Cheryl Kagan | Maryland State Senator - District 17
About Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan

Cheryl Kagan has served in the Maryland Senate since 2015, where her energy, dedication, and experience in all sectors–public, private, and nonprofit–make her an effective advocate for the residents of Gaithersburg and Rockville. She is a member of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee; the Joint Audit Committee; the Joint Committee on Federal Relations; and chairs the Joint Committee on the Management of Public Funds.

A Montgomery County native and product of our public schools, Senator Kagan graduated from Vassar College with a degree in political science. She returned home with the aim of improving our community and later did graduate work in public policy at the University of Maryland. She worked at the national level to protect our civil liberties, elect progressive, pro-choice Democrats, and enact the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban.

During her eight years in the Maryland House of Delegates (1995-2003), Kagan established a reputation as an independent-minded legislator with a strong voice for her constituents on issues such as fairness, public safety, fiscal priorities, and transportation.

After choosing not to seek reelection in 2002, she stayed involved in the community as the first-ever Executive Director of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation. Under her guidance, the Foundation contributed over $1,000,000 each year to deserving nonprofit organizations, primarily in the DC-metro area. In addition to grantmaking, the Foundation created capacity-building programs as well as a leadership institute in partnership with Montgomery College. Kagan later served as the Director of Community Engagement for BBYO, an international nonprofit organization promoting Jewish teen leadership and volunteerism for nearly a hundred years. There, she was responsible for community outreach, partnerships, fundraising, and media throughout the Mid-Atlantic. She has also taught State and local government at the college level.

After falling just a few hundred votes short of winning a race for the Senate in 2010, Kagan was encouraged by legislative and community leaders, including retiring Senator Jennie Forehand, to run in 2014. She was victorious in one of the State’s most closely watched races, defeating her successor in the House of Delegates, who had served for 16 years.


Kagan in the Senate…

During the 2017 legislative session, Senator Kagan sponsored 21 bills. On behalf of the nonprofit community, she created the Nonprofit, Interest-Free, Micro Bridge Loan (NIMBL) fund to provide short-term loans of up to $25,000 to groups that have already earned government grants or contracts but haven’t yet received the promised funds. She also simplified references to these organizations in State law books. Kagan continued her efforts to enhance our 9-1-1 emergency system, passing a bill through the Senate that would have empowered our jurisdictional leaders to make recommendations regarding Next Generation technologies and best practices. While it never received a House vote, Kagan got a commitment from the Senate Finance Committee to studying a host of 9-1-1 issues over the interim.

Other successful legislation included giving cities a proven tool to combat fraud; ensuring County contractors’ compliance with disclosure of political contributions; and expediting the process of restoring one’s former name after a divorce. Kagan also prevailed upon the State Board of Elections to post audio recordings of their public meetings.

Kagan’s tenure in the House of Delegates and advocacy at the federal level make her a strong coalition-builder, strategic thinker, and successful legislator. All of her proposed bills passed the Senate in 2015, her freshman year. Her Organ Donation Act was designed to increase the number of people registered as donors, and her groundbreaking “Fertility Parity” law guaranteed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) coverage for married lesbian couples. During her second year, Kagan’s legislation mandated “Language Access” to make all State agency websites multilingual; clarified the voter registration process with her “Informed Voter” bill; and closed a loophole in fertility treatment coverage for married couples. She also sponsored legislation to address issues including driving under the influence of drugs and updating our 9-1-1 emergency systems. Each year, she has won funding for important local projects and is seen as an outspoken advocate for both the nonprofit sector and municipalities.

In 2016, Senator Kagan was selected to serve as the Senator on The Maryland Public-Private Partnership (P3) Marketing Corporation Board, which works to attract businesses, establish a branding strategy for the State, increase jobs, and expand the State’s economy. She was also appointed to the Commission on the Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Passage of the 19th Amendment (granting women the right to vote) to the United States Constitution. Kagan was a member of the One Maryland Blue Ribbon Commission on Procurement and is a member of both the Women Legislators of Maryland and the Veterans Caucus

Senator Kagan shares her policy expertise outside the State through the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). She serves as Vice Chair of NCSL’s Redistricting And Elections Committee, and she has played every role from speaker to moderator to attendee at their educational conferences.

Kagan in the Community…

In recent years, Senator Kagan has been engaged at both the national and local levels.  As Executive Director of Americans for Democratic Action Education Fund, she convened expert panels on pressing policy issues on Capitol Hill. In partnership with the Community Foundation for Montgomery County, she launched the Fund for Montgomery, raising private funding to continue important events like the World of Montgomery Festival and Community Service Day.

Currently, when the General Assembly is not in session, Kagan works with Community Ministries of Rockville, a nonprofit organization that provides help to vulnerable Montgomery County residents.

Senator Kagan has always been active in volunteer community activities. For many years, she was a regular guest on television and radio as a Democratic spokesperson. She has volunteered for organizations that include the American Jewish Committee and Leadership Montgomery (a proud member of the Class of 2002!). In addition, Kagan was appointed by the House Speaker to the Maryland State Arts Council for eight years; by the County Executive to the Charter Review Commission for four years; and was recruited to the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County for six years. Kagan is also a trustee at Hospice Caring, Inc.

Kagan established and continues to host a nationally-known house concert series (Folk ‘N Great Music) for touring singer/songwriters. Hers was the first unionized house concert series in the country.

Her “UnNaugural Concert,” a sold-out event on Inauguration Day 2017, featured five artists supporting five advocacy organizations. Kagan produced and emceed the concert, which raised the spirits of the 500-plus guests and raised a total of over $60,000 to pay the artists and support the important work of the ACLU, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, League of Conservation Voters, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Planned Parenthood

As a longtime conference-goer, Kagan has been leading the effort, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Commerce and Visit Baltimore, to attract Folk Alliance International’s annual conference to Maryland for five years for an estimated economic impact of $25 million. 

Honors & Awards…

Recognized three times as one of Maryland’s “Top 100 Women” and inducted into The Daily Record’s “Circle of Excellence,” Senator Kagan was also selected by Montgomery County’s Business and Professional Women as a “Woman of Achievement” and as both a Blaustein and Comay Fellow by the American Jewish Committee.

Kagan was recognized by the national Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus as their Government Leader of the year in 2018. The Maryland Association of Counties also commended her work on 9-1-1 with a Recognition Award. In 2017, she earned the Phyllis Campbell Newsome Public Policy Award by the Center for Nonprofit Advancement for her work on behalf of the sector. The Greater Washington Board of Trade twice recognized Kagan for leadership on behalf of the Intercounty Connector, and The Baltimore Sun named her as one of their “Rising Stars.” For her leadership on environmental policy and her perfect 100% lifetime score, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters has named her a “Green Champion.” In all three years of her service in the Senate, Kagan has been honored as a “Municipal Superstar” by the Maryland Municipal League (MML) for her leadership on behalf of Rockville, Gaithersburg, and the 155 other cities and towns in Maryland.

Abbreviated Biography

Senator Cheryl C. Kagan (D-District 17) represents Rockville and Gaithersburg in the Maryland State Senate. First elected in 1994 to the House of Delegates, Kagan served eight years before stepping down to work in the nonprofit sector. In 2014, she returned to the General Assembly, winning her first Senate term. Kagan serves on the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and is the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Management of Public Funds.

Kagan has earned a reputation as an independent-minded legislator with a strong voice for her constituents on public safety, consumer protection, transportation, and more. While in the Senate, Kagan passed the Organ Donation Act to increase the number of people registered as donors, and her groundbreaking “Fertility Parity” law guaranteed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) coverage for married lesbian couples.

She has been recognized three times as one of Maryland’s “Top 100 Women” and was inducted into The Daily Record’s “Circle of Excellence.” She has also been named a “Green Champion” by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and is a three-time Maryland Municipal League “Municipal Superstar” for her effective leadership on behalf of Maryland’s 157 cities and towns.

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