The 2022 Legislative Session was all about doing “the people’s work,” while acknowledging the ongoing challenges of the COVID pandemic. The Senate began its 90-days with committee hearings over Zoom. As cases of the Omicron variant dwindled, masks became optional, and we shifted to in-person hearings.
This year, members of the Senate sponsored 1,022 bills, and the House introduced 1,495. In addition to our regular legislative work, we were faced with the Constitutional mandate to draw new legislative and congressional maps based on Census results. Despite legal challenges, both maps have now been approved; Primary Election Day is confirmed for Tuesday, July 19th!
In this eighth and final year of Governor Hogan’s tenure, we were faced with a “Presentment” deadline. Bills that he might hypothetically veto were formally delivered ahead of adjournment. We debated and overrode all of them in a rare Saturday Session.
Addressing Marylanders’ Priorities
As Vice Chair of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, I was proud to co-sponsor and work closely with Chair Paul Pinsky, a widely-respected leader on climate issues. This 104-page groundbreaking legislation will reduce Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions 60% by 2031; transition the State’s fleet to electric vehicles by 2036; allocate resources for low- to moderate-income communities; and much more. (Passed into law! Kagan co-sponsor.)
Paid family and medical leave are vital for the well-being of Marylanders. SB275 requires employers to provide 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a newborn; get medical treatment; or care for loved ones in their final days. (Governor’s veto overridden and passed into law!)
Beginning June 1st, untraceable “ghost guns” will be banned, and any firearm made after October 22, 1968 must have a serial number. These weapons are too easily available online. Maryland took strong action even before President Biden! (Governor’s veto overridden and passed into law!)
Thirty years ago, Maryland codified the right to an abortion through a ballot measure, approved with 62% of the vote. Especially with legal and legislative threats across the country, it was critically important that we update our health care laws. The Abortion Care Access Act of 2022 will allow nurse-practitioners, nurse-midwives, and physician assistants to provide abortion services. It allocates $3.5 million to train these professionals. I proudly cast my vote in favor of this legislation. (Governor’s veto overridden and passed into law!)
With help from the Federal Infrastructure Bill, HB1187 will allow local governments to improve roads and bridges without increasing our gas tax. This has been a legislative priority for our cities and counties for many years. (To the Governor!)
Protecting Maryland from Cyberattacks
The Department of Health was the most recent and visible example of a successful cyberattack on our government. A study conducted by the Maryland Cybersecurity Council, UMD Center for Health & Homeland Security, and the private sector identified vulnerabilities. We passed a comprehensive package to bolster cybersecurity. Local and state governments will get support from the Departments of Emergency Management and Information Technology as they update their systems. (To the Governor!)
Addressing Adult Use and Possession of Cannabis
HB837 lays the groundwork for an adult recreational cannabis industry. It includes home cultivation; broad expungement of past marijuana violations; and funding to promote a diverse industry and community reinvestment. After several years of sponsoring legislation to keep drug-impaired drivers off our roads, Sen. Chris West (R) and I successfully amended the bill to allow roadside oral fluid testing. (Passed into law!) [The bill is contingent on the passage of a ballot question regarding the legalization of cannabis. If approved by voters this November, those 21 years of age or older will be allowed to possess and use recreational cannabis beginning in July of 2023.]
Safeguarding our Elections
My emergency legislation codified a 50/50 cost split between the State and Local Boards of Elections for purchasing and operating expenses. Because of its implications for our county governments, this was one of the top legislative priorities for the Maryland Association of Counties. This was the very first bill to pass the entire legislature this Session! (Passed into law! Kagan lead sponsor.)
Some elections have such a narrow margin separating the winner and loser that a government-funded recount seems reasonable. Sometimes, the margin isn’t quite as close, but the losing candidate may be willing to pay to get the results confirmed. SB101 creates a clear framework for the development and financing of recounts. (To the Governor! Kagan lead sponsor.)
In the 2020 Presidential Election, 61% of Marylanders chose to use a mail-in ballot. Current law does not allow Local Boards of Elections to process ballots before Election Day—potentially delaying the reporting of results. SB163 authorizes the review, opening, and scanning of ballots eight days before the start of Early Voting. Additionally, it would allow voters the opportunity to “cure” a missing signature on their oath, ensuring that the ballot is counted. (To the Governor! Kagan lead sponsor.)
Supporting our Environment
Coal tar sealants are used on driveways, parking lots, and even playgrounds. Unfortunately, these high “polyaromatic hydrocarbon” sealants are dangerous to our health and our waterways. Following the lead of Montgomery and other counties that have already banned these products, Del. Vaughn Stewart and I sponsored this initiative to prohibit their sale and use. (To the Governor! Kagan lead sponsor.)
I also sponsored three other environmental bills that would have:
- Required professional contractors to become “Smart Salt” certified to ensure that they do not oversalt our driveways and roadways;
- Shifted pesticide regulatory authority to the Department of the Environment in collaboration with the Departments of Agriculture and Health; and
- Created a chain of custody to monitor the use and disposal of synthetic turf.
Unfortunately, these bills will not become law this year; I expect them to be considered in the future.
This Act corrects decades of underfunding for our State Park system by providing $80 million for repairs and maintenance across the state. In addition, the State will fund the creation of transit-accessible parks. (Passed into law!)
Updating our 9-1-1 Systems to Save Lives
Inspired by the death of Rockville’s Carl Henn when 9-1-1 failed, I have chaired the Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) Commission since its inception in 2017. We released four annual reports in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 that were incorporated into 11 laws with bipartisan support. As a result of our efforts, Maryland is at the forefront nationally as we transition to NG911.
This year, I sponsored six Commission-endorsed bills. My Omnibus legislation with nine components will become law. It will enhance cybersecurity; require implicit bias training; authorize county governments to increase funding for their 9-1-1 Centers; provide mental health support; reclassify 9-1-1 Specialists as First Responders; and much more. Annual reports will provide helpful data to guide our policy-making in the coming years. (To the Governor! Kagan lead Senate sponsor; Del. Terri Hill lead House sponsor.)
In Maryland, penalties for making false reports to 9-1-1 (SWATTING) are insufficient to deter these life-threatening crimes. The Next Generation 9-1-1 Commission recommended strengthening penalties significantly. (SB881, which passed unanimously, will examine SWATTING through a workgroup.)
Imagine trying to contact 9-1-1, only to discover that service has been maliciously interrupted. Maryland law does not criminalize the interference of 9-1-1 Center networks. Based on the recommendations of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Commission, SB83 would have established penalties for these attacks. (Passed Senate unanimously. Kagan lead sponsor.)
The Next Generation 9-1-1 Commission highlighted significant problems with our State’s payment process. 9-1-1 Center Directors and vendors have experienced inadequate communication; a lack of transparency; and extensive payment delays. In partnership with Del. Brooke Lierman, SB281 would have created an accessible “payment tracking portal” to be used by all State entities. (After the Comptroller promised to create a similar system, I withdrew this legislation.)
Just as 9-1-1 is known as the number to get emergency assistance, 9-8-8 will serve as a direct connection for those experiencing a mental health crisis. This bill establishes the 9-8-8 Trust Fund to run the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in Maryland. (To the Governor!)
Protecting Maryland Consumers
Sadly, it seems nearly impossible to pass strong consumer protection legislation. Four bills I sponsored this session did not move– but I’m not giving up yet! Topics include:
- Outlawing “gas price gouging;”
- Requiring rental car companies to disclose the presence/absence of spare tires;
- Restricting the use of “Mother’s Maiden Name” security question; and
- Prohibiting unjustified swiping and retention of driver’s license data.
Through COVID, many renters have faced illness; lost their jobs; and/or juggled child care demands. For many, this made paying rent challenging. We updated tenant protections through several bills to support struggling Marylanders. (To the Governor!)
Advocating for Animals
Cat declawing involves painful surgery that amputates the last bone of each paw. Maryland became just the second state in the nation to ban this barbaric and unnecessary practice. I sponsored this with Del. Lorig Charkoudian in memory of my “Coronakitty.” (To the Governor! Kagan lead sponsor.)
In addition to helping our feline friends, we created penalties for leaving dogs unattended outdoors in extreme weather for more than 30 minutes and banned the sale of certain wildlife products. (Both to the Governor!)
Supporting our Nonprofits
Too often overlooked, our nonprofit sector is a vital portion of our economy, human services, and quality of life. Throughout my tenure in the Senate, I have worked closely with Maryland Nonprofits and other advocates to provide funding and equity for these organizations. Each year, I have sponsored at least one bill that would have a significant impact on their operations and sustainability. This year, my three bills each passed the Senate unanimously and inexplicably died in the House of Delegates.
I created the Nonprofit, Interest–Free, Micro Bridge Loan (NIMBL) fund in 2017. Bit by bit, I have secured funding for this popular but still largely-unknown program. SB245 would have finally allocated a total of $1,000,000 to help nonprofits around the State. (Passed Senate unanimously. Kagan lead sponsor.)
Maryland law requires prompt payment for small businesses. Sadly, we’ve heard from many nonprofits that have been waiting literally years for payments of grants and contracts. These absurd delays pose enormous challenges for nonprofits, which often lack sufficient cash reserves. (Passed Senate unanimously. Kagan lead sponsor.)
Many nonprofits want to reduce their carbon footprint but do not have the cash flow to fund solar or geothermal installation. SB683 would have created the Renewable Energy for Nonprofit Organizations fund to provide zero-interest loans that would be repaid through reduced energy bills. (Passed Senate unanimously. Kagan lead sponsor.) [A conversation I had with Congressman Jamie Raskin about this idea helped inspire a new federal program!]
Providing Needed Tax Cuts
Establishing a Gas Tax Holiday
With gas prices skyrocketing, the General Assembly unanimously approved a 30-day gas tax holiday to help drivers save money at the pump. (Signed into law!)
The budget surplus finally allowed us to offer economic incentives for our senior residents. Marylanders over 65 with incomes up to $100,000 will get a $1,000 tax credit. Married couples earning less than $150,000 will receive a credit of $1,750. (Signed into law!)
Waiving Sales Tax on Necessities
The General Assembly voted unanimously to exempt sales tax on child care purchases (diapers, car seats, and baby bottles); dental hygiene products; medical devices; and diabetic care items. (To the Governor!)
Enforcing Government Transparency
Transparency is an essential element of good government. During the pandemic, virtual platforms like Zoom and Teams showed how easy it was to adapt. Del. Marc Korman and I expanded the list of agencies required to comply with the Open Meetings Act. (To the Governor! Kagan lead sponsor.)
This bill requires the Department of Transportation to notify legislators when constituents are served with a notice of eminent domain. (To the Governor! Kagan lead sponsor.)
Helping All Marylanders
The shortage of health care workers has been exacerbated by the pandemic, putting families at risk of receiving substandard care. SB523 would have authorized qualified immigrants to apply for occupational licensure by removing the criterion of citizenship. Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk and I sponsored this legislation, which was endorsed by organizations representing hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers. (Passed Senate (30-15). Kagan lead sponsor.)
Gender-inclusive, single-stall restrooms reduce wait times for women; are family-friendly; enhance accessibility for people with caregivers; and increase safety for trans- and non-binary people. In partnership with Del. Jared Solomon, this legislation would have simply required an inexpensive, gender-neutral bathroom sign to make ALL feel welcome! (Did not move in the State, but the Montgomery County Council is expected to enact this measure soon. Kagan lead sponsor.)
A shocking 99% of survivors of domestic violence also experience financial abuse. Even when a survivor leaves the relationship, many struggle to achieve financial security. This bill would have established a guarantee fund and provided training for bank officers so survivors could obtain loans. (I withdrew this bill at the request of the domestic violence advocates who wanted more time to develop the program.)
Delivering for Gaithersburg and Rockville
The FY2023 Budget was approved by the Senate unanimously. Once again, I spoke in opposition to funding the BOOST program, which gives $10M in taxpayer money to private schools. Here is a look at some of what’s coming to our area:
Capital Improvement Projects:
- $30,900,000 – Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit Project
- $2,500,000 – Great Seneca Science Corridor (Gaithersburg/Rockville)
- $700,000 – Montgomery History office relocation (Rockville)
- $600,000 – Montgomery County Muslim Foundation (Gaithersburg)
- $275,000 – Morris Park Playground (Gaithersburg)
- $200,000 – ADA improvements at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre (Rockville)
- $200,000 – Blohm Park stream restoration project (Gaithersburg)
- $96,000 – Croydon Creek Nature Center playground (Rockville)
Public School Capital Projects (among others):
- $929,000 – Diamond Elementary (Gaithersburg)
- $269,500 – Ritchie Park Elementary School (Rockville)
- $162,500 – Meadow Hall Elementary (Rockville)
Capital Funds for Medical Facilities:
- $600,000 – Shady Grove Medical Center (Rockville)
- $400,000 – Sheppard Pratt (Rockville)
Returning to the Community
After 16 years as a member of the House of Delegates, Jim Gilchrist decided not to seek reelection. Jim was recognized by the House Speaker with the Mac Mathias Award. I appreciate his commitment to public service and wish him well in his future endeavors.
Each semester, I award scholarships to support outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in my district. The deadline for the Fall 2022 Semester is Saturday, April 30, at 5:00pm. For more information, visit www.CherylKagan.org/senatorial-scholarships/.
I am deeply honored to represent you in the State Senate. If you are having difficulty with a State agency, please reach out via email. If you have any upcoming events, I would be happy to attend and speak. I look forward to seeing you in the community and at local events!
Cheryl C. Kagan
Maryland State Senator
PS: The 2022 election is extremely important. We will be choosing a new Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller, in addition to all other State and County offices. Primary Election Day is confirmed for July 19th. You can sign up to vote by mail (with free return postage!) at elections.maryland.gov. Regardless of your party or candidate preference, please make your voice heard in our democracy.