Shameful Past; Brighter Future (Feb 2, 2016)

Things are getting busier here in Annapolis as we begin February.  Here are some of the highlights from last week as well as a glimpse at the projects I’m working on now.

Welcoming Alan Gross to Annapolis
It was a pleasure to host Alan Gross as my guest in the Senate chambers.  You may remember Mr. Gross as the American who was held in a Cuban prison for 5 years.  Thanks to dogged advocacy from Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the White House, and even the Pope, Alan was freed just over a year ago.  Punished for bringing cell phones and computer equipment to disenfranchised members of Cuban society (including the island’s small Jewish community), Mr. Gross understands the importance of communication and the pain of imprisonment.  He has undergone a tremendous ordeal but, instead of letting the experience break his spirit, he brings humor and an optimistic spirit as he speaks around the country. 
The rest of the Montgomery County Senate delegation joined me in welcoming Alan Gross to Annapolis.  His story, as well as his perspective on life and liberty, inspired us all.
Singing a Better Tune for Maryland
As you may have heard on WAMU yesterday, I have filed a bill (SB222) which would fix one of the embarrassing remnants of our State’s past.  Our official state song, “Maryland, My Maryland” needs to go.  Officially adopted in 1939, the song’s racist and unpatriotic message is offensive and woefully outdated.  Instead, I believe we should have a song that truly captures the beauty, diversity, charm, and style of our great state.  
While some have proposed to simply change the lyrics, my bill would completely repeal the old song and launch a contest for original submissions.  A panel of music and history experts would narrow the entries to a handful that would be posted online for consideration and voting by the public.  Ultimately, the General Assembly would officially adopt the new song in 2017.       
Informing Voters — A Clearer Choice
One of my bills being heard this week is SB 170.  “Voter Registration Affiliation” is a straightforward piece of legislation that would clarify the voter registration process.  Maryland has “closed primaries,” meaning that only those registered with a political party can vote in that party’s primary election.  This bipartisan bill would help new voters understand that they lose a chance to vote in almost all primary elections if they choose not to affiliate with a political party. 
It’s easy to experience the goings-on in Annapolis firsthand through my Facebook page at State Senator Cheryl C. Kagan, on Twitter at @CherylKagan, or on Instagram at @CherylCKagan.  You can learn more about District 17, new legislation, Senatorial scholarships, and more on my website at  
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
Rockville & Gaithersburg
P.S.  Tonight, in partnership with Del. Shelly Hettleman (D-11) and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), I am hosting a screening of the powerful documentary The Hunting Ground.  The film exposes the crisis of sexual assault and rape on college campuses and the frustration that comes from these issues being overlooked or minimized.  The movie and panel that follows will offer a chance to discuss this difficult subject matter and explore possible policy solutions.