Cheryl Kagan | Maryland State Senator - District 17

Senator Cheryl C. Kagan returned to elective 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. She serves on the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and is the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR).

Senator Kagan has been widely recognized for her efforts. At the conclusion of the 2019 legislative session, she was named a “Winner” by Maryland Matters in their annual “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 dedication to 9-1-1 policy as well as local government priorities. Representing two of the four largest cities in Maryland, she focuses on making our municipalities more vibrant, sustainable, and economically healthy. For her work, the Maryland Municipal League named her a “Municipal Superstar” four years in a row.  

Kagan is a nationally-recognized advocate for “Next Generation 911,” 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 has toured emergency centers around the state, often bringing Senate colleagues. She chairs the Maryland NG911 Commission, which issued a 65-page report with 23 unanimous recommendations. Their work resulted in three bills becoming law in 2019:

  • Saving Lives by Updating Our 9-1-1 Systems (“Carl Henn’s Law”): This bill addressed technology, cybersecurity, staffing, oversight, and more.  It also modified our funding structure, which was providing an average of just 37.5% of the costs of our emergency centers. By adjusting the 9-1-1 fee, we will improve service– and save lives.
  • Protecting Crime Victims: Currently, 9-1-1 audio calls are available through a Maryland Public Information Act request. With NG911 allowing us to send texts, photos, and videos, SB5 will help protect the privacy of victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and child abuse by giving them a voice in shielding these records.
  • Supporting our “First, First Responders”: Our 9-1-1 Specialists, or calltakers, help us in our worst moments. Unlike a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic, 9-1-1 Specialists are largely invisible and underappreciated. This new law reclassifies the position (from clerical to professional) and recommends appropriate compensation and benefits as an integral part of the Emergency Response team. 

The Senator received the 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 partnership on public safety issues. She recognizes the critical importance of this service to people in need: “When 911 fails,” she often tells audiences, “people die.”

After three years of dedication, Senator Kagan was successful in passing the nation’s first statewide ban on harmful polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) food and beverage containers.  Her concern for the environment and sustainability has led the Maryland League of Conservation Voters to name her a “Green Champion” and will be presented with the Legislator of the Year Award (along with Del. Lierman) in October. 

She also sponsored and passed additional key initiatives during the 2019 legislative session. After a State audit revealed that the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) had been investing taxpayer dollars in tech start-ups outside the State, she worked with then-Speaker Pro Tem (now Speaker!) Jones to strengthen their legislation to guarantee that their focus return to creating Maryland jobs. Senator Kagan partnered with Police Chief Tom Manger to pass her “Freedom to Serve” legislation, which will diversify our police departments by allowing Legal Permanent Residents who have been honorably discharged from the military with the opportunity to become police officers.

With a long career in the sector, Kagan is also lauded as an advocate for nonprofits. These essential organizations enhance our communities while employing 10% of the State’s population. She is proud to have created 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 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 for her leadership on behalf of this vital sector. When the General Assembly is not in session, Kagan works with Community Reach of Montgomery County (formerly known as Community Ministries of Rockville), a nonprofit that helps vulnerable County residents.

Prior to joining the Senate, Sen. Kagan represented the same district in the Maryland House of Delegates 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. Under her guidance, the Foundation contributed over $1,000,000 each year to deserving nonprofit organizations, 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 organization promoting Jewish teen leadership and volunteerism for nearly a hundred years. 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. Having studied political science and public policy at Vassar College and University of Maryland, she has also taught two semesters of State & Local government at Montgomery College.

In her “free” time, Sen. Kagan hosts Folk ‘N Great Music house concerts with national touring singer/songwriters and is a nationally ranked Scrabble player. Additionally, she wrote a chapter that is included in “33 Gems: Wisdom for Living Pieces of Life’s Puzzle.” She is also the founder and producer of the annual “UnNaugural” concert, which features five performers raising funds for five progressive causes. 


Kagan’s Key Successes in the State Senate Include…

  • Saving lives by upgrading Maryland to Next Generation 911 with “Carl Henn’s Law” (SB339 – 2019);
  • Banning Expanded Polystyrene Statewide to make Maryland safer, more environmentally friendly, and even more beautiful (SB285 – 2019); 
  • Allowing Legal Permanent Residents who have been honorably discharged from the military with the opportunity to become police officers will enhance the linguistic and ethnic diversity of our police departments (SB853 – 2019)
  • Reforming the Maryland Technology Development Corporation to focus on creating Maryland jobs with Maryland taxpayer money (SB340 – 2019);
  • Requiring greater transparency and access to the State Board of Elections’ public meetings (SB184 – 2019):
  • Conforming Maryland’s nonprofit grant and contracting practices to federal standards by guaranteeing at least 10% repayment for indirect (overhead) costs– necessities like rent, staff salaries, and utilities (SB1045 – 2018);
  • Authorizing counties to extend the same benefits given to most public safety employees to 9-1-1 calltakers (SB1053 – 2018);
  • Ensuring that when you sign up for government alerts about weather, road repairs, or school closings, your private phone number and email address cannot be released under the Maryland Public Information Act (SB477 – 2018);
  • Creating the Nonprofit, Interest-Free, Micro Bridge Loan (NIMBL) fund to provide short-term loans– up to $25,000– to groups that have already earned government grants or contracts but haven’t yet received the promised funds (SB465 – 2017);
  • Passing “Language Access” to ensure that State government websites are translated into the languages most commonly spoken by our residents (SB28 – 2016) and ensuring that every web page offers translation (SB29 – 2018);
  • Informing new voters that if they do not register with a political party, they will not be able to participate in a party’s primary election (SB170 – 2016);
  • Encouraging the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Courts, and other State agencies to promote organ donation and increase the number of Marylanders on the registry (SB415 – 2015);
  • Expanding the False Claims Act, a proven tool to combat fraud, to include municipalities (SB26 – 2017); and
  • Mandating insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization to ensure that lesbian couples (and heterosexual couples that cannot independently have a baby) have “Fertility Parity” (SB416 – 2015 & SB1 – 2016). 

Abbreviated Biography

Senator Cheryl C. Kagan (D-District 17) represents Rockville and Gaithersburg and serves on the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. She is the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review. Sen. Kagan has earned a reputation as an independent-minded legislator with a strong voice for her constituents on public safety, consumer protection, transportation, creating technology jobs, 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.

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 and will be presented with the Legislator of the Year award in October. Senator Kagan was named a “Municipal Superstar” four years in a row for her effective leadership on behalf of Maryland’s 157 cities and towns.

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 producer of the annual UnNaugural Concert featuring five performers raising money for five progressive causes.

Last Updated July 22, 2019

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