Primaries, Pay Equity, and Projects at Home (April 1, 2016)


Dear Friends:
Maryland’s primary election is coming soon (early voting starts April 14th, and Election Day is April 26th).  In light of some troubling stories (like 5-hour lines in Maricopa County, Arizona), we need to be sure that our voting systems in Maryland are as fair, accurate, efficient, and accessible as possible.  Click here for information about early voting and voter registration.
The signing of the 1965
Voting Rights Act
Protecting Voters
Because voting is such a vital aspect of democracy, we must be sure that people are fully informed and that exercising their franchise is not unreasonably burdensome.  Given this year’s high profile presidential primary races, the close Senate race, and two open seats in Congress, I worry whether our Boards of Elections are prepared to deal with a possibly record-setting turnout.
I have written before about major technical gaffes related to voting machines.  I am concerned about the very real possibility of running out of ballots.  I spoke about these issues on the Diane Rehm Show  and on WYPR.  On a related matter, I am pleased to report that two of my bills dealing with voting and election issues, SB 169 and SB 170, have passed both the Senate and the House and should become law this year. 
Endorsing Congressman Chris Van Hollen for U.S. Senate!
In the Maryland Senate race, I have given my enthusiastic support to Congressman Chris Van Hollen. I have worked with Rep. Van Hollen for many years, and I believe that he is by far the best candidate for the job.  His effectiveness in this Do-Nothing Congress and his commitment to constituents are simply unparalleled. Rep. Van Hollen has been endorsed by the Washington Post as well as an impressive number of community leaders and legislative colleagues.  If you want to learn more before you vote, here is an article in which I’m quoted.
Obtaining Resources for our Communities
The Capital Budget has been finalized, with funds allocated around the State.  These bond bill successes were a team effort with Delegates Barve, Gilchrist, and Platt, as we work together on behalf of District 17.
Enhancing Olde Towne Gaithersburg
The bond bill request for Gaithersburg’s Olde Towne Park Plaza was awarded a $200,000 matching grant.  This is an important piece of the ongoing economic revitalization of Olde Towne Gaithersburg.  The plaza is now mostly cement; the City’s plan will create a comfortable public gathering space and make the prominent corner in Olde Towne more pedestrian-friendly.
Revitalizing Rockville Recreation Center
Another bond bill for the City of Rockville was also approved this session. With $100,000 in State funding, Rockville will update and refurbish the locker rooms and other areas of the Rockville Swim & Fitness Center to be ADA-compliant for visitors with disabilities. This is desperately needed, since there have been no renovations to these areas since the 1960’s.
Addressing Inequality
The Senate has been working on important legislation to improve our justice system and advance equality in Maryland.  
  • Approving Equal Pay for Equal Work
Last week, the Senate approved legislation to ensure equal pay regardless of gender.  The 32-13 vote is veto-proof, despite opposition from 13 Republican Senators. A similar House bill passed with differences that must be negotiated. I am hopeful that Maryland will finally resolve this equity issue.
  • Reforming our Justice System
The Senate unanimously passed the “Justice Reinvestment Act.” This bill reduces the mandatory sentencing for non-violent crimes and will begin to address racial disparities in sentencing.  It will save the State millions of dollars beginning next year and shift penalties from prison time to treatment for drug-related cases.
Passing a “Groundbreaking” Transportation Bill
The “Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act” establishes a scoring system to evaluate and prioritize major transportation projects.  This new process will ensure thoughtful planning; enhance safety; improve services; support environmental stewardship; and promote cost-effectiveness.  Despite a Republican filibuster with a barrage of 11 proposed amendments to weaken the legislation, it was approved by the Senate 28-17. 
You can keep up with legislative news and events through my FacebookTwitter , or Instagram. For information on Senatorial Scholarships, District 17 issues, and more, check out my website. Any questions or comments you have can be directed to me via email.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
Rockville & Gaithersburg
P.S.: My Senatorial Scholarship Committee is looking forward to reviewing applications.  If you (or someone you know) lives in District 17 and could benefit from financial aid for college, please visit my website today and submit your thoughtful essay and application before the deadline.
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