2023 Legislative Session

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Dear Friend:
Our 90-day legislative session was quite exciting as we welcomed the new leadership of Governor Wes Moore and Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller. Their priorities were clear: rebuild the State government workforce; eliminate child poverty; support veterans and military families; and create a culture of service. The General Assembly was also a place of change. I continued as the Vice Chair of my Committee, which has a new Chair– Sen. Brian Feldman– and a new name: the Committee on Education, Energy, Environment (& Elections!). Our new Delegate, Joe Vogel, joined veteran Delegates Kumar Barve and Julie Palakovich Carr and me in representing the residents of Gaithersburg and Rockville. (As you may know, Del. Barve was recently nominated for the Public Service Commission and will be resigning his seat in the House of Delegates.)
To learn more about our accomplishments, settle in with your favorite beverage and read on below!

Advancing the Governor’s Agenda

The Moore/Miller Administration proposed a 10-point package to the General Assembly. In a historic first, all were approved and will become law! You’ll want to learn about these creative and progressive policies:
From the day he announced his candidacy, Governor Moore shared his vision of community service for young adults. The program provides real-world professional and vocational skills while promoting community engagement. We responded quickly and enthusiastically by approving SB551: The SERVE Act: Serving Every Region through Vocational Exploration Act. (To the Governor!)
The Governor takes every opportunity to stress that no Marylander should be left behind. He made a pledge to accelerate the increase of the State’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. It will now go into effect on January 1, 2024. (Kagan co-sponsor; Governor signed into law!)
Our nation is in the midst of an alarming teacher shortage. According to Maryland Matters, 9% of teachers quit their jobs in the 2022 academic year. Passed with broad bipartisan support, this bill changes teacher preparation programs; expands recruitment efforts; and promotes diversity among our educators. (To the Governor!)
During the pandemic, we expanded financial support for low-income individuals and families. At the urging of Governor Moore, we permanently extended and enlarged the State’s Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. (Kagan co-sponsor; Governor signed into law!)
The Office of Statewide Broadband will study and make recommendations about expanding Internet service to unserved and underserved communities. The report is due by July 2024. (To the Governor!)
To entice banks to locate in low-income communities where they are needed, this bill creates the Maryland Community Investment Venture Fund. (To the Governor!)
Members of the Maryland National Guard can be called up and sent into harm’s way on short notice. They and their families deserve stable and affordable health care. Each member will now be entitled to $60 a month to subsidize their monthly premiums for health care and dental care. (To the Governor!)
We created financial incentives for businesses to purchase electric medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks to reduce the State’s carbon footprint. The bill also requires the Maryland Energy Administration to focus on Environmental Justice. (To the Governor!)
Businesses, local governments, nonprofits, and academic institutions need updated technology, but the cost is high. SB549 establishes matching grants to reduce the fiscal burden. (To the Governor!)
Our retired military veterans deserve to live comfortably. This bill increases the amount of non-taxable income that these veterans can claim. (Kagan co-sponsor; To the Governor!)

Budgeting for the Future

After years of a surplus and an enormous amount of federal aid due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new Administration faced an uphill battle to fund their ambitious plans. A projected decrease in revenue threatened to derail some of the Governor’s plans. Ultimately, highlights of the final version of the budget include $900 million for education; $421 million to recruit better talent and fill vacancies in State government; and $100 million for transportation. The consensus FY2024 budget was unanimously approved by the Senate.

Improving Public Safety

Montgomery County recently reported that its Police Department had over 100 vacancies. The 9-1-1 Center has only two-thirds of its authorized staff. Baltimore City’s situation is even worse as more officers left the Department than were hired. These shortages cannot be solved without creative thinking.
Building on my 2019 law, I introduced “Freedom to Serve” to expand eligibility to apply to become a police officer to people who are Honorably Discharged Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and legal permanent residents of the United States. Although the companion bill HB145 (sponsored by Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo) passed the House, the Senate version did not get approved in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. I am proud of my work to honor our veterans and address the crisis-level staffing shortage in public safety. I look forward to continuing work on this important issue. (Kagan lead sponsor)
As the national 9-1-1 Government Leader of the Year, I’ve continued my efforts to improve our overburdened and understaffed emergency response systems. Specifically, Maryland should implement 3-1-1 statewide! Despite overwhelming support, there were fiscal and staffing concerns to moving forward this year. With my partners, I explored the concept of merging 3-1-1 (non-emergency government information) and 2-1-1 (human services needs). The Senate and House each passed the bills in their respective chambers, but we ran out of time on the final day to complete the legislative journey. I am dedicated to creating this important new service to also lighten the load on our 9-1-1 centers! (Kagan lead sponsor)
“Swatting” incidents, or intentional false reports to 9-1-1 against an innocent individual, are increasing in both frequency and impact and often target schools. Everyone is affected– students, parents, school personnel, police, and the broader community. My bill criminalizes two swatting-specific offenses: (1) If law enforcement is dispatched to a scene based on a false report, the criminal will face imprisonment for up to 3 years and/or a fine up to $2,000; (2) If serious bodily injury (including death) occurs, the criminal will face imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a fine up to $20,000. (Kagan lead sponsor; To the Governor!)
In light of the heart-breaking revelations of child sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore, HB1 finally passed which extends the statute of limitations on these grievous crimes. This overdue legislation brings justice and protects our society’s most vulnerable population. (To the Governor!)
SB405: Thwarting Cyber Attacks on 9-1-1
TDoS & DDoS are cybercrimes that jam the phone or Internet access. These potentially-catastrophic attacks are especially dangerous at our 9-1-1 Centers. A Task Force recommended criminalizing this kind of interference. The companion bill passed the House unanimously, but the Senate bill stalled in committee. (Kagan lead sponsor)

Taking Action on Gun Violence

To increase protection against gun violence, we strengthened concealed carry licensing laws and prohibited bringing firearms into public areas such as schools, polling places, and government buildings. We debated and approved the final version of this bill just hours before the Session ended. (Kagan co-sponsor; To the Governor!)
The bill criminalizes unsafe gun storage by an adult that allows a minor to gain access. It honors the memory of 17-year-old Jaelynn Willey, who was killed by a teenager with an unsecured gun. (To the Governor!)
The inability to track firearms is a major hurdle to solving crimes and prosecuting gun-related deaths. By giving the Gun Center additional responsibility, we can keep weapons from dangerous individuals. (To the Governor!)

Bolstering the Nonprofit Sector

Nonprofits, through their mission-driven work, enhance the well-being of our communities. I am proud to build on my long-time advocacy for this sector:
Nonprofits were forced to wait weeks or months to receive grant funding despite being expected to provide services immediately after being awarded a grant. My bill, “Prompt Payment Parity,” which passed unanimously in both chambers, mandates that nonprofits receive timely grant payments, placing them on equal footing with private sector service providers. (Kagan lead sponsor; To the Governor!)
Too often, nonprofits are burdened with significant delays in receiving State grant funding. In 2017, I created the Nonprofit, Interest-Free, Micro-Bridge Loan (“NIMBL”) Fund, a loan program to benefit nonprofits waiting for government payments. This year, I sponsored SB53 to add funding. (Kagan lead sponsor; To the Governor!)
Nonprofits are eager to be part of the solution to our Climate Crisis, but they may not have sufficient cash flow to invest in sustainable energy alternatives. I created a revolving loan fund to subsidize solar roofs, geothermal, and other methods for reducing energy consumption… and energy bills! Both last year and this year, my proposal passed the Senate unanimously. Unfortunately, it again died in the House of Delegates. Since Congress used my legislation as a template for a new federal program, I remain optimistic that we will enact this innovative solution next year in Maryland! (Kagan lead sponsor)

Safeguarding Reproductive Choice

I joined Senate President Ferguson, House Speaker Jones and my District 17 colleagues, among others, to co-sponsor the Reproductive Freedom Amendment to the Maryland Constitution. Under the Amendment, reproductive freedom would be a fundamental right with virtually no exceptions. (Kagan co-sponsor; To the Governor! Look for this proposed Constitutional Amendment on your November 2024 ballot.)
Students at Maryland’s college campuses need safe and timely access to reproductive information and products so they can make decisions about their health. I co-sponsored SB341, which requires campuses to implement a plan by 2024. (Kagan co-sponsor; To the Governor!)
Freedom to make decisions about reproductive health is threatened when personal information can be accessed for nefarious reasons. This bill prohibits violations of patient privacy and imposes criminal penalties when information is wrongfully disclosed by any health care provider. (To the Governor!)

Modernizing Maryland Elections

As a leader on elections issues in the Senate, my goals are keeping them free, fair, and transparent– despite the disinformation, denials, and ongoing threats. We made progress this year, though there is more to do. I will continue to work on Ballot Access for unaffiliated voters; regulating exploratory and draft campaign committees; increasing security for election workers; making elections for Circuit Court judges non-partisan; and addressing the spike in provisional ballots. We should also end the undemocratic practice of selecting– rather than electing– legislators to fill vacancies. Here are two bills we passed this session:
Last year, my bill to require processing mail-in ballots before Election Day was unexpectedly and inexplicably vetoed by former Governor Hogan. The serious delays in processing the ballots and reporting the results eroded confidence in our election system. I passed an even stronger version this year; we are expecting Gov. Moore to sign it into law. (Kagan lead sponsor; To the Governor!)
Legislators of both parties in both chambers voted overwhelmingly in favor of my bill to eliminate the unique protections enjoyed by the State Administrator of Elections. In the midst of the session, the current SBE Administrator, Linda Lamone, announced her retirement. I’m delighted that the process to select the new Administrator will begin shortly. (Kagan lead sponsor; To the Governor!)

Building a Better Cannabis Market

In 2022, over 67% of voters approved a ballot measure legalizing recreational cannabis for adult use. The General Assembly adopted a regulatory framework for a legal cannabis market and addressed issues including expunging arrest records and ensuring equitable opportunities for disadvantaged communities. The framework reflects a commitment to repair the injustices caused by the failed war on drugs and sets a national model for implementation of a legal market, learning from other states’ challenges. I proposed amendments regarding impaired driving and an appropriate division of tax revenue between our counties and municipalities; the latter was partly reflected in the final bill. (To the Governor!)
A controversial bill on our final night prohibits police officers from initiating a stop or search solely due to the odor of cannabis. This bill was especially difficult for me. On one hand, I understand that an alleged smell of cannabis may be used to discriminate. On the other hand, I am acutely aware of data from other states that show significant increases in crashes and fatalities involving those driving under the influence of drugs. I shared my conflicting concerns in a Floor speech and reluctantly voted for the bill. (To the Governor!)

Sustaining our Environment

Maryland’s lush, biodiverse ecosystems play a critical role in fostering a healthy and livable environment. The well-being of our natural resources is inextricably linked with our health.
Forests filter air and water, reduce erosion, protect wildlife, and enhance our well-being. SB526 protects and revitalizes our forests, which are dwindling at an alarming rate. It strengthens restoration targets and raises replanting requirements. (To the Governor!)
To combat the spread of invasive species and increase demand for Native Plants, SB836 creates resources to help gardeners and horticulturists become better informed about choosing local, potentially threatened plants, rather than invasive varieties. (To the Governor!)
Community greenspace is vital for our mental health and the quality of our communities. HB503 provides grant funding in overburdened and underserved communities so that everyone, regardless of where they live or their income level, can enjoy the tranquility of the outdoors. (To the Governor!)

Reenvisioning Energy

This bill increases the State’s investment in offshore wind power to yield 8.5 gigawatts by 2031. This is another component of our ambitious efforts to address the Climate Crisis. (To the Governor!)
To continue our State’s leadership on green energy, HB908 makes the Community Solar Pilot Program permanent and expands access for low- and moderate-income subscribers so that they realize the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy technology. (To the Governor!)
Renewable energy does not always have consistent production– solar power peaks during the day, and wind is variable. Energy storage allows for excess production from peak times to be saved and used at a later date. HB910 sets targets for cost-effective energy storage. (To the Governor!)
Gov. Moore reaffirmed our commitment to the “Advanced Clean Cars II” standards, which accelerates our transition from combustion engines to electric vehicles. This shift stands to revolutionize transportation as well as bolster both public and environmental health.

Strengthening Education

In addition to the Governor’s priorities, here are bills that may be of interest:
I co-sponsored SB559 to ensure that no student– regardless of socioeconomic status– will go hungry. It increases the budget for the Maryland Meals for Achievement In-Classroom Breakfast Program. (Kagan co-sponsor; To the Governor!)
Students with disabilities who need special education that is not available at their public school must be placed in a nonpublic program that provides these services. The State will pay the teacher salaries. (To the Governor!)
Maryland needs a diverse and multi-talented labor pool. The Apprenticeship 2030 Council will make recommendations regarding apprenticeships in high-demand occupations and affordable training. (To the Governor!)

Changing Course on College Savings Accounts

Maryland offers two types of tax-preferred college savings plans (“529’s”): the Maryland College Investment Plan (MCIP), which is in good shape, and the Maryland Prepaid College Trust (MPCT), which is not. Mismanagement has put savings placed in the MPCT at risk. Families who invested for their children’s future deserve to have the promised funds and benefits. We unanimously adopted a corrective plan to abolish the existing board and put theState Treasurer Dereck Davis in charge of administering the Fund. The Treasurer’s office will also create accountability for the program’s mismanagement and settle outstanding claims. No new MCIP accounts can be created after June 1. (To the Governor!)

Creating a More Inclusive Community

Trans people need access to appropriate health care without discrimination. The bill we passed ensures access to gender-affirming care for Medicaid recipients including hormone therapy, hair alteration, voice therapy, physical alterations to the body, and fertility preservation. (To the Governor!)
Gender-specific bathroom signs unnecessarily limit access to single-occupancy restrooms for parents with young children; women who experience longer wait times; caretakers for people with disabilities; and those who identify as transgender. Instead, I proposed the common-sense alternative of gender-neutral signs. Del. Jared Solomon, the House sponsor, was a fierce ally and wonderful partner. Our efforts inspired its implementation in Montgomery County; I’m hopeful that we can enact it as statewide policy next year. (Kagan lead sponsor)
Sen. Nancy King sponsored a proposal to require that Sign Language interpreters working in Maryland be certified so that those who are deaf or hard of hearing can be assured of quality assistance. (To the Governor!)

Enhancing Health Care

As both costs and demand for health care increase, we must ensure that access and affordability remain at the forefront of our policy-making. Maryland ranks last in the country for Emergency Room wait times due to a massive staffing shortage of licensed health care professionals. Among the key health policies we enacted are:
Our antiquated laws that unreasonably restrict access to health licensure exacerbate our staffing shortages. SB187 allows qualified professionals to practice, regardless of their immigration status. Working with House sponsor Del. Lesley Lopez, this new law will attract and retain professionals and help fix our disastrous wait times. (Kagan lead sponsor; To the Governor!)
Access to paid family and medical leave ensures that people can care for a new child or other loved one. Last year, we crafted the “Time to Care Act” to offer this paid leave. This year, we strengthened the funding mechanism to make the program more affordable for both employees and employers. (To the Governor!)
Mental health challenges were compounded by the pandemic. SB101 will require Medicaid providers to deliver mental health services comparable to private insurers including better care coordination; improved monitoring and treatment of patients’ mental health; and case reviews for patients. (To the Governor!)
Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer saves lives, but many people cancel or delay diagnostic tests because of high out-of-pocket costs. SB184 prohibits insurers and providers from charging co-pays for breast cancer examinations. (To the Governor!)

Increasing Protections for Consumers

I introduced legislation to safeguard consumer dataensure fair return policies, and make renting a car safer and more transparent. Although none were successful, I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass stronger consumer protection laws next year.
Preventing “Gas Price Gouging”
If a gas station includes a surcharge for customers using credit or debit cards, the signage must be clear. Current law allows stations to display only the lowest (cash) price, despite data showing that more than 90% of us use cards at the pump. Montgomery County Councilmember Gabe Albornoz and I worked together to enact this policy locally. It was unanimously adopted into law. I will continue to partner with Attorney General Anthony Brown and his team to stop this kind of “bait and switch” statewide. (Kagan lead sponsor)

Investing in Gaithersburg & Rockville

I am proud to have earned appropriations for worthy projects in Gaithersburg and Rockville in this year’s Capital Budget. Sen. Craig Zucker, Chair of the Capital Budget Subcommittee, worked closely with the entire Delegation to secure millions of dollars for the County’s top priorities. Here are some of the highlights:
Capital Improvement Projects:
$14,350,000 for Montgomery County Water Quality Restoration Projects
$7,000,000 for Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit
$3,000,000 for Shady Grove Medical Center
$2,169,000 for Library Renovations at Montgomery College in Rockville
$350,000 for the Twinbrook Community Recreation Center in Rockville
$350,000 for Crown Farm Historic Park in Gaithersburg
$250,000 to Montgomery History Center in Rockville
$250,000 for Kelley Park Field in Gaithersburg
$200,000 for Rockville Housing Enterprise Community Center
$150,000 for So What Else, Inc. Food Pantry in Gaithersburg
$150,000 for Makom UpCounty Expansion in Rockville
$65,000 to “The Cottage” at CaringMatters hospice in Gaithersburg
Public School Capital Projects (among others):
$3,000,000 for Gaithersburg Middle School
$2,983,000 for Meadow Hall Elementary
$1,350,000 for Montgomery County Public School Playgrounds
$500,000 for Montgomery County High School Wellness Centers
$293,000 for Ritchie Park Elementary
Capital Funds for Medical Facilities:
$5,000,000 for the Restoration Center Mental Health Clinic in Rockville
$1,000,000 Cornerstone Montgomery – Central Hub Renovation
$575,000 Cornerstone Montgomery – Residential Rehabilitation and Crisis Programs

See You Soon at One of these Events in Gaithersburg/Rockville?

Saturday May 6 & Sunday May 7, 2023, 10am – 5pm in Rockville Town Square
Saturday May 20, 2023, 10am – 6pm at Bohrer Park at Summit Hall Farm, Gaithersburg
Saturday May 27 and Sunday May 28, 2023, 11am -7 pm at RedGate Park, Rockville
(And don’t forget Monday’s Memorial Day Parade!)
Saturday, July 1, 6pm – 11:30pm at Bohrer Park, Gaithersburg

Celebrating Maryland History

After a “spirited” debate, we voted unanimously to designate Maryland Rye Whiskey as the official State Spirit. Even if alcohol is not your cup of tea, you can still raise a glass to the many environmental and economic benefits of local farmers growing rye. Marylanders surely will not “wine” about the increase in tourism. Instead, we’ll happily toast the additional revenue generated by our historic rye industry and our whiskey trail. (To the Governor!)
Dollars for Scholars
I am always inspired by talented students who apply for my Senatorial Scholarships. The deadline has passed for Fall Semester 2023 applications, but we make awards twice each year. Watch for the Spring Semester 2024 application in early Fall. For more information, visit www.CherylKagan.org/scholarships/.

Check Out My Chats With Fascinating People!

Do you know that I started a podcast in 2020? Each week, I post an episode of “Kibbitzing with Kagan” on my YouTube Channel and on Apple podcasts. Among my guests have been U.S. Senator Chris Van HollenGovernor Wes Moorenonprofit advocates9-1-1 leaders, and even Scrabble folks!
I am honored to represent you in the State Senate and look forward to seeing you soon in the community! In the meantime, please follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for photos and posts. My website has information about legislation, internships, scholarships, and more. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be notified of new episodes of “Kibbitzing with Kagan.” Please reach out via email if you need help with a State agency. Stay well!
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator
District 17 (Gaithersburg & Rockville)
Vice Chair, Committee on Education, Energy, Environment (& Elections!)
PS: If you’d like to connect in a non-policy setting, consider watching me compete in the quarterly PUN contest at the DC Comedy Club on May 4th. And, I’m finally restarting my “Folk ‘N Great Music” house concerts in Rockville. Canadian talent Taylor Abrahamse will be performing on Sunday, May 21st. Let me know if you’re interested in joining us!