Cheryl Kagan | Maryland State Senator - District 17
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Senator Cheryl C. Kagan (D-17) returned to elected office in 2015, where her energy, dedication, and experience in all sectors– public, private, and nonprofit– have made her an effective advocate for the residents of Gaithersburg and Rockville. In 2019, she was appointed Vice Chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.  

Kagan is a nationally-recognized expert on “Next Generation 9-1-1,” which will update our emergency response centers with modern technology resulting in increased reliability. Inspired by the death of Rockville activist and District 17 resident Carl Henn due to a 9-1-1 failure, she chairs the Maryland NG911 Commission, which issued its third annual report in December of 2020. With the NG911 Commission’s support, Kagan will introduce legislation during the 2021 Session to address:

  • Requiring training for 9-1-1 Specialists regarding psychological well-being and resilience;
  • Conducting a study to determine whether Worker’s Compensation should be extended to 9-1-1 Specialists for exposure to trauma;
  • Modifying the membership of the 9-1-1 Board to include specified NG911 experts; 
  • Authorizing the 9-1-1 Board to fund recruitment programs for 9-1-1 Specialists;
  • Encouraging organizations assisting domestic violence victims to provide cell phones with full-service access;
  • Ensuring that county NG911 contracts require providers to use standardized geographic data; 
  • Allowing individual counties to designate enforcement authority for Kari’s Law; 
  • Updating procedures to notify 9-1-1 centers, the 9-1-1 Board, and the public during certain 9-1-1 outages; and
  • Shifting the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to a Cabinet-level entity and housing the 9-1-1 Board within MEMA.

The Senator earned Next Generation 9-1-1 Institute’s 2018 National Leader Award as well as the Maryland State Firemen’s Association’s 2019 Senator William H. Amoss Memorial Legislative Award for her commitment to public safety. She recognizes the critical importance of this service to people in need: “When 9-1-1 fails,” she often tells audiences, “people die.”

Senator Kagan enacted the nation’s first statewide ban on harmful expanded polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) food and beverage containers.  Her concern for the environment and sustainability led the Maryland League of Conservation Voters to name her a “Green Champion” and presented her with the 2019 Legislator of the Year Award (along with Del. Lierman). 

With a long career in this vital sector, Kagan is also lauded as a key ally for her leadership on behalf of nonprofits. These essential organizations enhance our communities while employing roughly 10% of the State’s workforce. She is proud to have sponsored a law that established the Nonprofit, Interest-Free, Micro Bridge Loan (NIMBL) fund, which provides loans to organizations that have earned, but not yet received, government grants or contracts. In 2017, she was presented with the prestigious Phyllis Campbell Newsome Public Policy Award by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement. She was recognized (along with Del. Pena-Melnyk) as the first-ever Legislative Champion by Maryland Nonprofits. In 2020, the Senator sponsored a bill to streamline all State grant applications for nonprofit organizations into what will be called a “Common App.” Rather than spending precious time filling out multiple grant applications, organizations will have access to one generic version for all agencies. When the General Assembly is not in session, Kagan serves as the Outreach & Development Coordinator for Community Reach of Montgomery County (formerly known as Community Ministries of Rockville), a nonprofit that helps vulnerable County residents.

Senator Kagan represented District 17 in the House of Delegates for two terms– from 1995 to 2003. After choosing not to seek reelection, she stayed involved in the community as the first-ever Executive Director of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation. With her guidance, the Foundation contributed over $1,000,000 each year to deserving nonprofits, primarily in the DC-metropolitan area. In addition to grantmaking, the Foundation created capacity-building programs and a leadership institute in partnership with Montgomery College.

Kagan later served as the Director of Community Engagement for BBYO, an international nonprofit promoting Jewish teen leadership and volunteerism. There, she was responsible for community outreach, partnerships, fundraising, and media throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Sen. Kagan is a Montgomery County native and graduate of our public schools. After receiving a political science degree from Vassar College, she took graduate classes in public policy at the University of Maryland. She later taught two semesters of State & Local Government at Montgomery College.

In her “free” time, Sen. Kagan has hosted Folk ‘N Great Music house concerts for the past 18 years with national touring singer/songwriters and is a nationally ranked Scrabble player. With Coronavirus putting a hold on concerts for the foreseeable future, she began a podcast called “Kibbitzing with Kagan,” where she interviews individuals she finds fascinating. Additionally, she wrote a chapter that is included in “33 Gems: Wisdom for Living Pieces of Life’s Puzzle.” She was responsible for luring the North American Scrabble Championship to Baltimore in 2020; the Coronavirus has caused it to be postponed until 2021. She is the Founder and Executive Producer of four annual UnNaugural Concerts featuring five different performers and raising money for five unique progressive causes each year– focusing on issues most affected by the Trump Administration. 

Kagan’s Key Successes in the State Senate Include…

  • Public Safety – 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System (SB838 – 2020);
  • Telehealth (SB402 – 2020);
  • Postage-Paid Absentee Ballots (SB145 – 2020);
  • Increased Transparency for Key Government Entities (SB363 – 2020);
  • “Common Applications” for Nonprofits (SB630 – 2020);
  • Transition Maryland to Next Generation 9-1-1 (SB339 – 2019);
  • Banning Expanded Polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) statewide (SB285 – 2019); 
  • Enacting “Freedom to Serve” to expand and diversify our police forces (SB853 – 2019)
  • Creating Maryland high-tech jobs with Maryland taxpayer money (SB340 – 2019);
  • Increasing transparency at the State Board of Elections (SB184 – 2019):
  • Establishing a floor of 10% overhead costs in State contracts with nonprofits (SB1045 – 2018);
  • Allowing counties to offer certain tax deductions to 9-1-1 specialists (SB1053 – 2018);
  • Ensuring data privacy under the Maryland Public Information Act (SB477 – 2018);
  • Creating the Nonprofit, Interest-Free, Micro Bridge Loan (NIMBL) fund (SB465 – 2017);
  • Requiring “Language Access” to translate government websites (SB29 – 2018) (SB28 – 2016);
  • Informing new voters that if they do not register with a political party, they can’t vote in partisan primary elections (SB170 – 2016);
  • Expanded outreach to  promote organ donation Motor Vehicle Administration, the Courts, and other State agencies (SB415 – 2015);
  • Expanding the False Claims Act, a proven tool to combat fraud, to include municipalities (SB26 – 2017); and
  • Mandating “Fertility Parity” related to in vitro fertilization for married lesbian couples (SB416 – 2015) and infertile men in heterosexual couples (SB1 – 2016). 

Even during the Coronavirus pandemic, Senator Kagan has continued to speak out on:

Senator Cheryl Kagan currently serves on the board of the American Jewish Committee and recently was appointed to the National Association of Jewish Legislators board. She has been widely recognized for her achievements. Representing two of the four largest cities in Maryland, she focuses on making our municipalities more vibrant, sustainable, and economically healthy. For her advocacy, the Maryland Municipal League named her a “Municipal Super Star” for a 5th year in 2020.  She was honored to receive the “2019 Legislator of the Year Award” by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters with Del. Brooke Lierman making Maryland the first State to ban harmful expanded polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) food products. After the 2019 legislative session, she was named a “Winner” by Maryland Matters in its “Winners and Losers” list for her “slew of legislative victories.” She was recognized three times as one of Maryland’s “Top 100 Women” and inducted into The Daily Record’s “Circle of Excellence.”  In 2018, the Maryland Association of Counties recognized Sen. Kagan for her unwavering dedication to 9-1-1 policy as well as local government priorities. This Summer, Senator Kagan was honored as “Peacemaker of the Year” by The Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County.

Abbreviated Biography

Senator Cheryl C. Kagan (D-District 17) represents Rockville and Gaithersburg and serves as the Vice Chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. Sen. Kagan has earned a reputation as an independent-minded legislator with a strong voice for her constituents on public safety, consumer protection, transportation, government transparency, and more. While in the Senate, Kagan has passed landmark laws to help nonprofits; enhance our 9-1-1 emergency response systems; become the first State in the nation to ban “Styrofoam” food and beverage containers; and advocate for local governments.

Senator Kagan was named a “Municipal Super Star” for the 5th time in 2020, citing her effective leadership on behalf of Maryland’s 157 cities and towns. She was grateful to receive the “2019 Legislator of the Year Award” by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters with Delegate Brooke Lierman for their work banning Styrofoam products from our food services. She was honored by the Maryland State Firemen’s Association with the 2019 Senator William H. Amoss Memorial Legislative Award and the Next Generation 911 Institute’s National Leader of the Year in 2018. She was named a “Winner” by Maryland Matters for her “slew of legislative victories” during the 2019 session. She was recognized (along with Del. Pena-Melnyk) as the first-ever Legislative Champion by Maryland Nonprofits for her leadership on behalf of this vital sector. Sen. Kagan was selected three times as one of Maryland’s “Top 100 Women” and was inducted into The Daily Record’s “Circle of Excellence.” She has also been named a “Green Champion” by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters

In her “free” time, Sen. Kagan hosts Folk ‘N Great Music house concerts featuring national touring singer/songwriters and is a nationally ranked Scrabble player. She is also the Founder and Executive Producer of the UnNaugural Concert featuring five performers and raising money for five unique progressive causes each year– focusing on issues most affected by the Trump Administration.

Last Updated May 2020

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