2017 Legislative Wrap-Up (April 18, 2017)
April 18, 2017
For the third year, I have had the honor of representing District 17 (Gaithersburg and Rockville) in the Maryland State Senate. Thanks for writing, emailing, tweeting, visiting, and calling my office during the legislative session. Your perspective helps me better represent our communities– and the entire state. Now that we have adjourned, I am writing to tell you about the General Assembly’s work.
As you can imagine, the tenor of this year’s session was different as we tried to anticipate the repercussions of the new federal Administration’s policies. From uncertainty over the future of health care, to the fear felt by our immigrant neighbors, to the danger of ignoring climate change, we were guided and motivated by dramatic policy changes in Washington.
The legislative session began and ended with the override of two ill-advised vetoes by Gov. Hogan:
very first bill the legislature sent to Gov. Hogan will ensure that Maryland secures $4.8 million in federal funding to increase Metro safety and reliability. Last summer, I secured $1 million in State funding for shuttle bus service during SafeTrack maintenance, and I continue to make transit a priority.The
Too often, Marylanders are forced to choose between going to work to support their families and staying home to care for a sick child– or themselves. Along with 23 of my Democratic Senate colleagues (and no Republicans), I co-sponsored and supported a bill that would allow about 700,000 more Maryland workers to earn paid sick leave at companies that employ at least 15 people. Gov. Hogan has signaled his intention to veto the bill.
We became the first state with natural gas reserves to pass a fracking ban. I co-sponsored the ban because hydraulic fracturing can cause earthquakes and contaminate drinking water. Due to tireless advocacy from people around the State, Gov. Hogan relented and signed the bill into law.
Opioid addiction took the lives of nearly 1,500 Marylanders last year. The General Assembly responded with legislation to address the growing opioid epidemic by creating substance abuse crisis centers; an emergency hotline; and addiction prevention programs.
With leadership from Attorney General Brian Frosh, Maryland became the first state in the nation to address unconscionable price increases for essential, life-saving drugs. Now legal action can be taken against greedy corporate drug manufacturers that increase prices more than 50% on generic or off-patent medicines.
I strongly believe that most elected officials do their jobs with integrity. Unfortunately, the session was bookended by scandals involving a few legislators. These incidents reinforced the need for comprehensive ethics reform that we passed unanimously. This law will increase financial disclosure requirements for legislative and executive branch officials and prevent them from immediately taking the ‘revolving door’ into lobbying.
The General Assembly passed a $43.5 billion balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2018. We successfully closed a $400 million revenue shortfall without increasing taxes. We also capped public university tuition increases at 2%; funded the fight against opioid addiction; and gave a 3.5% raise to workers who care for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. The capital budget included over $4.5 billion for projects, including schools, libraries, hospitals, and infrastructure repairs.
Decisions by the new Administration related to policies, the budget, and judicial appointments will unquestionably have a significant impact on our future.
The Legislature worked to protect Marylanders from the worst of many disturbing changes:
Also in response to federal action, we considered the “Trust Act,” which would have restricted local law enforcement from reporting undocumented residents to federal officials. The bill, which attempted to ensure that immigrants feel safe in our communities, passed the House; a heavily amended version did not receive a vote in the Senate.
My committee has a broad and diverse jurisdiction and considered more bills (556!) than any other. Some highlights include:
Protecting Our Health and Environment: In addition to banning fracking, the Committee:
My proposal for a statewide ban on polystyrene food packaging was opposed by corporate chemical lobbyists, and I will continue to work on the issue over the summer. (Lead Senate Sponsor)Polystyrene (Styrofoam) is potentially cancerous and does not biodegrade. Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, DC, Gaithersburg, and 80 jurisdictions in 8 other states have already banned it.
Physician assistants (PA’s) treat chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. My bill would have allowed PA’s to dispense the same medications they can already prescribe, getting care into their patients’ hands immediately. (Lead Senate Sponsor)
Ensuring High-Quality Education: For five years, Maryland schools were ranked the very best in the country but have dropped in recent years. To improve our schools, my Committee:
Reforming Elections: It is vital to our democracy that our elections are free and fair and that voters trust the system. To accomplish this, we:
After talking to frustrated constituents who wanted to vote in last year’s presidential primaries, I sponsored a bill to create parity between when registered and unregistered voters can select a political party. I plan to continue to raise the issue of ballot access next year. (Lead Sponsor)
Working with a Senate colleague who is also a former diplomat, I sought to make Maryland morewelcoming to academic and international observers on Election Day. (Lead Sponsor)
Thanks to a joint effort between the State and Montgomery County, Marriott International– the world’s largest hotel chain– will remain in Maryland. They will maintain at least 3,500 jobs and invest $600 million in a corporate headquarters in downtown Bethesda in return for tax incentives.
Under the “More Jobs for Marylanders Act,” businesses will receive tax incentives for creating manufacturing jobs in low-employment areas of the State.
As the Senator for Maryland’s high-tech corridor, I introduced a bill that would have made it easier for technology start-ups to raise venture capital funds while receiving assistance from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). (Lead Senate Sponsor)
An effort to diversify businesses granted licenses to grow and dispense medical marijuana failed in the final hours of session. The process is expected to move forward as planned.
Guinness beer is coming to Maryland! The General Assembly passed legislation to pave the way for their new brewery. As amended, the bill will increase the number of barrels a brewery can produce for on-site sale without harming existing local breweries.
Folk Alliance International‘s (FAI) conferences draw thousands of musicians, presenters, and fans from around the world– and bring in about $4.5 million in annual economic impact. In seeking to lure FAI to Baltimore for their 2020 conference and beyond, I recruited Visit Baltimore, the State’s Office of Tourism, and Mayor Catherine Pugh. Last month, we toured venues and enjoyed music by 14 local performers. (My initiative
after years of attending!)
When 9-1-1 fails, people die! After two years of traveling the State and working with experts, I am heartbroken to report that despite a unanimous vote in the Senate, the House failed to act on my urgently needed legislation to support Maryland’s transition into Next Generation 9-1-1 systems. Two of my constituents have died during 9-1-1 outages, including my friend and Rockville activist Carl Henn, for whom the bill was named. NextGen 9-1-1 will help emergency personnel more accurately locate a caller and allow them to receive texts, video, and photos. My bill would have created a Directors’ Council to offer expertise on improved call-taking and dispatch protocol; facilitate regional collaboration; and identify new ways to more reliably measure performance of our 9-1-1 centers. Over the summer, I will continue to work on issues related to emergency preparedness, including NextGen 9-1-1 funding, updated technology, worker’s compensation, and liability protection in hopes of moving our State forward. (Lead Sponsor)
While Maryland already allows the use of police-worn body cameras, our county and city police departments have been waiting for the General Assembly to create guidelines for the release of body camera footage. My bill balanced the need for public access with the privacy rights of crime victims. The Judicial Proceedings Committee wanted more time to reflect on the issue. (Lead Senate Sponsor)
Studies have found that drugs are present in 40% of fatally injured drivers. I proposed a bill that would have launched a two-year, statewide, voluntary pilot program to test impaired drivers for recent drug use, gathering data on the effectiveness of technology that uses oral swabs. With an opioid epidemic and more relaxed marijuana laws, it is vital to crack down on drugged driving.(Lead Senate Sponsor)
Nonprofits provide essential services to our communities, addressing issues like hunger, homelessness, health care, and illiteracy. They are also an integral part of our economy, employing 10% of Marylanders. I am proud to have enacted legislation that:
While I strongly believe that public money should only go to public schools, Gov. Hogan insists on diverting taxpayer money to private schools. I introduced a bill that would have prohibited nonpublic schools that receive State funds from discriminating in faculty, staff, and student retention. Sadly, the bill didn’t gain traction in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. (Lead Senate Sponsor)
In the same way, our State government should not do business with companies that discriminate. I sponsored a bill to extend anti-discrimination protections to State contracting and defended it for a week of lively Senate debate, ultimately winning the bill’s passage in the Senate. The House of Delegates never acted. (Senate Passage! Lead Senate Sponsor)
Thanks to a new rule by the Maryland Court of Appeals, defendants will no longer be held in jail solely for their inability to pay bail. Proposed legislation (strongly supported by the bail bond industry) would have reversed this rule, but it was never voted on by the House.
Following a divorce, many women wish to return to their former last name. My bill will expedite the process of restoring one’s former name within 18 months of a divorce. (Passed! Lead Senate Sponsor)
I was greatly disappointed that– for the ninth year in a row– a bill to limit the parental rights of rapists failed to pass in the final hours of session.
Among my priorities in the legislature is protecting customers from being misled or defrauded. Regrettably, the Senate Finance Committee did not approve any of the following bills:
As we neared adjournment, the legislature attempted to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) from collecting and selling data about customers’ online behavior in response to the repeal of federal protections. Although the Senate passed the bill, the House failed to act.
As a “Municipal Superstar” (in 2015, 2016 and 2017!), I have a record of leadership on behalf of Maryland’s cities and towns. I sponsored two bills, one identified by Gaithersburg Councilmember Ryan Spiegel, which gives cities a proven tool to combat fraud(Passed! Lead Sponsor), and another which ensures County contractors’ compliance with disclosure of political contributions(Passed! Lead Sponsor)
While most attention understandably goes to bills that pass, those that fail can be equally important. Working with advocates for local government, I helped defeat a well-intentioned bill that could have placed an unpredictable burden on county and city budgets. And unfortunately, a long-sought compromise on stormwater funding failed near the end of session.
Your District 17 Team (Kagan, Barve, Gilchrist, and Platt) obtained funding for two projects sought by our constituent cities, Gaithersburg and Rockville.
Senate President Mike Miller appointed me to serve as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Management of Public Funds, which oversees the financial health of state and local public accounts. Just as on the Joint Audit Committee, my focus will be the effective oversight of taxpayer money. I was also appointed to serve on the Joint Committee on Federal Relations. As a former Chief of Staff and gun control lobbyist on Capitol Hill, I believe that my experience at the federal level will be an asset in times of turbulence and change. Most recently, I was also appointed to the Joint Committee on Program Open Space.
Last month, I was thrilled to have been selected again as one of the Top 100 Women in Marylandby The Daily Record. As a three-time winner, I will be inducted into the Circle of Excellence. Winners are chosen for their leadership, community service, and mentoring. The ceremony will be held in Baltimore on Monday, April 24th.
As Vice Chair of the Committee on Redistricting and Elections for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), I collaborate with and learn from lawmakers across the country and experts in the field of election policy.
Working for You…
My hard-working staff and I may be able to help you resolve a pending problem with a State agency. Please do not hesitate to call or email my office.
I have awarded financial aid scholarships to 60 college and graduate students for their outstanding academic achievement and exemplary civic engagement. The deadline to apply for a fall scholarship is Sunday, April 23rd. For more information, please visit the “Scholarships” page of my website (www.cherylkagan.org).
Now that the Senate has adjourned, I will attend community events, prepare for next year’s legislative session, and return to my position with Community Ministries of Rockville (celebrating our 50th anniversary!).
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
Rockville & Gaithersburg
P.S. Please be in touch if you would like me to attend an event in District 17, or if you would like to share a legislative idea. Might you consider joining or supporting me for the annual Multiple Sclerosis Walk on Sunday, April 23rd in Rockville Town Square? I hope to see you at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 20th and at Rockville’s Hometown Holidays from May 27-29th.