April 18, 2019
I am proud to be the Senator from Gaithersburg and Rockville. As a “Municipal Superstar ,” I have advocated for Maryland’s 157 cities and towns. This session was, in some ways, influenced by last year’s election results. Of 47 Senators, 18 were newly elected, and a record 72 of 188 legislators were women. My achievements were noted in Maryland Matters , a blog that covers Annapolis, which named me as one of the “Winners” in its annual round-up. I am writing to update you on our accomplishments. View the entire 2019 wrap-up on my website.
Investing in Maryland’s Public Schools
“The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” launched the first two years of this innovative and comprehensive effort with a $700 million down payment. Included are incentives to increase teacher salaries; provide grants to high-poverty schools; and fund school-based health centers across the State.
Banning “Styrofoam” Statewide #FoamFreeMD
Expanded polystyrene foam, or “Styrofoam,” is dangerous for both our environment and our health. Fish and mammals eat it, thinking it is food; we then ingest the toxic chemicals. My bill passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses, so I expect that Maryland will become the first state in the nation to ban Styrofoam !
Supporting Working Families by “Fighting for $15”
Montgomery County has already enacted a $15 minimum wage to support working families, and I believed it was time to replicate that statewide. The standard will rise incrementally each year until 2025. By a party-line vote, the Senate overrode the Governor’s veto and was joined by the House. While I had hoped for a bipartisan consensus, I am glad that we were able to #FightFor15!
Updating Our 9-1-1 Systems
On July 27, 2010, Rockville activist Carl Henn died when 9-1-1 failed. His tragic death inspired me to dedicate the past five years to improving our emergency response system. This year, all three of my bills passed, advancing Maryland towards “Next Generation 9-1-1.”
Tackling Police Recruitment Challenges
Montgomery County had 300 fewer police applicants in 2018 than 10 years earlier. My “Freedom to Serve” legislation will enhance the linguistic and ethnic diversity of our applicant pools .
Creating “Green” Jobs in Maryland
Clean, renewable energy is a proven driver of economic development and job creation. Today, most of our electricity is generated by carbon-spewing fossil fuels—coal and natural gas. This year’s “Clean Energy Jobs Act” will require that 50% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2030 .
Advocating for Nonprofit Organizations
I was thrilled to be recognized (along with the fabulous Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk) as first-ever Legislative Champion by Maryland Nonprofitsfor my leadership on behalf of this vital sector. Throughout my career, I have worked closely with nonprofits.
Empowering Local School Boards to Set Local Calendars
School boards should make the best decisions for their students, not the tourism industry. My Committee Chair, Sen. Paul Pinsky, sought to return the decision-making authority for county schools’ calendars to our duly-elected school boards. The Senate voted to override the Governor’s subsequent veto.
Cultivating Tech Jobs in Maryland
A State audit in February revealed that TEDCO has been investing in companies outside Maryland; lacked appropriate oversight; and allowed significant conflicts of interest. Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones and I worked countless hours to amend my bill in order to address problems related to fiscal mismanagement, ethics, transparency, and fundamentally requiring that Maryland taxpayer money create Maryland jobs.
Confronting “Death with Dignity”
How each of us deals with end-of-life options could not be more personal or difficult . Regrettably, after an emotional debate during which many legislators shared deeply personal experiences, the Senate deadlocked at 23-23-1 .
Curtailing Governor Hogan’s Options to Widen I-270/I-495
Many of you have expressed serious concerns about Governor Hogan’s various proposals to widen I-270 and I-495. We approved budget language seeking to slow down the process. I will continue to keep you updated on this issue that affects our communities and our quality of life.
Curbing the Cost of Prescription Drugs
Many of you have shared stories about your challenges due to the rising cost of prescription drugs . Patients who are dependent on life-saving drugs may be unable to keep up. The legislature established a Prescription Drug Affordability Board.
Expanding the DREAM Act
A new bill will enable DREAMers to enroll directly in a four-year institution without graduating from a community college first. I also defended legislation on the floor to give DREAMers access to Senatorial scholarships.
Limiting Access to Guns
Obtaining a gun can be too easy. In Maryland, police evaluate applications and issue permits to carry, wear, or transport firearms. Applicants who have been denied could appeal to the Handgun Review Board. Appointees by Governor Hogan on the Board have overturned or modified police denials an astonishing 83% of the time. To take politics out of the process , appeals will now be heard by Administrative Law Judges.
Increasing Voter Registration
After voters approved Same-Day Voter Registration by nearly 68% last fall, the General Assembly created the necessary procedures for its implementation for next year’s election.
Enhancing Transparency at the State Board of Elections
The State Board of Elections (SBE) tapes and posts audio recordings of their monthly meetings. Unfortunately, there has been a delay in sharing the tapes online; sound quality has been poor; and listeners can’t easily identify the speakers. As a result of my bill, the SBE will now be required to livestream its meetings and publish its agendas and videos online.
Reducing Campaign Finance Fraud
Current law is silent on how or when money should be disbursed when a candidate dies with an active account. My bill creates a timetable and detailed processes in these circumstances.
Authorizing an Alternative Voting Method in Montgomery County
As a result of the overwhelming number of candidates in 2018, there was a groundswell of support for legislation, previously introduced by Del. Eric Luedtke and me, authorizing Montgomery County to choose a new voting system called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) . Although the County Delegation approved the measure unanimously, it did not move out of the House Committee.
Defending Our Federal Employees
More than 170,000 federal workers in Maryland were affected by the Trump Shutdown– the longest in American history. Montgomery County’s own Sen. Brian Feldman sponsored the “Federal Shutdown Paycheck Protection Act.” which became the first bill signed into law by the Governor this session.
Raising the Age to Purchase Tobacco
Smoking is implicated in over 90% of lung cancer deaths, and over 80% of smokers take their first puff before the age of 18. With the rise of “e-cigarettes,” there has been a sharp increase in nicotine addiction among teenagers. In response, we voted to raise the age to purchase tobaccoand nicotine vaping cartridges to 21.
Avoiding Data Breaches Due to “Swiping”
We made progress this year with some of my consumer protections bills. An increasing number of businesses require swiping of customers’ driver’s licenses during a transaction. The Senate passed my bill unanimously. Inexplicably, the House committee killed it. We will reintroduce the bill next year with a strong partner in the House and hope to join the 21 states that have already enacted similar restrictions.
Ending “Bait & Switch” at Gas Stations
My bill, endorsed by Attorney General Brian Frosh, required that either the highest (credit) price or both cash and credit prices be displayed at gas stations to reduce the ” bait & switch” tactics that deceive consumers. Although the General Assembly did not pass this statewide bill, I am exploring the possibility of having legislation introduced that would apply only in Montgomery County.
Delivering for Gaithersburg & Rockville
This year, several worthy initiatives in District 17 merited funds. I am elated that Gaithersburg earned $1,000,000 for an urgently needed new police station near City Hall. (We are hopeful that an additional $1,000,000 will be included in next year’s allocation!) The budget also includes $150,000 for Manna Food Pantry ; $75,000 forSunflower Bakery ; and $75,000 for EveryMind .
Walking to Defeat Multiple Sclerosis
I have participated in the “Walk MS” nearly every year since the 1990’s, when a dear friend’s daughter was first diagnosed. Since then, researchers have developed better medicines, although a cure has not yet been found. Would you consider walking with me in Rockville or supporting my efforts to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis?
Working for You Year-Round!
Each semester, I am allocated scholarship funds to support outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in my legislative district. The deadline for the fall 2019 semester is Friday, April 19, at 4:00pm. More information and the application are available on my website .
If you are having difficulty with a State agency, my staff and I may be able to help. Please reach out. Once again, it has been my honor to represent you in the State Senate, and I will see you in the community, in our schools, and at local events.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
(Rockville & Gaithersburg)