This One Hit Close to Home… (March 21, 2018)

March 21, 2018
Dear Friend:
I hope you are staying warm and dry at home during this unexpected spring blizzard!
We have watched school shootings devastate communities in Colorado, Florida, Connecticut, and too many other states. Now, it has happened in Maryland. Two high schoolers were injured, and the shooter was killed. Already in 2018, there have been a staggering 17 school shootings.
As you know, Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of activists to D.C. and other cities across the country. Although Maryland’s laws are strong (see the spotlight below), we must protest the failure of Congress and the President to act now on sensible gun control. I hope you’ll join us to speak out for life-saving reforms.
Banning “Bump Stocks” on Guns
Last year’s massacre in Las Vegas was so deadly (58 dead and another 422 wounded) because of the use of a device called a “bump stock” that accelerates the rate of fire on a semi-automatic weapon. Maryland’s Senate and House have passed legislation, SB707/HB888, to ban these dangerous devices in our State. This Friday, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hold a hearing on a package of five more gun control bills.
Guaranteeing Fair Compensation for Nonprofits
Our State contracts with nonprofits to provide vital services like health care, literacy classes, or food for our vulnerable residents. A few years ago, the federal government established a minimum 10% reimbursement rate for indirect costs– essentials like rent for a homeless shelter or lab equipment for medical research. The Senate unanimously passed my bill, SB1045, to provide the same in Maryland. This would ensure these organizations are compensated for their important work.
Speaking Up for Vulnerable Renters
The Senate debated SB555, which would accelerate landlords’ ability to evict tenants they have labeled “dangerous.” I amended the bill to require that the written notice to tenants include contact information for free- or low-cost legal services. Even with the amendment, I agreed with civil liberties groups like the Public Justice Center, the NAACP, and Jews United for Justice that the bill did not sufficiently protect vulnerable renters. My floor speech against the bill swayed several colleagues, although it narrowly passed the Senate. I will continue to monitor this legislation and hope it will be amended or defeated in the House.
Protecting Our Private Information
When we sign up for government alerts about weather (which helped many of us this week!), road repairs, or school closings, we don’t intend to invite unsolicited emails or calls. But under the current Maryland Public Information Act, our information is available to anyone who requests it. A lawsuit in Montgomery County forced the release of over 200,000 email addresses. Urgent action was needed, so I worked with the Maryland Municipal League and Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk to pass SB477/HB677, in order to block disclosure of personal contact information. We want people to connect with their local governments without fear of receiving spam. This was an emergency bill, so it will go into effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor.
Banning Anti-LGBTQ So-Called Therapy
My Committee (Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs) passed SB1028, a ban on so-called “conversion therapy,” which attempts to “cure” gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. We heard heartbreaking testimony from young people who had undergone this process. I was proud to co-sponsor and vote for this ban. I fear that there will be contentious debate in the full Senate.
Please watch for my updates during these final weeks of session! You can also follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for photos and posts. You can check my website for information about internships, Senatorial Scholarships, and more. And, you can always send questions or comments to me via email.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
(Rockville & Gaithersburg)
P.S. Last Friday’s weekly episode of State Circle on MPT television featured my #MeToo press conference as well my bill to re-designate “Maryland! My Maryland!” as our Historical State Song. I recommend trying to watch these wrap-ups for an overview of our legislative work in Annapolis!