February 21, 2020
I hope you enjoyed your holiday weekend and had the opportunity to relax with friends and family. For us, it was a work day and the beginning of another really busy week.
Standing Up for Our Public Schools
On Monday, two Senate and two House committees spent over six hours in a joint public hearing discussing the #Kirwan Commission’s #Blueprint4MD. Marylanders from every corner of the State came to testify or observe. Teachers, parents, students, business leaders, and local elected officials expressed their enthusiastic support for the historic investment in our public schools that is envisioned by the Commission. Every available seat was taken, including those in two overflow rooms. My priority areas in this bill are pre-K and extra support for English Language Learners. Both are critically important for my district and the entire State. I will continue to ask questions and advocate for us to get our fair share.
Identifying Drugged Drivers
As we seek additional revenue, many suggest legalizing and taxing cannabis. In my opinion, we must work to avoid the shocking increase in marijuana-related accidents and deaths caused by drivers under the influence of drugs. In Maryland, marijuana-related crashes nearly doubled from 34 in 2017 to 60 in 2018.
My bill, SB309, would establish a two-year pilot program of an oral fluid screening test in any county that chooses to participate. During the pilot period, the results could not be used as evidence or probable cause for an arrest by either the prosecutor or defendant. It’s irresponsible to allow impaired drivers on our roads without developing long-term strategies to combat the problem.
From Grants to (Bay) Grasses
My legislative agenda addresses a diverse set of issues, and next week is a perfect example. I will have two bill hearings, one to help our nonprofit organizations and the other to improve the health of our beloved Chesapeake Bay.
The Urban Institute reported that 80 percent of Maryland’s nonprofit grantees work with more than one State agency. Many of the required forms are complex and duplicative, requiring nonprofits and State employees to spend an inordinate amount of time on paperwork. SB630 would create a “Common App” grant process across State agencies similar to those students use when applying to colleges. Modeled on the innovative program created in Illinois, this will save time and money for both nonprofits and the State. My bill has attracted strong, bipartisan support among my colleagues– every Senator has signed on as a co-sponsor!
Maryland pledged to increase Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) beds to 130,000 acres by 2025 as part of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement of 2014. Currently, there are 108,000 acres of SAV in the Bay. Clamming operations have threatened this vegetation. I have sponsored SB629 to protect these essential Bay grasses.
Supporting Grieving Spouses
A constituent had trouble transferring ownership of utility accounts following her husband’s passing and contacted me. She had been subjected to a credit check, a processing fee, and the general inconveniences that come with opening a new account. This was despite the fact that she and her husband had been responsible customers for decades! My staff and I reached out to various utilities and were disappointed to learn that most didn’t have a process to handle a smooth transition for a grieving spouse. SB628 would allow consumers to send a copy of their marriage and death certificates to the utilities in order to change the name on the account. This common sense solution would simplify the process for those in mourning while protecting them from unjustified fees.
Reaching the Halfway Mark!
Today is the 45th day of the 2020 Session, meaning that we are officially halfway through! I have had 24 bill hearings on legislation ranging from bathrooms to banking. We have six hearings remaining, including my final two NG911 Commission bills. As always, I will keep you updated on the latest news from Annapolis.
Each Friday afternoon during session, I do a Facebook Live report from Annapolis. You can watch previous weekly videos here. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for photos and posts. Please check my website for information about internships, Senatorial Scholarships, and more. And, you can always send questions or comments to me via email.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
(Gaithersburg & Rockville)
P.S.: This week, I presented my “Paycheck Fairness” bill to the Senate Finance Committee. I was delighted that Councilmember Evan Glass, who sponsored a similar Montgomery County law, testified alongside me!