Improving the State of Our State (Feb 9, 2016)

Plowing Through Partisanship
In Annapolis, we have a Republican Governor and Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.  This dynamic can lead to disagreements and frustration.  The goal is to find a balance through negotiation and compromise without sacrificing our core values.
Unveiling Top Priorities
Last week, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate announced legislation to address 
College Affordability, Pay Equity, and Retirement Security– three of our top priorities this session. 
Requiring Affordable Education
In recent years, the General Assembly passed legislation to limit college tuition increases.  Over the past eight years, Maryland has gone from the 7th most expensive state, down to the 26th least expensive.  This is a notable improvement, but there are still far too many middle-class and working families unable to afford tuition.
To increase access to higher education, we are introducing the Education Affordability Act of 2016.  This establishes a program – in some ways similar to a 401(k) – where the State will match the investments put into college savings.  With an impact to 20,000 Maryland families, and assistance to graduates with over $20,000 in student debt, this is the type of bill that strengthens our State and should receive bipartisan support. 
Refusing to Accept Inequality  
Today, women make an average of 78 cents for every dollar men make.  This is obviously unacceptable, and the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act will address it.  One of the greatest obstacles to fixing pay differences is the fear of punishment facing employees who discuss their salaries with one another.  This bill will put an end to that fear by ensuring that employees cannot be penalized for talking about how much they earn.  When these conversations can happen openly, it becomes harder for discriminatory workplace practices to continue.
Protecting Retirement Security      
Despite hard work and saving, an estimated one million Marylanders are still inadequately prepared for retirement.  Our State needs a long-term, sustainable plan for dealing with this crisis.  Legislators are finalizing comprehensive legislation to address retirement security.  The bill establishes programs for incentivizing employers to provide retirement savings options and plans to their employees. 

Seeking to Work Together
Last week, Governor Hogan presented his second State of the State address.  Just as the President delivers an annual State of the Union speech to Congress, our Governor gives a similar address to the General Assembly. 


Here’s me, congratulating Gov. Hogan at the State of the State address on Wednesday. 
Credit: AP Photo/Gail Burton


Last year, Gov. Hogan’s first State of the State address was divisive and partisan.  Instead of discussing solutions to problems, he attacked Democratic leaders.  In contrast, this year’s speech highlighted a message of bipartisanship.  The Governor started with a more collegial tone, and I hope that he and his staff will put that sentiment into action by working with Democratic legislators to strengthen and improve our great State. 
Stay connected to me through Facebook, on Twitter, or on Instagram.  You can learn about Maryland politics, new legislation, and much more via my website.  
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
Rockville & Gaithersburg
P.S.  I am frustrated by the serious problems with our new voting system.  Last October, the Rockville elections revealed a problem that could have been rectified. 

By delaying three months to seek a solution, we are forced to scrap the machines for paper ballots. This blunder will result in a sizable financial expense for the taxpayers.  You can read more about it in this Washington Post article, in which I am quoted.