Preview: My 2021 Legislative Agenda
January 8, 2021
I’m sure you share my astonishment and disgust at the mob attack on the symbol of our democracy– the U.S. Capitol. I have walked those hallways as a staffer and as a gun control lobbyist. Desecrating those spaces and threatening our federal lawmakers and staff is shocking and offends me to the core. There must be consequences for the President, the Capitol Police, and others who incited or facilitated those lawbreakers.
I know you also share my deepest sorrow for my friend and former colleague, Congressman Jamie Raskin, and his family on the passing of their 25-year old son Tommy. The Raskin family announced the launch of the Tommy Raskin Memorial Fund for People and Animals through the Greater Washington Community Foundation. Please consider a donation in memory of this beautiful soul who left us far too soon.
On a more hopeful note, the Senate will convene next Wednesday, January 13th at noon. Here’s a sneak peek at some of my legislative initiatives:
Strengthening the Infrastructure of our 9-1-1 Systems
The Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) Commission I chair released our 3rd Annual Report. It includes 22 recommendations, many of which will be incorporated into legislation:
- Elevating the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to an independent, Cabinet-level entity and shifting the 9-1-1 Board within it;
- Modifying the membership of the 9-1-1 Board to include specified NG911 experts;
- Mandating notification of certain 9-1-1 outages to 9-1-1 centers, the 9-1-1 Board, and the public;
- Strengthening enforcement of Kari’s Law so that anyone can dial 9-1-1 without a prefix;
- Requiring training for 9-1-1 Specialists regarding psychological well-being and resilience; and
- Determining whether Workers’ Compensation should be extended to 9-1-1 Specialists for exposure to trauma.
Updating & Safeguarding Our Democracy
Based on last year’s election challenges, I am sponsoring three bills (one in partnership with the Maryland Association of Counties) to update our current election laws:
- Expanding the number of Early Voting days;
- Safeguarding County money on election projects;
- Mandating candidate debates;
- Establishing guidelines for recount committees;
- Simplifying ballot language;
- Increasing access to the ballot for unaffiliated voters;
- Creating consistent voting hours;
- Prohibiting fake ballot Drop-off Boxes;
- Protecting voter privacy;
- Allowing Local Boards to begin processing ballots before Election Day;
- Standardizing curing procedures for missing signatures;
- Requiring precinct-level reporting; and
- Amplifying transparency of election decisions.
Protecting the Environment
We will have significant environmental initiatives in the Education, Health, & Environmental Affairs Committee where I am Vice-Chair. These include Chair Pinsky’s Climate Solutions Now; the Transit Safety and Investment Act; and the Transportation Carbon Fund Act. I am sponsoring two bills related to recycling and pesticides.
Enhancing Government Transparency
With the pandemic forcing nearly all government agencies to work online, greater transparency is essential. Expanding on our previous laws, Del. Korman and I are introducing legislation requiring state agencies’ schedules, agendas, meeting materials, live-streams, and minutes to be publicly available in a timely manner. This will help keep our government accessible and accountable.
Advocating for Consumers and Nonprofit Organizations
Once again, I will be sponsoring legislation for those that are often overlooked: Maryland consumers and the nonprofit sector. Especially during the pandemic, we have all experienced extraordinary challenges. Look for more details soon.
Vaccinating Against the Coronavirus
272,950 vaccines have been allocated to Maryland and distributed to hospitals, pharmacies, and local health departments. While the rollout has been slow, actions are being taken at the local level to speed up the process. You can learn more on my website and Montgomery County’s.
Note: Text MDReady to 989211 to stay informed about vaccination updates.
One small victory: I was able to advocate for our “First” First Responders to be included in Phase 1A of the vaccine schedule. These integral public safety sheroes and heroes are often overlooked, and I am thrilled that they will now be protected.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
(Gaithersburg & Rockville)
PS: If you’d like to hear more about the upcoming legislative session, please join me this Sunday at 7pm for a D/17 Virtual Town Hall!