support marine life. On the final day of session, the Senate voted 29-16 to override Governor Hogan’s fourth veto and enact Speaker Busch’s final bill. (Veto successfully overridden.)

Focusing on Job Creation

Cultivating Tech Jobs in Maryland

The Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) was established in 1998 to promote our emerging technology sector. A State audit in February revealed that TEDCO has been investing in companies outside Maryland; lacked appropriate oversight; and allowed significant conflicts of interest. Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones and I worked countless hours to amend my bill in order to address problems related to fiscal mismanagement, ethics, transparency, and fundamentally requiring that Maryland taxpayer money create Maryland jobs. This comprehensive accountability measure was approved unanimously in both chambers. (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Creating “Green” Jobs in Maryland

Clean, renewable energy is a proven driver of economic development and job creation. Today, most of our electricity is generated by carbon-spewing fossil fuels—coal and natural gas. The harmful emissions from these sources hurt our health, our economy, and our climate. In 2017, we enacted a goal of 25% renewable energy by 2020. This year’s “Clean Energy Jobs Act” will require that 50% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2030.  (Passed! Sen. Kagan co-sponsor.)

Supporting Working Families by “Fighting for $15”

Growing up in Montgomery County, my earliest jobs paid minimum wage. I worked at Sears and the former Rockville Pike movie theatre. Fortunately for me, I was able to get a good education; learn from internships and volunteer experiences; and begin my career in policy, politics, and the nonprofit sector. Not everyone is that lucky. Montgomery County has taken action to support working families, and I believed it was time to raise the minimum wage to $15 statewide. The standard will rise incrementally each year until 2025. Phasing in the increase will give other areas the chance to catch up with our County.

During the debate on overriding the Governor’s disappointing veto, several Republican colleagues described the minimum wage as a “starter wage” for teens employed by fast food restaurants. That’s not true. According to one study, half of minimum wage workers are older than 30, and a third are older than 40. By a party-line vote, the Senate overrode the veto and was joined by the House. While I had hoped for a bipartisan consensus, I am glad that we were able to #FightFor15! (Passed! Sen. Kagan co-sponsor.)

Strengthening Health Care in Maryland

Curbing the Cost of Prescription Drugs

Many of you contacted me about the rising cost of prescription drugs. The price of Insulin, for example, a medication for people with diabetes, doubled between 2012 and 2016. Patients who are dependent on life-saving drugs may be unable to keep up.  The legislature established a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. We must balance the economic incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments with maintaining patients’ access to reasonably priced medications.

Providing State Retiree Drug Benefits

In 2011, in response to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the State changed how we provide prescription drug coverage to retired state employees. With new funding for Medicare Part D that, in theory, matched their retirement benefits, Maryland planned to provide coverage through the Federal program.  Unfortunately, many of these seniors would be charged a great deal more for their prescriptions. This year, we passed a law to limit out-of-pocket costs for State retirees and offer individual meetings with experts for guidance among the options. Our employees work hard to serve us, often for less pay than the private sector. (Passed! Sen. Kagan co-sponsor.)

Raising the Age to Purchase Tobacco

Smoking is implicated in over 90% of lung cancer deaths, and over 80% of smokers take their first puff before the age of 18. With the rise of “e-cigarettes,” there has been a sharp increase in teen nicotine addiction. In response, we voted to raise the age to purchase tobacco and nicotine vaping cartridges to 21.

Protecting Maryland Consumers

Avoiding Data Breaches Through “Swiping

An increasing number of businesses require swiping of customers’ driver’s licenses during a transaction. This potentially captures and stores all of our personal information, even if unrelated to the interaction. Swiping can make us more vulnerable to identity theft via hacking. I have been trying to prohibit ID swiping except in a few narrow circumstances. We made progress this year, with the Senate passing the bill unanimously. Inexplicably, the House committee killed it. We will reintroduce the bill next year with a strong partner in the House and hope to join the 21 states that have already enacted similar restrictions. (Passed the Senate! Killed in the House Committee. Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Protecting Residents from Security Breaches

We would all like to believe that government will keep our personal information private. I worked with the Secretary of the Department of Information Technology to improve the security of our Executive Branch agencies in order to safeguard our data. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before adjourning, but we will be back next year on this vital privacy measure.

Ending “Bait & Switch” through “Gas Price Clarity”

Current Maryland law requires gas stations to post their lowest (cash) price. Yet roughly 75% of consumers pay with a credit card! SB453 required that either the highest (credit) price or both cash and credit prices be displayed. In endorsing the bill, Attorney General Brian Frosh said, “The price displayed to the public should be the price most consumers will pay, not the price available only to a small minority of consumers. Price transparency will inform consumers of the actual price before they pull into the station.” Although the General Assembly did not pass this statewide bill, I am exploring the possibility of having legislation introduced that would apply only to Montgomery County. (Failed to pass statewide, but we’ll try locally! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Reforming Our Election Laws

Enhancing Transparency at the State Board of Elections

Two years ago, I extracted a commitment from our State Board of Elections (SBE) officials to tape and post audio recordings of their monthly meetings. As I suspected, this has proven to be insufficient. There has been a delay in posting the tapes online; sound quality has been poor; and listeners can’t easily identify the speakers. As a result of legislation with Del. Marc Korman and support from Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and others, SBE will now be required to livestream its meetings and post its agendas and videos online. This will make election-related decisions more accessible. (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Reducing Campaign Finance Fraud

A recent Maryland Matters article revealed a gap in our campaign finance laws. The treasurer for a former legislator was convicted of embezzling from a campaign account after the candidate’s death. Current law is silent on how or when money should be disbursed when a candidate dies with an active account. My bill creates a timetable and detailed processes in these circumstances. (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Authorizing an Alternative Voting Method in Montgomery County

In 2018, Montgomery County voters were overwhelmed by the enormous number of candidates– including 6 for County Executive and 33 for County Council. None of the winners in these elections received a majority of the vote. As a result, there was a groundswell of support for legislation, previously introduced by  Del. Eric Luedtke and me, authorizing the County to choose a new voting system called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Already used in a growing number of jurisdictions across the U.S. and in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, and elsewhere, RCV is explained more fully at www.fairvote.org. Although the County Delegation approved the measure unanimously, it did not move out of the House Committee. I suspect that we will continue promoting this option. (Passed MoCo Delegation Unanimously but Failed to move from House Committee. Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Highlighting Other Key Issues

Confronting “Death with Dignity”

How each of us deals with end-of-life options could not be more personal or difficult. I believe that one’s health care decisions should be made in conjunction with medical providers and align with one’s spiritual values and beliefs. I don’t think anyone else– no matter how caring or well-meaning– should be involved with these most private deliberations. Regrettably, after an emotional debate during which many legislators shared deeply personal experiences, the Senate deadlocked at 23-23-1. I hope that Maryland might join six states and DC in offering more compassionate choices in the future. (Failed. Sen. Kagan co-sponsor.)

Reviewing Executive Branch Regulations

As the new Senate Chair of the Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) Committee, I am responsible for examining proposed Executive agency regulations on a variety of policies. The Committee seeks to ensure that the drafts match legislative intent. If the regulations differ from the language and spirit of the legislation, AELR negotiates with the Executive Branch to modify them. Thus far, we are considering items related to child care, nursing homes, and cannabis.

Defending Our Federal Employees

More than 170,000 federal workers in Maryland were affected by the Trump Shutdown– the longest in American history. Employees deemed “essential” were required to do their jobs. Not only weren’t they paid, but they were denied the unemployment benefits their furloughed colleagues received. Montgomery County’s own Sen. Brian Feldman sponsored the “Federal Shutdown Paycheck Protection Act.” It became the first bill signed into law by the Governor this session. These essential federal workers will have access to no-interest loans, helping them pay their bills during any future shutdown. (Passed! Sen. Kagan co-sponsor.)

Empowering Local School Boards to Set Their Own Calendars

In 2016, Governor Hogan issued an Executive Order requiring that all public schools start after Labor Day. This politically motivated, restrictive rule was a significant break from the long-standing tradition of local control. School boards should make the best decisions for their students, not the tourism industry. With allowances for Spring Break, religious observances, and inclement weather closures, our 24 jurisdictions have diverse scheduling requirements. My Committee Chair, Sen. Paul Pinsky, sought to return the decision-making authority for county schools’ calendars to our duly-elected school boards. The Senate voted to override the Governor’s subsequent veto.  (Passed! Look for a possible referendum on your ballot next year.)

Curtailing Governor Hogan’s Options to Widen I-270/I-495

Many of my constituents have expressed concerns about Governor Hogan’s various proposals to widen I-270 and I-495. At the annual “Road Show,” I extracted promises from Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn that no homes would be taken via “Eminent Domain” and that he would schedule a future hearing in my Rockville/Gaithersburg district. In addition, we approved budget language seeking to slow down the process. We need to know, before the Governor adds pricey toll lanes, that our neighborhoods are protected and that this project would actually alleviate traffic. I will continue to keep you updated as to how this could  affect our communities and our quality of life.

Testing ALL Rape Kits

In December, it was revealed that there are more than 6,500 untested rape kits in Maryland.  This year, the General Assembly provided additional funding to reduce the backlog of untested kits. Montgomery County Sen. Will Smith introduced legislation requiring police submit rape kits to the crime lab within 30 days. We must do everything we can to support rape survivors and prosecute criminals.

Advocating for Our Nonprofit Organizations

I was thrilled to be recognized (along with the fabulous Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk) as the first-ever Legislative Champion by Maryland Nonprofits for my leadership on behalf of this vital sector. Throughout my career, I have worked closely with nonprofits. Charitable organizations are essential to the continued growth and prosperity of our State. One in ten Marylanders is employed by a nonprofit. I am proud to have created and enacted “NIMBL” (Nonprofit, Interest-Free Micro-Bridge Loan) and addressed their overhead costs in government contracts. [Learn more at: https://youtu.be/htdg6pif6Yo.]

In 2018, I enacted a law modeled on federal legislation that allowed them to be compensated for a minimum of 10% of “indirect” or overhead expenses, such as rent, office equipment, and salaries. The Attorney General recommended clarifying which organizations can be covered by the law. (Passed! Sen. Kagan lead sponsor.)

Delivering for Gaithersburg & Rockville

The legislature allocates capital funding annually for projects across the State. This year, in collaboration with Delegates Barve, Palakovich Carr, and Gilchrist, several worthy initiatives in District 17 merited funds. I am elated that Gaithersburg earned $1,000,000 for an urgently needed new police station near City Hall. (We are hopeful that an additional $1,000,000 will be included in next year’s allocation!) The budget also includes $150,000 for Manna Food Pantry (the food source for those in need); $75,000 for Sunflower Bakery (which hires and trains those with disabilities); and $75,000 for EveryMind (which provides mental health services to the community). 

Project Name:

Amount

Public Safety

 

City of Gaithersburg Police Station (Gaithersburg)

$1,000,000

Public Education

 

Diamond Elementary (Gaithersburg)

$426,000

Fallsmead Elementary (Rockville)

$371,000

Rosemont Elementary (Gaithersburg)

$212,000

Montgomery College – Catherine and Isiah Leggett Math/Science Bldg.

(Silver Spring)

$6,100,000

Montgomery College Facilities Renewal (Rockville)

$475,000

Local Nonprofit Capital Projects

 

Sunflower Bakery

$75,000

Avery Road Treatment Center

$525,000

Cornerstone Montgomery

$1,600,000

John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents  

$140,000

Main Street Connect, Inc.

$885,000

Montgomery County Humane Society

$150,000

EveryMind [formerly the Mental Health Association]

$75,000


Walking to Defeat Multiple Sclerosis

I have participated in the “Walk MS” nearly every year since the 1990’s, when a dear friend’s daughter was first diagnosed.  Since then, researchers have developed better medicines, although a cure has not yet been found. Would you consider walking with me in Rockville on April 27 or supporting my efforts to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis?

Working for You Year-Round!

Each semester, I am allocated scholarship funds to support outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in my legislative district. The deadline for the fall 2019 semester is Friday, April 19, at 4:00pm. More information and the application are available at www.CherylKagan.org/Scholarships.

If you are having difficulty with a State agency, my staff and I may be able to help. Please reach out. Once again, it has been my honor to represent you in the State Senate, and I will see you in the community, in our schools, and at local events.

Best,

 

Cheryl C. Kagan
Maryland State Senator
District 17 (Rockville & Gaithersburg)

P.S. Two of my favorite events are coming up: the Gaithersburg Book Festival (Saturday, May 18) and Rockville’s Hometown Holidays (Memorial Day Weekend, May 25-27). See you there?

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