Halfway Done! (March 1, 2016)

We are now halfway through the 2016 legislative session here in Annapolis.  I am pleased with the successes we have had thus far, but there is much to be done before adjournment “Sine Die” at midnight on April 11th.

Ending Drugged Driving: Taking the First Steps 
My bill, SB 970, a pilot program related to Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) is vital for our public safety.  Given the growing heroin epidemic and our State’s decriminalization of marijuana, it is crucial that our law enforcement has a tool to address the issue of driving while impaired on drugs. 
Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger and Drug Recognition Expert, Officer Jayme Derbyshire, were among the leaders in law enforcement community who testified in support of SB970, a drugged driving pilot program.

SB 970 would launch a two-year pilot program to use oral fluid testing kits in 4 Maryland jurisdictions.  By using a simple, self-administered swab, police will get results for a variety of illicit drugs in just 7-8 minutes.  This contrasts with the 7-12 month delay for a suspected driver’s blood to be analyzed and returned.  It is unacceptable that habitual drug users continue to drive for such a long period of time while awaiting trial.

Getting a demonstration on the oral fluid drug testing machine.
The samples taken during the pilot program will not be admissible by either the defense or prosecution in court; they are simply for testing the accuracy and efficiency of the new, drug-testing technology.

The House version of this bill, HB 1367, had its committee hearing last week.  A number of experts in law enforcement, drug/alcohol science, and public safety policy testified in support.  I hope this will pass both the House and Senate and get signed into law by the Governor.  This issue is too important to delay or ignore.  In this case, doing nothing could cost people their lives. 

Informing Voters 
In the past 12 years, the percentage of unaffiliated voters has doubled.  Unlike some states, Maryland has closed primaries, which means that unless you are a member of a political party, you are not permitted to vote in that party’s primary.  My bill, SB 170, moves language that clearly explains the concept of a closed primary to a more visible location on the voter registration form.

While there are many people who choose to have no party affiliation, I have heard from a number of individuals who only found out about Maryland’s election laws after being turned away at the polls.  SB 170 will clarify that unaffiliated voters can’t vote in most Maryland primary elections.  Another election-related bill, SB 169, which adjusts the law in Montgomery County for canvassing on the day of a Special Election, also passed unanimously in the Senate. 
Proposals to Modify Our State Song are Gaining Traction
Check out this article from the New Republic about the efforts to address our offensive State Song, which includes a mention of my bill SB 222.  I’m happy to see this divisive issue getting the attention it deserves.  This is certainly the year to repeal “Maryland, My Maryland” and adopt a tune of which we can all be proud.     
Please keep in touch with me through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  For information on the first half of the legislative session, as well as what else is coming up, visit my website.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
Rockville & Gaithersburg
P.S.  I just filed a bill that I will tell you more about next week.  For now, I’ll just let you know that it’s a consumer protection bill for Maryland drivers.  Be sure to read next week’s update!