State Senator
Gaithersburg & Rockville

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D–17) has served in the Maryland Senate since 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. In 2022, the committee was reconfigured as Education, Energy, and the Environment (& Elections!).


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.

Next Generation 9-1-1

Motivated to act after three people, including her friend and Rockville activist Carl Henn, died in her district when 9-1-1 failed, Sen. Cheryl Kagan has become a nationally recognized expert on “Next Generation 9-1-1” (NG911). Updating our emergency response centers with modern technology will result in increased reliability. She established and chaired the Maryland NG911 Commission. Guided by that collaboration with experts and stakeholders, she sponsored and passed bipartisan legislation that adjusted the 9-1-1 fee; addressed our challenges with recruitment and retention of our courageous 9-1-1 Specialists; strengthened Maryland’s interoperability; prevention of cyber attacks; fortified oversight and accountability; reclassified 9-1-1 Specialists as “First Responders”; and significantly increased penalties for the dangerous practice of “Swatting.” Although the Commission has officially concluded, Kagan continues to consult with experts and sponsor legislation to strengthen Maryland’s public safety laws.

The Senator was recognized with the prestigious Next Generation 9-1-1 Institute’s “National Government Leader of the Year” award in both 2018 and 2022. The Maryland State Firemen’s Association (MSFA) (soon to be renamed FireFIGHTER’s??!) presented her with the Senator William H. Amoss Memorial Legislative Award in both 2019 and 2020 for her commitment to public safety. In 2022, Sen. Kagan was appointed to serve as the elected official on the NG9-1-1 Interoperability Oversight Commission (NIOC). She recognizes the critical importance of this service to people in need: “When 9-1-1 fails people die.”

Green Champion

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. Brooke Lierman).  In the 2022 session, Kagan was the lead Senate sponsor on the now-enacted SB372 (working with Del. Vaughn Stewart), which bans the sale and use of toxic coal tar sealants. In 2022, Senator Kagan was endorsed by the Sierra Club.

Nonprofit Leader

With a long career in this vital sector, Senator Cheryl Kagan is often described as “The Senator for Nonprofits” for her leadership and advocacy on their behalf. These essential organizations employ roughly 13% of Maryland’s workforce and provide 14% of the region’s economy while enhancing our communities. In 2017, Kagan enacted legislation that created the Nonprofit, Interest-Free, Micro Bridge Loan (NIMBL) fund, which provides loans of up to $25,000 to organizations that have earned (but not yet received) government grants or contracts. In 2020, the Senator passed a bill to streamline all State grant applications for nonprofit organizations into what is essentially a “Common App,” saving organizations time (and therefore costs!) and increasing efficiency. Her legislation guarantees “Prompt Payment Parity (enacted 2023);” increased funding for NIMBL (enacted 2023); and engaging nonprofits in climate change solutions through loans (introduced 2023) have passed unanimously twice in the Senate; and she plans to continue pursuing these initiatives in the future.

In partnership with the National Council of Nonprofits and the National Conference of State Legislatures, Sen. Kagan established the National Nonprofit Legislative Caucus, convening legislators from around the country in order to swap “best practices” policy ideas.

In recognition of Kagan’s effective advocacy for nonprofits, she was presented with the prestigious Phyllis Campbell Newsome Public Policy Award by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement (2017) and recognized (along with Del. Pena-Melnyk) as the first-ever “Legislative Champion” by Maryland Nonprofits (2019).

Election Reform

Elections are the backbone of our democracy. As the go-to Senator on election legislation, Kagan has sponsored and passed several bills which focused on the issuing, processing, and reporting of mail in ballots (2023); the removal of the State Board of Elections Administrator (2023); redefining the appropriation of election funding (2022); and creating guidelines for recounts (2022). Additionally, her bills on draft and exploratory committee regulations and recount procedures passed unanimously in the Senate.

Kagan is a nationally recognized leader in elections. She is the Vice Chair of NCSL’s Redistricting & Elections Committee, and is one of two legislators appointed to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Board of Advisors (2023), a bipartisan organization aimed to improve the administration of elections.

Outside of the Senate

In her “free” time, Sen. Kagan has hosted Folk ‘N Great Music house concerts with national touring singer/songwriters since 2003. After Donald Trump’s election, she established and produced 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.

As a nationally ranked Scrabble player, Kagan was responsible for luring the North American Scrabble Championship to Baltimore in 2022. Competitors from forty-two states and nine countries enjoyed their time in “Charm City.” Additionally, she wrote a chapter on Scrabble as a metaphor for life, which is included in “33 Gems: Wisdom for Living Pieces of Life’s Puzzle.” In addition to being a word nerd, she is a master of Demo-CRAFT-ing puns–so much so that she participates in pun contests. Sen. Kagan has visited the state capitals of all fifty states.

In September 2020, Kagan launched a podcast on her YouTube Channel called “Kibbitzing with Kagan,” where she interviews individuals she finds fascinating. You can subscribe to the podcast on YouTube or Apple Music.

  • Kagan’s Key Successes in the State Senate Include…

    • Animal Welfare – Outlawing Declawing Cats (SB0067 – 2022);
    • Election Law – Contested Elections (SB0101 – 2022);
    • Election Law – Voting Systems Costs and Polling Places (SB0158 – 2022);
    • Election Law – Ballots – Processing and Reporting Procedures (SB0163 – 2022), Vetoed by the Governor;
    • Maryland State Agency Transparency Act of 2022  (SB0269 – 2022;
    • Safer Sealant Act of 2022 (SB0372 – 2022);
    • Notice of Entry Onto Private Property (SB0373 – 2022);
    • Public Safety – 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System Alterations (SB0633 – 2022);
    • Providing Telehealth to School-Based Health Centers (SB278 – 2021);
    • Establishing a Recycling Market in MD (SB116 – 2021);
    • Updating the Public Information Act (SB449 – 2021);
    • Shifting the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (SB658 – 2021);
    • Repealing the State Song (SB8 – 2021);
    • Enhancing Public Safety – 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System (SB838 – 2020);
    • Establishing Telehealth (SB402 – 2020);
    • Providing Postage-Paid Absentee Ballots (SB145 – 2020);
    • Increasing Transparency for Key Government Entities (SB363 – 2020);
    • Creating “Common Applications” for Nonprofits (SB630 – 2020);
    • Transitioning to  Maryland to Next Generation 9-1-1 (Carl Henn’s Law)  (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).
  • Awards and Accomplishments

    Kagan 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. In 2020, Senator Kagan was was honored as “Peacemaker of the Year” by The Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County. In 2022, Senator Kagan was named one of the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) Elected Women of Excellence Honorees.

    The Senator was recognized with the prestigious Next Generation 9-1-1 Institute’s “National Government Leader of the Year” award in both 2018 and 2022.

    Senator Cheryl Kagan has served on the board of the American Jewish Committee for over 20 years. In 2021, the organization honored her with the Hyman “Bookie” Bookbinder Award for her advocacy, coalition-building, and community leadership. Additionally, she was appointed to the National Association of Jewish Legislators board.

Abbreviated Biography

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (Democrat, District 17) was elected to the Maryland State Senate in 2014 and is serving her third term. Her experience with public, private, and nonprofit organizations have made her an effective advocate for the residents of Gaithersburg and Rockville. Kagan is the Vice Chair of the recently reconfigured Education, Energy, and Environment (and Elections!) Committee. Kagan brings her passion and expertise on elections, Next Generation 9-1-1, and the nonprofit sector to her national service. She serves on NCSL’s Redistricting & Elections Committee (Vice Chair); the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) (Board of Advisors); and the NG9-1-1 Interoperability Oversight Commission (NIOC) (representing elected officials). As the founder of the National Nonprofit Legislative Caucus, Sen. Kagan partners with the National Council of Nonprofits and convenes legislators from both parties to share policy ideas to benefit this vital sector. At the State level, the Senate President has appointed her to the Maryland State Arts Council and the Maryland Open Data Council.

In her “free” time, Kagan hosts “Folk ‘N Great Music” house concerts and competes in national Scrabble tournaments.

Last updated August 2023