Cheryl Kagan | Maryland State Senator - District 17
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“Where Genius Grows” Podcast

“We all do the best we can. And I think whatever someone decides to do is the right step for them. But speaking out does have an impact. And I know that sharing my story brought comfort to many women, brought accountability to one man in particular, got legislation passed, and I think served as a bit of an educational opportunity or a warning to a lot of other men. And that makes it all worthwhile. It’s all of that.” Maryland State Senator, Cheryl Kagan

Cheryl Kagan represents Maryland State Senate District 17 in Annapolis. On March 1, 2018 she was inappropriately touched by a lobbyist. After she she called him out publicly, inspired by brave voices in the #MeToo movement, the lobbyist called her delusional and threatened to sue. Then Sen. Kagan produced video evidence and drove the legislature to pass an anti-sexual harassment law. In this interview, Sen. Kagan discusses what went into speaking up and taking action.

Listen to the podcast here.

‘Peace Day’ declared in honor of young poet who delivered inspirational messages before his death

July 15, 2018
By Brian O’Keefe
ABC News
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At a Peace Day celebration today in Rockville, Maryland, Mattie T. J. Stepanek was remembered.

The memory of the boy, who died when he was 13 years old in 2004 of a rare form of muscular dystrophy, was honored Saturday by State Sen. Cheryl Kagan with a proclamation. It declared that Tuesday, July 17, would be considered “Peace Day” across the state of Maryland.

PHOTO: Mattie Stepanek, 11, and his mother, Jeni, are shown at their home in Upper Marlboro, Md., Nov. 5, 2001.Matt Houston/AP, FILE
Mattie Stepanek, 11, and his mother, Jeni, are shown at their home in Upper Marlboro, Md., Nov. 5, 2001.

The date was selected because Mattie — who wrote several books of inspirational poetry and was an advocate of peace — would have turned 28 Tuesday.

PHOTO: A proclamation in honor of Mattie Stepanek, an award-winning author and a peace advocate who died when he was 13 years old of dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy.The Office of the Governor of Maryland
A proclamation in honor of Mattie Stepanek, an award-winning author and a peace advocate who died when he was 13 years old of dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy.more +

Kagan, who was so moved at a local “Peace Day” celebration last year that she committed to expanding it to county, state and national levels, presented the award to the boy’s mother. Jeni Stepanek has set out a goal to make the day a national holiday.

PHOTO: Sen. Cheryl Kagan of Maryland reading from a proclamation in honor of Mattie Stepanek, who died in 2004 at the age of 13 from a rare disorder.Brian O’Keefe/ABC News
Sen. Cheryl Kagan of Maryland reading from a proclamation in honor of Mattie Stepanek, who died in 2004 at the age of 13 from a rare disorder.more +

“This is exciting, as it has pushed the holiday to the next level, across the state,” Jeni Stepanek said.

In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mattie appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Good Morning America” to spread his joyful and positive message on humanity, love and life-inspired to millions of readers and television viewers.

Mattie, who wrote seven best-selling books of poetry and openly discussed struggling with his illness, spent most of the last two years of his life in a hospital.

On December 4, 2001, Mattie appeared on Good Morning America — one his many appearances — to discuss one of his books. Charlie Gibson, who was the anchor of the show then, surprised him by bringing out his favorite peacemaker, former President Jimmy Carter.

“You had but to see his face when we brought his hero, President Carter, in to meet him,” Gibson said Saturday.

But the meeting seemed just as emotional for Carter, who seemed moved to tears when he met Mattie.

Gibson added that it wasn’t just the former president who was touched by the boy’s story.

PHOTO: Former President Jimmy Carter comforts a bereaved Jeni Stepanek, mother of the late poet Mattie J.T. Stepanek, before his funeral at the St. Catherine Labour Catholic Church on June 8, 2004 in Wheaton, Md.Matt Houston/AP, FILE
Former President Jimmy Carter comforts a bereaved Jeni Stepanek, mother of the late poet Mattie J.T. Stepanek, before his funeral at the St. Catherine Labour Catholic Church on June 8, 2004 in Wheaton, Md.more +

“I can only wonder from whence Mattie drew such reserves of happiness, but it made him an inspiration to all of us fortunate enough to know him,” he added.

That reach seemed to endure, as more than 600 people attended the proclamation ceremony in honor of Mattie.

Jeni Stepanek@jenistepanek

The Mattie J. T. Stepanek Foundation has been founded in his memory. Jeni Stepanek, who is a senior faculty specialist at the University of Maryland, leads the foundation.

PHOTO: Mattie Stepanek, 11, and his mother, Jeni, are shown at their home in Upper Marlboro, Md., Nov. 5, 2001.Matt Houston/AP, FILE
Mattie Stepanek, 11, and his mother, Jeni, are shown at their home in Upper Marlboro, Md., Nov. 5, 2001.

On its website, it reads that it exists “to further Mattie’s message of hope and peace.”

Elrich declares victory in Democratic primary for Montgomery Co. executive

July 9, 2018
By Abigail Constantino
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WASHINGTON — The counting is done in the race for Montgomery County Executive, and only 80 votes separate the two Democratic candidates.

The count ended with 37,529 votes for Montgomery County council member Marc Elrich and 37,449 for businessman David Blair, according to Montgomery County’s election results. The deadline to certify the votes is July 16.

The primary election happened on June 26 but the count recently finished Sunday in Montgomery County to determine whether it will be Elrich or Blair who will be the Democratic candidate in November.

Vote-counters went through more than 5,000 provisional and absentee ballots over the weekend. Blair narrowed the lead Saturday after provisional ballots were counted.

By Sunday night, some 974 ballots were up for rejection — the last remaining to be counted, Montgomery County Board of Elections spokesman Marjorie Roher said in an email.

“We had six talented candidates, all with experience and a vision for Montgomery County’s future. So much is at stake that it really matters who wins,” said Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who sat in as on observer on Thursday while canvassers tallied the provisional ballots.

A recount could be requested by candidates, but depending on a number of factors, the campaign of the petitioner could have to foot the bill.

There are a few cases in which a candidate asking for a recount would be relieved of the cost: If the results of the recount flip the results and change the outcome of the race; if the petitioner sees an increase of 2 percent or more of the total votes cast; or if there’s a less than 0.1 percent difference of the total votes cast for the candidates.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.


July 2, 2018
By Cynthia Prairie
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Last Tuesday’s primary election was “a tectonic shift,” Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, said afterwards. “It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t happen overnight — except that it happened overnight.” She is referring to the loss by a number of trusted allies of and committee chairs appointed by Senate President Mike Miller. That seismic shift included the loss of most of Miller’s remaining leadership team. Still in place are only one of four major committee chairs and two vice chairs, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

‘Political earthquake’: Progressives oust Democratic incumbents in statehouse primaries

June 27, 2018
By Rachel Chason and Teo Armus
The Washington Post
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It wasn’t just the governor’s race.

In addition to powering Democrat Ben Jealous’s victory over establishment favorite Rushern L. Baker III on Tuesday, progressive voters in Maryland ousted at least four incumbents allied with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) — causing a shift in the state Senate.

“I call it a political earthquake,” said Larry Stafford, executive director of Progressive Maryland, which backed candidates who defeated two powerful Democratic committee chairs and the Senate’s president pro tem.

Stafford said progressive activists will now have much more leverage to push for a $15 minimum wage, which has previously stalled in the General Assembly; universal health care; and “policies to better protect immigrants.”

Miller, the longest-serving state Senate president in the country, declined a request for an interview.

Todd Eberly, a political-science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said there is a bleaker possibility for Democrats, as well: Candidates nominated Tuesday may be so left-leaning that centrist voters will back GOP candidates in November.

“Maryland has always had a big-tent Democratic Party, with some moderate and conservative Democrats included,” Eberly said. “Those folks are waking up today and realizing the party they grew up with won’t necessarily be on the ballot in November.”

Some, but not all, of the successful challengers are unopposed in the general election. They include the young, progressive state delegates who defeated three influential Baltimore incumbents: state Sens. Joan Carter Conway, 67, chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee; Nathaniel J. McFadden, 71, the president pro tem; and Barbara Robinson, 80.

Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, lost to Arthur Ellis, a veteran who describes himself as a progressive Democrat. Ellis will face off against Republican John Leonard this fall.

Union support was a key component in several of Tuesday’s primaries. The Service Employees International Union Local 500, which backed Jealous, spent more than $100,000 to oppose Miller and his lieutenants.

While Miller easily defeated his challenger, the ousted incumbents include several of his top allies, including Middleton, McFadden and Conway.

“Democratic primary voters are fed up with the traditional ways of doing business,” said SEIU 500 political director Mark McLaurin. He said the union will press for legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 and allow public sector employees to enter comprehensive collective bargaining agreements.

State Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), who was easily nominated for another term, said the “number of respected legislators who were defeated is astonishing.” She said few in the Senate took seriously the challenge to Middleton, who was elected in 1995 and widely viewed as a potential successor to Miller.

The article continues here

Sen. Kagan and District 17 Delegates Review the 2018 Legislative Session at the
Meeting of the Gaithersburg Mayor and Council, May 24, 2018

Senator Kagan’s remarks begin at 38:35.

Memorial making its rounds through the county outlines those killed in school shootings

April 3, 2018
By Suzanne Pollak
The Sentinel Newspapers
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A memorial to students killed by gun violence this year is currently on display at Richard Montgomery High School. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK

As David Williams gazed at the display of T-shirts blowing in the breeze at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, he shook his head and said, “These could be my classmates. These T-shirts could fit me.”

Each of the 258 T-shirts hanging along a fence at the high school depicts one young life that had been cut down so far this year due to gun violence in schools throughout the country.

Williams, a 17-year-old high-school senior, said, “It’s important to demonstrate a point like this. It’s definitely attracting attention.”

The T-shirt exhibit has been making the rounds at the many County high schools and already visited Winston Churchill High School in Potomac and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

The display debuted at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School.

MoCo Students for Gun Control created the graphic portrayals. That student group formed a week after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Since the T-shirts were first hung one month ago, the students had to add more following the murder of eight students at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

While all the T-shirts had been white, the newest ones are in orange. Each is sparsely decorated in black marker and bears the name and age of each victim. Some T-shirts merely are adorned with the words “unidentified male” or “age unknown.”

“I like that our school is sending a message and not ignoring” what is happening, said Leah Leifer, a ninth grader at Richard Montgomery.

Her classmate, Valeria Quispe, scanned the display and declared, “It makes me sad.”

Added ninth grader James Pagara, “I think it’s great. It spreads awareness.”

State Senator Cheryl Kagan, who represents District 17, which covers Rockville and Gaithersburg, videotaped herself as she slowly walked the length of the display.

Kagan called the deaths of the young people “senseless murder” in her video, which she posted on her Facebook page.

These are students “who will never wear their school colors, who won’t go to the prom, who won’t walk across the stage at their high-school graduation’ who won’t have a career or a family or an opportunity to travel, celebrate joyous times, struggle through tough times,” she said as her camera zoomed in on the shirts.

MoCo Students for Gun Control set up a GoFundMe account to cover the costs of the project. The goal was to raise $1,000, but the students surpassed their goal by more than $500.

Any money they raised that wasn’t used will go to other projects aimed at ending gun violence in schools, the group said on the GoFundMe page.

While the students said the T-shirt project was important, “Our end goal, of course, is to pressure legislators into passing the necessary bills to reduce and eventually eliminate the risk of school shootings. Everyone at B-CC is extremely passionate about this issue,” they wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Sen. Kagan Accepts National Award For Her Work on Next Generation 9-1-1

State Song May Soon Be Demoted to Historical Status

April 3, 2018
By Suzanne Pollak
The Sentinel Newspapers
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“Maryland, My Maryland,” the Civil War battle hymn that refers to “Northern scum” soon may no longer be the state song.

But rather than replace “the embarrassing, outdated and racist song,” as Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) called it, the State Senate opted last week to demote the song to historical status.

“It will be designated as historical. We are putting it aside,” said Kagan, who stressed that her preference for the new designation is “historical, not historic. ‘Historical’ means that’s what we used to believe.”

The lyrics, which are from a poem written in the early days of the Civil War by James Ryder Randall, “are offensive and outdated,” she said, explaining why she has been trying to repeal and replace the song since 2016.

Before the song is officially downgraded, the House of Delegates must agree. An official vote in the House has not yet been scheduled.

The House held a hearing before its Health and Government Operations Committee March 28 but no action was taken.

However, Del. Shane Pendergrass, (D) of Howard County, who chairs that committee, said, “These bills tend to go nowhere as long as I’m chair. I won’t call that a promise, but I would call that fairly good” information.

Maryland legislators have tried unsuccessfully since 1974 to change the state song, and Kagan had hoped this time the legislature would either pick a different song or hold a contest for a new state song.

The Senate passed SB790, with 30 Democrats voting in favor and 13 Republicans voting against. 

Republican Senator J. B. Jennings, of District 7, thought that political correctness was going too far. On the Senate floor, he asked, “Where does it end? We did it with statues and now it’s the state song,” he said, pointing to the recent push to remove Civil War statues that glorify those who ruled during slavery.

Removing dated statues or a song may be merely symbolic Kagan said, but, she asked, “What’s wrong with symbolism?”

Maryland removed a statue of U.S. Supreme Court Roger B. Taney, who wrote the infamous holding in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which declared that African-Americans could not be citizens of the United States – Kagan called that move symbolic and the right thing to do.

When asked if she would continue to work for a new state song, Kagan said no, calling this the “time to move forward.”

“I realize there are more important things to work on, like education, transportation, healthcare and safety,” she said. “The state song shouldn’t take up a lot of our time.”

Kagan testified before the House committee, noting, “The tune is a German drinking song. It’s ‘O Tannenbaum.’ It’s a Christmas song.”

She told committee members that changing the designation of the song “is an imperfect way of addressing an imperfect situation.”

Rev. Kobi Little, political action chair for the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, also testified against continuing “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song. The lyrics celebrate the Confederacy and gun violence, he said.

Three men then testified in favor of keeping the state song.

“Once it’s gone, it’s forgotten,” said Jay Barringer of the Maryland Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“What’s next, perhaps the state flag?” he asked.

While the possibly-designated historic song will always contain the verse, “Thou wilt not cower in the dust, Maryland! Thy beaming sword shall never rust,” Kagan looks at last week’s Senate vote optimistically, if the measure is passed by the House committee and then the full House of Delegates.

“At least it’s not our state song anymore.”

Here’s why cybersecurity experts say Maryland’s ballot delivery system is a target for hackers

April 1, 2018
By Rachel Chason
Washington Post
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Cybersecurity experts are asking lawmakers to bring Maryland’s ballot access laws — which they say prioritize accessibility to an extent that makes the voting system vulnerable to hacking — in line with other states ahead of November’s elections.

Information revealed last month by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about Russian interference in the political process highlights the need for states to examine the security of voting systems, advocates and computer scientists warn. But legislators say they must balance those concerns with ensuring ballots can be easily obtained by all eligible Marylanders who want to vote.

“There is a tension there,” said state Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery). “With all the news of election tampering in 2016, it’s critically important that voters have confidence in the security and accuracy of our elections . . . . We are also a fairly progressive state that wants to make it reasonably easy for people to vote.”

Maryland is one of three states in which any resident can receive their ballot online and the only state in which there is no signature verification process required by law, advocates said. To have their ballots counted, residents must print them out and return them by mail or in person.

Russians “have already demonstrated that they have all of the tools they would need, and know how to use them, to impersonate real Maryland voters,” Rebecca Wilson of the nonpartisan group SAVE Our Votes said during a committee hearing in the state Senate last month.

Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, said the General Assembly made “a policy decision” that every absentee voter should be able to receive a ballot electronically upon request. The board has worked to “make sure that system is secure,” she said.

“We would not offer a system if we didn’t think it was secure for voters to use,” Charlson said.

But advocates say board officials overestimate the state’s ability to detect hacking.

The scenario they lay out is this: Bad actors — whether inside or outside the United States — could send out “phishing” emails to voters from addresses similar to the State Board of Elections account. Following links in these emails, voters would give up their credentials while mistakenly thinking they had completed and sent in legitimate ballots.

Meanwhile, the bad actors could use the credentials to receive the actual ballot from the board, sent to an email address of their choice. They could then send it in to be counted on Election Day.

Counties would have little way of distinguishing legitimate absentee ballots from fake ones, the advocates say, because Maryland does not check signatures. 

In a different scenario, there could also be “chaos on Election Day” if residents go to vote in person and realize their information has been hacked by someone who submitted fraudulent absentee ballots in their names, said Poorvi Vora, a professor of computer science at George Washington University.

The scenarios are strictly hypothetical — officials said they detected no signs of such attempted hacking in Maryland during the 2016 election, and nationally, there have been no widespread campaigns in which hackers mailed in fraudulent ballots.

Charlson said that advocates’ information is incomplete and that “continuous monitoring” is used to mitigate risk created by the online delivery system.

She said she could not publicly share everything the elections board does to guard against hackers because of security concerns.

“Every system has risks,” Charlson said. “We bank and pay bills online, and we do so knowing the risks. We have, however, an obligation to make our online systems as secure as possible.”

Phishing, she added, is “certainly” a concern for the board, which encourages voters to call and ask for information if they have questions about the legitimacy of an email from the board.

Lawmakers opened up the online absentee ballot delivery system to all residents — previously it had been available only to those with disabilities — ahead of the 2016 election cycle, despite concerns from a vocal group of computer scientists and advocates.

The goal was to increase voter participation rates in the state and to make sure accessibility of ballots was not a barrier to voting.

But that goal has not come to fruition, said Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Baltimore County), who is sponsoring a bill, backed by advocates and cybersecurity experts, to allow only residents who have disabilities, live overseas or serve in the military to have their ballots delivered online.

The percentage of absentee voters has remained steady over time despite changes to the law, and people who requested online ballots have returned them at lower rates than those who asked for paper ballots, Wilson said. In 2016, 71 percent of voters who received their ballots online returned them, compared with 82 percent who received a hard copy in the mail, she said.

In other efforts to make voting more accessible, the General Assembly has approved bills this session to prohibit municipalities from requiring residents to provide a reason for requesting an absentee ballot and another bill that allows for automatic voter registration at various state agencies.

The version of the bill to limit online ballots that was introduced in the House of Delegates in February did not advance beyond committee.

Kagan said its limits on who can receive their ballots online seemed to her too “constrictive.”

“We have to look carefully at implementation to make sure we’re not disenfranchising a swath of voters,” Kagan said. She said she hoped to introduce amendments that would allow people, including college students, first responders who are out of the state and those on emergency out-of-state trips, to get their ballots online.

Alaska and Washington are the only other states that allow any resident to request an absentee ballot online. But both states have signature verification processes in place, unlike Maryland, officials said.

Ranked choice voting bill falls short, but backers say coming election may give it a boost

March 30, 2018
By Louis Peck
Bethesda Magazine
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As has been the case on several occasions in recent years, a bill to authorize Montgomery County election officials to utilize so-called “ranked choice voting” emerged from the county’s 24-member House delegation earlier this year with a favorable recommendation.

And, as has also been the case in the past, that’s as far as it progressed in the 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly—due to adjourn a week from Monday.

But some supporters of the measure say the huge field of County Council at-large candidates in this year’s June 26 primary may give the proposal a boost when the legislature reconvenes in 2019.

“In prior years, a lot of people said, ‘What problem is this going to solve? I don’t understand why we need to do this’,” Del. David Moon observed. “This year, with 33 or so candidates running for council, suddenly it’s ‘OK, maybe we need to take a closer look at this.’ ”

Moon is a resident of Takoma Park, one of a handful of cities nationwide—including Minneapolis and San Francisco—where ranked choice voting is now utilized in local elections.

In this year’s bill—sponsored by Dels. Eric Luedtke of Burtonsville and Marice Morales of Silver Spring and Sen. Cheryl Kagan of Rockville—ranked choice voting was defined as “a method of casting and tabulating votes in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, and votes are tabulated in a manner that reflects voter preference.”

For ranked choice voting in elections with multiple contenders, as explained by Minneapolis officials, “candidates with no mathematical possibility of winning are defeated, and votes from those candidates are transferred to the next ranked candidate on those ballots. When a candidate reaches the required threshold and is declared elected, that candidate’s surplus votes … are distributed proportionately to the next ranked candidates on the ballots of the elected candidate.”

Supporters contend the end result is that successful candidates have a greater base of support—and increased legitimacy.

“You could have members of the County Council elected with as little as 10 percent of the primary vote, and given that primary voters are not all of the voters in the county, you’re talking about a very small portion of the electorate determining who will be on  the council,” Luedtke said of this year’s primary. “And that’s cause for serious concern.” He predicted the crowded Democratic field in the council at-large race “will create some momentum for change.”

While this year’s measure was introduced as a “local bill”—meaning it would have applied only to Montgomery County elections—sources suggested it ran into resistance from legislators from other areas of the state reluctant to open the door to such changes in their respective jurisdictions.

Bill would speed up evictions of dangerous tenants

March 30, 2018
By Kelsi Loos
Frederick News Post
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ANNAPOLIS — A Maryland senator wants to make it easier to get rid of a bad neighbor, but some of his colleagues are concerned it could open the door to abuse.

Sen. Michael Hough’s (R-District 4) proposed legislation that would cut in half — from 14 to seven days — the length of time a landlord has to notify tenants in writing that they are being evicted because of dangerous behavior.

Senate Bill 555 will go before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on Tuesday after narrowly passing through the Senate on March 19 by a vote of 26 to 21.

It appears likely that Hough’s bill would be well-received in the House, as long as it makes it through the committee and to the floor before the session is scheduled to end April 9. A similar House version of the proposed law got a 126-to-12 vote in the House on March 15.

In addition to reducing the notice a landlord must give a tenant, the bill also reduces the window for appeal. Either the tenant or the landlord would have seven days instead of 10 after a judgment to appeal to Circuit Court.

While Hough took the position that his proposal would increase public safety by speeding up the process to remove dangerous tenants, Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) had reservations.

“My concern about this bill is that dangerous is not defined, that seven days is awfully fast, and that there may be people with mental illness or other issues that won’t have the information that they need in order to get legal help, in order to get access to guidance, or to get into the courtroom,” she said.

The proposed measure would define dangerous behavior as demonstrating a clear and imminent danger to the tenant themselves, other tenants, the landlord, the landlord’s property or representatives, or any other person on the property. 

The two senators agreed to an amendment that would have the landlord provide the person being evicted information about legal aid and make sure they know they have the right to appeal the eviction.

Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), who expressed concerns the law could lead to discrimination, proposed an unsuccessful amendment requiring the landlord to explain the potential harm that forms the basis for the eviction. That would help the court objectively evaluate the claim, he said.

“I think there was potential room for abuse given the power dynamics between a landlord and a tenant,” he said.

Hough encouraged his colleagues to vote against the amendment because, he said, it was unnecessary and “basically laborious.”

Maryland Senate Votes to Protect LGBTQ Youth from Dangerous “Conversion Therapy”

March 28, 2018
By Stephen Peters
Human Rights Campaign
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HRC along with FreeState Justice, a legal advocacy organization that seeks to improve the lives of LGBTQ Marylanders, and WISE praised the Maryland State Senate for passing SB1028 — legislation protecting LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” The bill now goes to the Maryland House of Delegates for consideration.

“We thank the state senators who voted to protect LGBTQ youth from so-called ‘conversion therapy,’” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “This abusive and inhumane practice has no basis in science and is uniformly rejected by every major mental health organization in the country. We are calling on the Maryland House of Delegates to swiftly pass this bill and send it to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk for his signature.”

“This is a step forward for an important piece of legislation that protects LGBTQ youth from harmful and coercive practices,” said FreeState Justice Executive Director Mark Procopio. “We hope the House of Delegates will move quickly to make this law. Maryland’s LGBTQ youth deserve strong protections under state law. Prohibiting these practices moves us closer to that goal.”

SB1028 was introduced in the Maryland State Senate by Senator Richard Madaleno and cosponsors include Senator Bill Ferguson, Senator Guy Guzzone, Senator Cheryl Kagan, Senator Susan Lee, Senator Roger Manno, Senator Paul Pinsky, Senator Craig Zucker, Senator Will Smith, and Senator Ronald Young.

There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The harmful practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.

Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Washington all have passed laws or enacted regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice. A growing number of municipalities have also passed similar protections, including cities and counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, New York, Arizona, and Wisconsin.

According to a recent report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ minors in states without protections will be subjected to conversion therapy by a licensed healthcare professional if state officials fail to act.

HRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.

Sing a New Song? Lawmakers Say No, Thanks

By Bruce DePuyt
March 22, 2018
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An effort to repeal Maryland’s state song will fall short for at least the eighth time in the last 45 years. All that’s left, following lengthy committee and floor debate, and amendment, is a timid recasting of “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state’s “historical song.”

“It’s a compromise,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) acknowledged. “Nobody is happy.”

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) originally hoped to remove the song from its current status and have the state hold a contest to find a new song, one that celebrates the state’s diversity and contemporary values.

“Maryland, My Maryland” is “divisive, dated and racist,” she said on the floor. “It’s time to move forward on this. It is a relic of our past. It should not be celebrated anymore.”

The lyrics to the song are from a poem written by James Ryder Randall in 1861. Critics routinely seize on the description of President Lincoln as a “despot,” a “tyrant” and a “vandal” — and to the states of the Union as “Northern scum.”

“The words themselves are a call to action,” said St. Mary’s College political science professor Todd Eberly. “Randall is angry that a friend of his is dead [killed in the Baltimore Riots, when Union troops who were being relocated clashed with Southern sympathizers]. He’s in Louisiana, and he wants Maryland to secede, and that’s exactly what these lyrics are toward.”

Sen. Robert G. Cassilly (R-Harford), an opponent of repeal, said the lyrics “appeal to Maryland’s historic past, to our glorious fight to our revolution and the like. And the author implores us to continue the fight, to fight and move forward.”

Eberly and several of the lawmakers who voted against Kagan’s bill rejected the suggestion that to embrace the song was to embrace racism.

“We’re getting to the point that history is [being considered] racist,” said Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick). “I think we need to be careful about that. … A song is a song. The people singing it today are not singing it with that in their hearts.”

But where some see a stirring call to action or a celebration of the state’s history, Eberly sees something else.

“Here we are, 140 years later, and so many people still can’t bring themselves to admit that this was, in fact, a war fought almost exclusively over the issue of [whether] states have the right to enslave other people.”

“We spent the better part of 100 years giving ourselves an alternative history — [that] this was about states’ rights [and that] slavery was tangential — and now folks are being told ‘you were given this white-washed version of things, and what you were told wasn’t right,’” he said.

The bill recasting “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state’s “historical song” was approved by the Senate 30-13 on the eve of a key legislative deadline. It will now be taken up by the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

Critics of the repeal expressed a concern that Marylanders would no longer be allowed to sing the song if the amended bill is adopted. “Our one day to shine, on the national level, is the Preakness,” said Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County). “What are we going to sing then? What’s going to said in the commentaries?”

Miller offered reassurance. “This … is a compromise,” he said. “It doesn’t abolish the song. It says it is an historical song. And if anyone comes up with another song, they’ll come up with another song.”

Kagan said in an interview she has no plans to re-introduce her original bill next session. While she maintains the current lyrics are “distasteful and offensive,” she said, “I’ve done this work. I will move on.”

It’s unknown if Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. An email sent to his press office on Wednesday, a snow day, was not returned.

Eberly, the political science professor, likened the debate over “Maryland, My Maryland” to the fight over a disputed statue that used to be on the State House grounds of the Supreme Court justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision.

“This song, much like the Roger B. Taney statue, right on the grounds of the Capitol, goes beyond remembering history and glorifies it. By making this our state song, we’re embracing the sentiments it expresses.”

Ironically, Eberly said, the song “represents a viewpoint that Maryland, as a state, never held during the Civil War. Maryland did not secede. Maryland did not join with the South. And that’s what’s weird. It’s a song that doesn’t even match with Maryland’s history during that era.”

Miller, a walking encyclopedia of Maryland history, noted at the end of the floor debate that “Oliver Wendell Holmes said it was the greatest motivational song he ever heard, and he fought on the Union side.”

Rather than pitch the song completely overboard, Eberly offers a compromise that includes a Union “response,’ written to the same melody some time after the original version, with different lyrics.

“There is a Union version of ‘Maryland, My Maryland,’” he said. “What I would love to see — and it’ll never happen — I would love to see the Maryland state song be the original version and the Union response interlaced, so we actually capture the diversity of Maryland history.”

Kagan calls for culture shift in Annapolis

March 21, 2018
By Dan Schere
Washington Jewish Week
View the Full Article Here (Behind paywall)

When the #MeToo movement began gathering steam last fall, Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17) started compiling a mental list of the men who have harassed her since 1995, when she arrived in Annapolis as a state delegate.

“It’s a long list,” she said. “As the days went by I went, ‘Oh yeah, him.’”


Maryland delegates approve new way to investigate sexual harassment claims in legislature

March 19, 2018
By Scott Dance
The Baltimore Sun
View the Full Article Here

The Maryland House of Delegates on Monday unanimously approved reforms to the process for investigating sexual harassment complaints against lawmakers, legislative staffers and lobbyists.

Del. Ariana Kelly, who leads the House women’s caucus, said the policy was borne out of conversations among five female lawmakers in 2016, when “we realized we had some shared, similar experiences” with harassment around the State House. Their efforts gained momentum with the #MeToo movement, she said.

“We realized there were things we could do better to prevent sexual harassment,” she said on the House floor.

The proposed legislation requires the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to hire an independent counsel if a person is the subject of multiple accusations.

The proposal dovetails with changes passed late last year to bring more transparency to the process of reporting and investigating harassment accusations.

It comes as the legislature deals with the aftermath of an accusation by Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, that former lawmaker and current lobbyist Gil Genn recently touched her inappropriately at a karaoke event in Annapolis. Genn has denied the allegation.

As a House committee was considering the legislation, three delegates told their colleagues they had personally been victims of sexual harassment. They said the reforms would take politics out of the process of reviewing and investigating harassment complaints.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where a companion bill has not advanced out of committee.

Guest Commentary: Police Departments Should Hire Non-Citizen Veterans

March 18, 2018
By Tom Manger and Cheryl C. Kagan
View the Full Article Here

Police departments across Maryland face challenges in the recruitment and retention of officers. One in eight positions in the Maryland State Police is vacant, according to their most recent budget report. Local police and sheriffs’ departments are struggling to find qualified, committed candidates. Even after potential officers are recruited and trained, we should consider the ethnic background and language skills of our ever more diverse communities.

Meanwhile, every day, women and men who are not yet American citizens put on their uniforms, pick up weapons, and put their lives on the line  as members of our armed forces.

When they get home and want to bring their talents and experience to their local communities, they face a formidable barrier. These permanent legal residents of the U.S. have served with honor, but they are not yet citizens. Currently, that means they are not eligible for one of the most important jobs in government – as local police officers. That’s because Maryland law requires applicants to be citizens.

We are working together to remove that barrier. Senator Kagan has sponsored legislation (SB 344) to enlarge our pool of prospective recruits, which Chief Manger is endorsing. Honorably discharged legal permanent residents would still need to qualify on all other evaluations, tests, and background checks, but the door would be open to this modest, common sense, reasonable, way of making our communities safer. In deference to local control, this legislation does not compel any department to hire a legal permanent resident; it merely provides the option.

This proposed policy is an important step in the evolution of modern police departments. Over the years, requirements for being a police officer have changed. Qualifications codified by the Maryland Police Training Commission over the past 50 years have evolved. Gender, height, and sexual orientation restrictions have been removed. We, along with many of Chief Manger’s law enforcement colleagues, believe that one’s citizenship status is a similarly outdated qualification. Instead, the focus should be on one’s knowledge, skills, commitment, and ability to perform the job effectively.    

As honorably discharged veterans, these potential applicants have demonstrated an allegiance to the United States. They have also undergone security checks and extensive training. Their spirit for service is unquestioned.

In the past, many veterans were able to earn citizenship during their military service, though it wasn’t always easy. Unfortunately, it has become even more difficult as the Trump administration has curtailed the programs that offered the citizenship option.

We await action in the General Assembly to approve Sen. Kagan’s bill. Forty-one of 47 senators signed on as co-sponsors. We commend the House of Delegates for offering preliminary approval of the companion measure sponsored by Dels. Carlo Sanchez, Joseline Peña-Melnyk, and others.

We are under no illusions that this will end the shortage of dedicated police officers. Even if every honorably discharged legal permanent resident were to apply, we would still be searching for qualified people. But the need for potential officers, especially from diverse backgrounds, must be addressed, and this is a population we’re ignoring for no justifiable reason. It’s time to tear down this barrier to service.

Tom Manger is chief of the Montgomery County Police Department. Cheryl C. Kagan, a Democrat, is the state senator from District 17, representing Rockville and Gaithersburg. 

Maryland needs a new state song that doesn’t endorse the Confederacy, and we have suggestions
The new song won’t contain the phrase “Northern scum.”

March 16, 2018
By Ann-Derrick Gaillot
View the Full Article Here
NOTE: We are not posting links to the videos on our site, but you can watch the videos at the link for the full article.

Spring is known as a time of change. This year, the state of Maryland may invoke the spirit of the season by throwing out its tired old state song and replacing it with something newer, fresher, and 100 percent less pro-Confederacy. Today, the Maryland State Senate passed a bill that would retire the current song “Maryland, My Maryland” as a “historic” song and make way for another song to take its place.

The state has a huge opportunity here. Aside from sounding like it was written by your college friend’s racist grandpa, including lyrics like “Northern scum” and references to Lincoln as a “tyrant” during the Civil War, the song is not even fun to listen to. It didn’t become the state song until 1939, well after the Civil War ended and closer to the period in the early 1900s when most Confederate memorials were constructed. But with this bill there is a chance for the state to pull from the its impressive musical history for a song that actually deserves the recognition.

Famed Maryland musicians include Toni Braxton, Tori Amos, Frank Zappa, Billie Holiday, Philip Glass, David Byrne, Mya, the Madden twins from Good Charlotte, Animal Collective, and, uh, Logic — the list goes on and on. There is a deep well of great music to dip into, and an infinite number of directions to take the state song in 2018.

You could go with the new classic banger, best song of 2017 “Crew” by DMV-area artist GoldLink, which mentions the state in its first lines.

They could lean fully into the ‘90s nostalgia trend and choose the easy-to-love 1995 hit “Stay” by Maryland-born artist Lisa Loeb.
They could get a jump-start on 2000s nostalgia and go for “Thong Song” by Baltimorean Sisqó. (Though, admittedly, both are guaranteed viral PR stunts with short shelf lives.)
Or they could give Baltimore-raised star Billie Holiday her due props and choose pretty much any song she’s ever recorded.
But the obvious route is choosing a song that is actually about Maryland and, as Sen. Cheryl Kagan wrote in the bill, “honors the past, celebrates the present, and anticipates the bright future of this State and its residents.” In that case, the best choice is “Good Morning, Baltimore” from the 2002 musical Hairspray based on the 1988 John Waters film.

Yes, it’s just about Baltimore. But with a refrain like “Good morning, Baltimore / Every day’s like an open door / Every night is a fantasy / Every sound’s like a symphony” the song is sufficiently celebratory of Maryland’s largest city, honors the past, is unbelievably optimistic for a song about the morning, and, most importantly, isn’t racist trash. It’s a win all around!

If the House passes the bill and the Governor signs it, Maryland lawmakers are going to have a very contentious pop culture decision to make. If there’s anyone we can’t trust to pick a hot song, it’s politicians … but hopefully, they’ll do the right thing and pick a song with style, or else Marylander swill be stuck with another boring, stupid tune.

Maryland bill would ‘retire’ state song to ‘historic’ status

March 17, 2018
By Brian Witte
The Star Democrat
View the Full Article Here

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — A majority of Maryland senators hope they’ve found an elusive compromise to handle the state’s controversial state song: send it into retirement without erasing all recognition.

The Senate voted 30-13 to put “Maryland, My Maryland” on historic status and say its sensitive pre-Civil War references to “Northern scum” and a despotic President Abraham Lincoln don’t reflect Marylanders’ values today. The bill now goes to the House.

While it would no longer be the official state song, the measure doesn’t completely jettison it, either. It designates it as a “historical state song.”

Opponents of the measure say it just doesn’t do much.

“The words are still there,” said Sen. Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican. “If they’re so offensive, they’re still in Maryland law.”

But supporters say it makes a significant symbolic gesture.

“This bill acknowledges a dated, offensive, racist-themed song, that it’s time to move forward,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said the song needs to be put aside until the state can come up with a new one.

The song was written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall. It became the state song in 1939. It calls for Maryland to secede from the Union before the Civil War when many Maryland residents sympathized with the Confederacy.

Previous attempts to change the song have stalled, partly because lawmakers were reluctant to tinker with history. But supporters have said recent events involving Confederate statues have highlighted the need for a change.

In August, several days after violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Maryland officials removed from the statehouse grounds a statue of Roger Taney. Taney was the U.S. Supreme Court justice who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African-Americans.

We thought 1992 would be the year of the woman. This time feels different.

March 16, 2018
Written by Karen Tumulty
The Washington Post
View the Full Article Here

The video begins with Democratic congressional candidate Sol Flores standing in her childhood bedroom in Chicago, recalling happy times when she decorated it with unicorns and rainbows and posters of her boy-band crushes.

Then Flores’s narration takes a detour, into a dark family secret: “There was a man that was living with us that would come into my bedroom when I was asleep.”

A convergence of the #MeToo movement and the political activism that ignited after President Trump’s election has inspired what appears to be a record number of women running for offices up and down the ballot this year. These are not just career politicians climbing the next step on the ladder, but newly energized activists who say running for office never occurred to them until the last election.

And here is what is even more surprising about this crop of female candidates: Many are speaking openly about painful, personal experiences with sexual abuse and harassment.

In 1992, the last time there was talk of an election being a “year of the woman,” it was in large measure because the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas brought sexual harassment to the forefront. Back then, though, it was still taboo for female candidates to talk about their own encounters with the problem.

I remember the sense everyone felt in 1992 that nothing would ever be the same for women, that their voices would only grow stronger and louder. But joining the club in those days meant living by its rules.

This time feels different. Now the experience of suffering sexual harassment or assault has been transformed into a way to connect, particularly for the Democratic contenders who have become the vanguard of the resistance movement. What once was a private shame is now a selling point.

Flores, the founder of a Chicago nonprofit that serves homeless youth, says that after she went public with her story of being molested as a child, she heard from Sara Freeman, a Democratic Minnesota state house contender who now speaks openly about her recovery from being raped at gunpoint two decades ago.

Democrat Mary Barzee Flores, a former circuit court judge running for Congress in Florida, has talked of being groped by the night manager of a Pizza Hut where she worked when she was a teenager. As a lawyer, Flores says, she encountered “a judge who made a crack about my looks on my very first day in court.”

In Annapolis, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) this month accused lobbyist Gil Genn of running his hand down her back and onto her buttocks in a crowded pub. Now, the two are arguing over whether the brief physical contact revealed by security camera footage of the event constitutes inappropriate conduct. The tape does appear to show that his initial insistence that he had not touched her at all was false.

Previous generations of female politicians kept these kinds of experiences to themselves.

“Absolutely no one would dare do a #MeToo then, although we talked in private about who to watch out for and never get in an elevator with,” recalled former Democratic representative Pat Schroeder of Colorado, who ran briefly for her party’s 1988 presidential nomination and who was not known for being timid. “They felt vulnerable, and if they talked about it, they became even more vulnerable.”

That remained true even in the explosion of female candidates after the Thomas hearings. “Part of that was we all saw how Anita Hill was treated” by the all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee, Schroeder said. “They just dumped all over her, and got away with it. We all internalized it.”

Not anymore.

No one would argue that these kinds of life experiences, by themselves, qualify anyone for public office. And there is even a danger that they will become a distraction from other issues.

“I’ve sort of been pigeonholed into one issue. I’m just the #MeToo candidate,” complains Freeman, a former investment banker who says her top priority if elected would be improving Minnesota’s public schools.

But, she adds, at a moment of awakened sensitivity to sexual transgressions, “these conversations are just too important not to be having.”

There is no small irony in the fact that all of this, while long overdue, might not be happening had the nation elected its first female president in 2016.

Instead, a man credibly accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women sits in the Oval Office.

The old feminist mantra had it that the personal is political. In the #MeToo era, that connection is being forged more directly than ever, one story at a time. But while laying bare what was once kept secret may ultimately produce a healthier culture in politics, what voters will want to know is how all of this is going to change their lives.

Md. governor, legislative leaders say they have a solution to soaring health-care premiums

March 16, 2018
Written by Ovetta Wiggins and Rachel Chason
The Washington Post
View the Full Article Here

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Maryland’s Democratic legislative leaders have reached agreement on a one-year plan to stabilize skyrocketing individual health insurance premiums by taxing insurance companies and using the money to pay the biggest claims.

Legislation that won initial approval in the state Senate on Friday would levy a surcharge of about $380 million on insurance companies that do business in Maryland, which are paying about that much less in federal taxes this year because of a one-time exemption provided by the recent overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

Using that money for a “reinsurance fund” will lower premiums for everyone in the individual insurance market, officials and advocates said, heading off a potential crisis stemming from anticipated increases in premiums of between 30 and 50 percent and the possible departure of CareFirst, Maryland’s only statewide insurer for the estimated 154,000 individuals who buy their own plans rather than get coverage through an employer or government program.

“The consequence of doing nothing, it will just explode the whole entire system,” said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles), who sponsored the bill.

Hogan, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) have worked together on the issue. In March, the trio sent a letter asking Maryland’s congressional delegation to push Congress to stabilize the market.

“As the governor has made clear countless times, multiple federal administrations and Congress have failed on this issue, but the state of Maryland will not,” said Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse.

A second bill that won initial approval in the Senate late Friday and is part of the agreement forged with Hogan would require Maryland’s health exchange to apply for a federal waiver that would provide long-term funding for the reinsurance program, as several other states have done.

The bill would also require that a Maryland state panel — established last year in response to Republican efforts in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act — examine whether to adopt a state-based individual health insurance mandate.

Vincent DeMarco, a member of the state health panel and president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, called the initial approval of the bills a “really good step forward.”

“It was a brilliant idea to capture the federal money for a year,” he said.

But he added that he would like to see the General Assembly go further and pass legislation to create a health insurance down-payment program that would replace the repealed federal individual mandate, fine people who don’t have insurance and then use that money to help cover their health-care costs.

The pace of the 90-day legislative session picked up on Friday in advance of Monday’s “crossover,” the date when most bills need to have passed out of at least one chamber to have a solid chance of becoming law.

In the House, lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would strengthen the General Assembly’s anti-sexual harassment policy, a top priority of the Women Legislators of Maryland caucus amid increased discussion of sexual harassment in and around the State House.

The measure calls for an independent investigator to handle certain harassment complaints, including if the person filing the complaint requests it. It would also require lobbyists to receive sexual harassment training that already is mandated for lawmakers; require the Department of Legislative Services to publish the names of lawmakers who attend that training; and require the Joint Legislative Committee to update its anti-harassment policy every two years.

The bill — which was given little chance of passage earlier in the session, before several women spoke out about alleged harassment — advanced without any discussion.

Lawmakers also advanced bills that would raise the age for getting married. Under current law, 15-year-olds can marry if they receive parental consent or if a girl is pregnant. The Senate voted Friday to raise the age limit to 16, while the House voted Thursday evening to raise the limit to 17.

“I think you should not be able to get married until the age of majority,” said Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), the Senate bill’s sponsor. “It’s really outrageous.”

Zirkin said he hopes the House and Senate are able to reach a compromise on a new minimum age for marriage before the 90-day session ends April 9.

The Senate passed a bill that makes it easier to prosecute repeat sexual offenders by allowing evidence of past sexual offenses during trial, and gave preliminary approval to banning bump stocks and other rapid-trigger devices. The House gave final approval to a similar ban on Thursday.

A bill that would provide state financial aid to college students who are undocumented immigrants won initial approval in the Senate on Friday and final approval in the House on Thursday, expanding a 2012 bill that allowed students in the country illegally to receive in-state tuition.

The Senate also gave final approval Friday to a bill that reclassifies the Civil War-era song “Maryland, My Maryland” as a “historical” song, rather than the official state song.

The legislation is a compromise of sorts, after the General Assembly tried unsuccessfully for three years to completely repeal the song — which urges Maryland to join the Confederacy and bashes “Northern scum.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) called the measure a way to acknowledge that a “dated, offensive, racist-themed song” needed to be put in the state’s past. “Sometimes symbolism is important,” Kagan said.

The Senate also gave initial approval to a bill that provides about $3 billion in tax incentives and inducements to lure to Montgomery County, one of 20 areas vying for the company’s second headquarters. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)


March 16, 2018
Written by Neal Earley
The Sentinel
View the Full Article Here

Newly-released security camera footage of an interaction between State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17th District) and lobbyist Gil Genn is leading to different explanations from both parties roughly two weeks after Kagan accused Genn of touching her inappropriately.

The footage from a March 1 event at Castlebay Irish Pub in Annapolis shows shows Genn, a former state delegate and Kagan greeting one another with Genn putting his hand on Kagan’s back and whispering something to her before sliding his hand off her back, after which both spend the rest of the video in conversation. The footage does not make it clear how exactly Kagan reacted to Genn’s touch, as both continued talking in the crowded Annapolis bar.

Kagan – who in a March 2 statement accused Genn of touching her inappropriately by placing his hand on her back and then “[sliding] it down” – claimed the video validates her accusations.

“I was really uncomfortable,” Kagan said in a press conference Tuesday. “I wanted the incident to end. I wanted the interaction to end. He kept talking.”

However, Genn’s lawyer said the video exonerates Genn of any inappropriate behavior.

“It was completely appropriate and within bounds and something that happens with most Americans thousands of times a week,” said attorney Tim Maloney, who called the video definitive proof that Kagan’s claims that Genn touched her inappropriately are false, and demanded that she apologize for her accusations.

But Kagan still stands by her original claim, noting that too many women are afraid to come forward and name the men that have sexually harassed them. Kagan ended her original statement making the claim with #MeToo, in solidarity of women across the country who have told their own stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“I speak up today not only for myself, but also for the legislative staff and interns who are clearly more vulnerable than a Senator whose votes could affect a lobbyist’s clients. It’s time to call him out,” Kagan said in a statement.

Genn has denied Kagan’s allegations since they first came to light roughly two weeks ago, issuing a statement at the time in which he said that he did not inappropriately touch Kagan.

“I kept my hands to myself,” Genn said in his original statement denying Kagan’s claims. “I didn’t even shake her hand. I did not run my hand down her back or down her ‘tush.’ And I especially and consciously avoided the all-too-common Annapolis legislative ‘hug’ many legislators use to greet one another.”

Maryland needs a new state song that doesn’t endorse the Confederacy, and we have suggestions

March 16, 2018
By Ann-Derrick Gaillot
The Outline
View the Full Article Here

Spring is known as a time of change. This year, the state of Maryland may invoke the spirit of the season by throwing out its tired old state song and replacing it with something newer, fresher, and 100 percent less pro-Confederacy. Today, the Maryland State Senate passed a bill that would retire the current song “Maryland, My Maryland” as a “historic” song and make way for another song to take its place.

The state has a huge opportunity here. Aside from sounding like it was written by your college friend’s racist grandpa, including lyrics like “Northern scum” and references to Lincoln as a “tyrant” during the Civil War, the song is not even fun to listen to. It didn’t become the state song until 1939, well after the Civil War ended and closer to the period in the early 1900s when most Confederate memorials were constructed. But with this bill there is a chance for the state to pull from the its impressive musical history for a song that actually deserves the recognition.

Famed Maryland musicians include Toni Braxton, Tori Amos, Frank Zappa, Billie Holiday, Philip Glass, David Byrne, Mya, the Madden twins from Good Charlotte, Animal Collective, and, uh, Logic — the list goes on and on. There is a deep well of great music to dip into, and an infinite number of directions to take the state song in 2018.

You could go with the new classic banger, best song of 2017 “Crew” by DMV-area artist GoldLink, which mentions the state in its first lines.

They could lean fully into the ‘90s nostalgia trend and choose the easy-to-love 1995 hit “Stay” by Maryland-born artist Lisa Loeb.

They could get a jump-start on 2000s nostalgia and go for “Thong Song” by Baltimorean Sisqó. (Though, admittedly, both are guaranteed viral PR stunts with short shelf lives.)

Or they could give Baltimore-raised star Billie Holiday her due props and choose pretty much any song she’s ever recorded.

But the obvious route is choosing a song that is actually about Maryland and, as Sen. Cheryl Kagan wrote in the bill, “honors the past, celebrates the present, and anticipates the bright future of this State and its residents.” In that case, the best choice is “Good Morning, Baltimore” from the 2002 musical Hairspray based on the 1988 John Waters film.

Yes, it’s just about Baltimore. But with a refrain like “Good morning, Baltimore / Every day’s like an open door / Every night is a fantasy / Every sound’s like a symphony” the song is sufficiently celebratory of Maryland’s largest city, honors the past, is unbelievably optimistic for a song about the morning, and, most importantly, isn’t racist trash. It’s a win all around!

If the House passes the bill and the Governor signs it, Maryland lawmakers are going to have a very contentious pop culture decision to make. If there’s anyone we can’t trust to pick a hot song, it’s politicians … but hopefully, they’ll do the right thing and pick a song with style, or else Marylander swill be stuck with another boring, stupid tune.

Maryland Senate passes bill to retire state song

March 16, 2018
By David Collins
WBAL Baltimore
View the Full Article Here

 ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland state Senate passed a bill Friday that would retire the state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.”

Senate Bill 790 would create a state song selection panel that would hold a competition for the new song and the winner would be voted on online.

The goal would be to announce a winner before the end of this year.

“Maryland, My Maryland,” set to the traditional seasonal tune of “O, Tannenbaum,” was written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall and adopted as the state song in 1939

Lawmakers who support changing the official state song think the time is right to finally wipe away “Northern scum” and other sensitive pre-Civil War phrases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Maryland bill would ‘retire’ state song to ‘historic’ status

March 16, 2018
The Associated Press
View the Full Article Here

ANNAPOLIS, Md.  — A majority of Maryland senators hope they’ve found a compromise to handle the state’s controversial state song: send it into retirement without erasing all recognition.

The Senate voted 30-13 to put “Maryland, My Maryland” on historic status and say its sensitive pre-Civil War references to “Northern scum” and a despotic President Abraham Lincoln don’t reflect Marylanders’ values today. The bill now goes to the House.

While it would no longer be the official state song, the measure doesn’t completely jettison it, either. It designates it as a “historical state song.”

The song was written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall. It became the state song in 1939. It calls for Maryland to secede from the Union before the Civil War when many Maryland residents sympathized with the Confederacy.

State Roundup, March 15, 2018

March 15, 2018
By Cynthia Prairie
Maryland Reporter
View the Full Article Here

‘MARYLAND, MY MARYLAND:’ A bill that advanced Wednesday in the state Senate would not consign “Maryland, My Maryland” to the playlist of history but it does seek to relegate the official state song to B-side status, Michael Dresser wittily writes in the Sun. Senators narrowly gave preliminary approval to legislation that would re-designate the pro-Confederate anthem as the “historic” state song — putting some distance between modern Maryland and 157-year-old lyrics that refer to Unionists as “Northern scum” and label President Abraham Lincoln a “despot.”

It’s a change some lawmakers say is too long in coming as officials here and around the country seek to deal with remnants of the country’s ties to slavery and the Civil War while other legislators say the changes amount to erasing history, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. “Others of us would see it as divisive, dated and racist,” said Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan, D-Montgomery and lead sponsor of the bill. “It’s time to move forward on this. It’s time to enact a compromise.”

For 79 years, Maryland’s state song has called Northerners ‘scum.’ That may change soon

March 15, 2018
By Lawrence Crook III
View the Full Article Here

For almost eight decades, the official state song of Maryland has been a Confederate ballad whose lyrics call Unionists “Northern scum” and President Abraham Lincoln a “despot” and a “tyrant.”

On Wednesday, Maryland’s Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would retire the controversial song.

The bill’s sponsor is seeking to demote “Maryland, My Maryland” from “official” to “historic,” effectively retiring it and opening the door to a new state song.

In her bill, Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D) wrote, “it is imperative that the current State song be retired and that a new State song be adopted that honors the past, celebrates the present, and anticipates the bright future of this State and its residents.”

Critics have long argued the state song, adopted in 1939, celebrates the Confederacy and is contrary to the ideals and values Marylanders have today. Recent debate over the song comes as some US cities and states have removed symbols of their Confederate past, which are seen by many as racist.

On the state’s official website, the song is described as a nine-stanza poem written by James Ryder Randall in April of 1861, near the beginning of the Civil War. Randall, a native of Louisiana, was outraged at the news of Union troops marching through Baltimore.

The poem articulated Randall’s Confederate sympathies and also refers to the phrase, “sic semper tyrannis,” a rebels’ rallying cry, which John Wilkes Booth reportedly shouted in Ford’s Theatre after fatally shooting President Lincoln in 1865.

For those who haven’t heard the song, it’s sung to the traditional tune of “O, Tannenbaum” and is often performed at major events in the state, such as the annual Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

Over the years public criticism of “Maryland, My Maryland” has grown, and a number of proposals have been introduced to modify or replace the song. But the current bill on the Senate floor has been the only one to pass a preliminary approval vote.

In August, the University of Maryland marching band announced they will no longer play the song before Terrapin football games.

While the bill received preliminary approval, it passed only by a narrow 25-19 vote. The bill faces a vote for final approval later this week.

‘Maryland, My Maryland’? Maybe not. Senate bill aims to strip state song of ‘official’ status

March 15, 2018
By Michael Dresser
Baltimore Sun
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A bill that advanced Wednesday in the state Senate would not consign “Maryland, My Maryland” to the playlist of history but it does seek to relegate the official state song to B-side status.

Senators narrowly gave preliminary approval to legislation that would re-designate the pro-Confederate anthem as the “historic” state song — putting some distance between modern Maryland and 157-year-old lyrics that refer to Unionists as “Northern scum” and label President Abraham Lincoln a “despot.”

The action came after some Republican senators criticized the move as hollow and mounted a defense of a song many critics see as a racist relic. They say one can separate the inspirational verse from outdated political motivations.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, the bill’s sponsor, defended the measure as a compromise crafted by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, which has the unenviable task of handling bills dealing with state symbols.

The Montgomery County Democrat’s original bill would have created a selection panel to hold a competition for a replacement for “Maryland, My Maryland,” penned by Southern sympathizer James Ryder Randall in 1861. He wrote the song after what is known as Baltimore’s Pratt Street Riot brought the first bloodshed of the Civil War as rebel sympathizers attacked Union soldiers bound for Washington.

The song, set to the tune of “O Tannenbaum,” exhorts Marylanders to take up the Southern cause and “avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore.”

Kagan’s bill was one of three proposed in the Senate to scrap all or some of the 1861 lyrics, which the General Assembly adopted as official in 1939 — the year the film “Gone With the Wind” was released and romanticization of the Old South was at its peak. Two measures that proposed altered lyrics set to the same tune failed in committee.

Kagan’s bill survived, but only after it was limited to demoting the song from “official” to “historic.”

Senate Minority Leader J. B. Jennings derided the measure as “a participation trophy bill” and a “waste of time.”

Jennings, who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, noted the recent trend of dismantling Confederate statues and warned that the state flag could be next on the list for abolition.

“Where does it end?” the Republican said.

What would the choir sing at the Preakness? Jennings asked.

Whatever they want, Kagan answered. She pointed out the bill doesn’t ban the song and that the race’s organizers can decide what is sung.

Sen. Robert G. Cassilly mounted a more affirmative defense of the lyrics. While the Harford County Republican distanced himself from the song’s pro-Confederate sympathies, he likened the reclassification of the song to “book-burning” and praised its poetic homage to Maryland’s military glories.

“It’s still a very valid call to arms and a motivational song,” he said.

Kagan disagreed.

“Others of us would see it as divisive, dated and racist,” she said. “It should not be celebrated any more.”

Senators voted down a motion to kill the bill 25-19. Jennings’ amendment to erase the bill’s preamble, which says the song’s words are “controversial, inappropriate, and do not represent the ideals and values of Marylanders today,” lost 25-21.

Despite the close vote in preliminary tests, Kagan expressed confidence the bill would prevail on its final vote.

“We had the votes on the amendment. We’ll have the votes on the floor for final passage,” she said.

The measure’s prospects in the House are uncertain. No comparable measure has been introduced in that chamber. Kagan said she has not yet discussed her bill with House members.

“I think there’s consensus — at least among Democratic legislators — that it’s time,” she said.

 The debate over Maryland’s state song is a familiar refrain

March 15, 2018
By Doug Donovan and Ellen Fishel
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Maryland politicians are yet again singing different tunes about the official state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.”

And their competing refrains – for and against the song – have become as redundant as a pop station playlist.

Debate about the official state song and its ties to the Confederacy repeatedly emerges as an issue in the Maryland General Assembly. And this year is no different. A pending proposal would strip “Maryland, My Maryland” of its “official” status and replace it with the designation of “historical.” Efforts to change the lyrics (the current song refers to Unionists as “Northern scum” and call Abraham Lincoln a despot) or seek new ones in a competition were both defeated.

Here’s a “best of” compilation of the debate over the past few years, as broadcast, er, reported by The Baltimore Sun:

In August 2017, the University of Maryland marching band decided to stop playing “Maryland, My Maryland” before football games. The move came after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Earlier that year, the performance of the song at the Preakness horse race only included the third verse, which includes no Confederate battle cry lyrics.

The General Assembly also took up the state song issue in 2016. State senators voted to keep the third verse of the song and add words from a 1894 poem by Western Maryland teacher James T. White. The bill died in the House of Delegates. Another bill that would’ve established a contest for a new state song also died.

» In 2015, a panel of historians, music scholars and a poet recommended that lawmakers replace most or all of the lyrics, or select a different song entirely.

» Baltimore musician Sean Tully has urged lawmakers to work a reference to Maryland abolitionist Harriet Tubman into the song’s lyrics.

» It’s not just the state song — Maryland’s flag has also been the subject of some debate. The flag combines the black-and-gold pattern of the Calvert family and the red-and-white pattern of the Crossland family. The red-and-white Crossland arms was used by some Pro-Confederate Marylanders as a sign of resistance to the Union. Gov. Larry Hogan emphasized in August that there were no plans to change the state flag.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.


‘Maryland, My Maryland’ faces official retirement

March 14, 2018
By Danielle E. Gaines
The Fredrick News-Post
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ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would retire the state’s official song.

A bill from Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) would remove the “official” designation of “Maryland, My Maryland,” and change references to the tune in state law to “historical.”

Critics say the song is divisive for its celebration of the Confederacy.

The nine-verse tune — written by James Ryder Randall, a native of Baltimore, in 1861, while he was living in Louisiana — has been the official state song since 1939. The song refers to President Abraham Lincoln as a despot and a tyrant.

It has been the subject of several unsuccessful retirement efforts over the past four decades.

Kagan described the song as “divisive, dated and racist.”

The bill is a compromise from the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. Kagan originally sought to also create a state commission tasked with designating a new official song, but that portion of the bill was stripped before it reached the floor. She encouraged her colleagues to support the retirement on Wednesday.

In a vote accepting the committee’s amendments, the chamber was split 25-19. The bill will face a vote for final approval later this week.

Frederick Sen. Ron Young (D-District 3) voted in favor of the amendments to the bill, though he’d hoped for a measure that would have gone further. “I would like to have substituted words. There are at least three or four other versions that are pretty good, but I’m glad to get rid of [it],” Young said Wednesday afternoon.

In 2016, he sponsored a bill that would have adopted one of the six alternatives proposed by a 2015 State Song Advisory Group: to change the format of the song to retire all but one original verse, and add a verse from an 1894 poem by Middletown poet John T. White, who penned alternate lyrics to Randall’s song.

That measure passed the Senate chamber, but died in the House. Other failed bills that would have overturned the designation were considered in 1974, 1980, 1984, 2001, 2002 and 2009.

Frederick County Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4) voted against the committee amendments and doesn’t support a bill to get rid of the song.

He called the debate a “superfluous waste of time.”

Hough also questioned Kagan’s description of the song as racist.

“It’s actually an anti-Lincoln song,” he said. And anti-Lincoln sentiment was strong in Maryland when it was written, Hough said. Hough recounted how the General Assembly left Annapolis in 1861 to convene at Kemp Hall in Frederick for the purpose of taking up debate about secession.

According to the Maryland State Archives, the General Assembly at the time was primarily interested in preserving Maryland’s neutrality in the ongoing war, but one of the few things lawmakers agreed on during their time in Frederick was to send a resolution to Lincoln protesting the Union occupation of Maryland.

The song, however, wasn’t designated as the state’s “official” tune until nearly nearly eight decades after it was written. In 1935, a bill designating the song as the state song was passed by the General Assembly, but was vetoed by Gov. Harry W. Nice, who opposed the song’s “objectionable verses,” according to the advisory group’s report. After Nice lost his bid for re-election in 1939, Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor signed the bill into law.

3 Maryland delegates say they were sexually harassed. Now they’re pushing for reforms

March 6, 2018
By Erin Cox
Baltimore Sun
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Three state delegates said publicly on Monday they have been victims of sexual harassment on the job in Annapolis, and they called for a new policy that would take politics out of investigating future complaints.

Two of their male colleagues said they’ve witnessed groping or other sexual impropriety, and that the Maryland General Assembly needs a better process to ensure victims are protected and willing to come forward.

The revelations come as the state legislature grapples with the #MeToo movement and calls for action against sexual harassment. The General Assembly is weighing legislation to prevent and handle it, including having an independent investigator review future complaints. Those investigations currently are funneled through General Assembly’s elected leaders.

Del. Angela Angel told the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee that she felt defenseless when she was accosted in front of other people and no one came to her defense.

“We have a problem, a monster of our own creation that we have both the opportunity and the duty to put down,” the Prince George’s County Democrat said during a hearing on a proposal to revamp sexual harassment procedures.

“The moment that I was publicly grabbed and no one said a word, I knew that I was my only protector in this House,” she said.

She didn’t offer further details on the incident, but said she’s wept with other women navigating how to respond to “the latest inappropriate comment, uncomfortable encounter and unwanted touches.”

Del. Marice Morales said she has to “call out” colleagues who sexually harass her. The Montgomery County Democrat said the current reporting process would force her to reveal embarrassing encounters to people crucial to her political future.

“It’s very lonely when there were other colleagues in the room that did not say anything,” she said. “And then they came up to me afterward and said, ‘Marice, I’m really sorry that happened to you. Do you want me to say anything about it?’

“No, because I’m a freshman legislator. Do I really want to start my career with this on my record? That’s what I have to constantly ask myself every single day.”

Morales said she didn’t want to have to seek political support from the same people adjudicating her sexual harassment complaint.

“I don’t want the speaker to see me in a different way,” Morales said. “Where I have to go in front of [you] and earn your respect and have you look at my bills for the merits of the bill, I don’t want you to know that I’ve been sexually harassed because it undermines me as a person, as a legislator.”

Del. Ariana Kelly, the Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the Women’s Caucus, said she has a “list of incidents” that she shares privately with colleagues as she’s trying to persuade them to change sexual harassment procedures. She previously disclosed the details of one incident — a senior colleague who groped her when she was a freshman lawmaker — in a Washington Post opinion piece.

“Each of those incidents made it harder for me to do my job,” she said. “These situations made me feel objectified and minimized and disrespected. And when I spoke out, I feared retaliation. And sometimes I faced retaliation.”

The comments come four days after Sen. Cheryl Kagan became the first sitting lawmaker since the #MeToo movement began to openly accuse someone of sexual impropriety.

The Montgomery County Democrat said Friday that former lawmaker and current lobbyist Gil Genn had run his hand down her back and “grazed my tush” at an Annapolis bar the night before.

Genn denied the allegation and called Kagan “delusional.” He said Monday he regretted that characterization.

In an open letter on Monday, Genn again denied the allegation, but wrote in his three-page message that it was “in-artful” to describe her as delusional.

“I wish I did not use that term, and I wish I could retract it, and I apologize for it,” he said. He went on to issue what he said was a public apology to Kagan for calling her delusional, but he continued to deny the underlying allegation. He sent the letter to the entire General Assembly.

“Senator Kagan, I genuinely apologize for my inartful characterization of your accusations of me as ‘delusional.’ Genn wrote. “Perhaps, in the crowded and noisy bar at that moment, you did indeed feel a person’s hand on your back and that hand running down your back to your tush. To the extent you did, I swear to you it was absolutely not me. I also assure you that I had, and have, absolutely no intention or interest whatsoever in touching you in any manner whatsoever. None. I will continue to respect you in a professional context only, and will continue to treat you with all the dignity you deserve.”

In response, Kagan issued a statement that said, “I stand by my testimony and am disappointed that he would fabricate such an obviously self-serving statement of absurd denial.

“I think Genn ‘doth protesteth too much’ with a 3-page statement.”

Lobbyist Apologizes For Calling Rockville State Senator ‘Delusional’

March 6th, 2018
By Andrew Metcalf
Bethesda Beat
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Annapolis lobbyist and former District 16 delegate Gil Genn apologized in an open letter he released Monday night for describing state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Rockville) as “delusional” after she accused him of inappropriately touching her last week.

Genn wrote that he first found out from a Baltimore Sun reporter that Kagan had accused him of putting his hand on her “tush” at an Annapolis bar Thursday night.

“I was shocked and stunned,” Genn wrote. “Regrettably, I reacted viscerally in my shocked state of mind. In the heat of that moment I used the inartful word to describe Senator Kagan’s allegations as ‘delusional.’ I wish I did not use that term, and I wish I could retract it, and I apologize for it.”

However, Genn pushed back against Kagan’s memory of the events. He said he saw her at the Castle Bay bar in Annapolis on March 1 as he was leaving, briefly greeted her and left.

“I kept my hands to myself. I didn’t even shake her hand,” Genn wrote. “I did not run my hand down her back or down to her tush. And I especially and consciously avoided the all too common Annapolis legislative ‘hug’ many legislators use to greet one another.”

Kagan issued a statement in response saying that she stood by her recollection of events and that she was “disappointed that he would fabricate such an obviously self-serving statement of absurd denial.”

Kagan publicly named Genn in a statement released Friday in which she accused him of touching her inappropriately at the bar. She said at the time she decided to name him in response to the #MeToo movement and to try to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Genn wrote in his three-page statement that he supports the #MeToo movement and believes women should speak out against sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. However, he wrote that “due process is also important.”

“There needs to be a venue where all parties have a full, fair and impartial hearing,” Genn wrote. “Most accusations have merit, and it takes courage for the victim to come forward. But some are false, and real victims are hurt by the false allegations of others. Senator Kagan’s allegation is completely false. I thus welcome a fair and impartial inquiry by the State Ethics Commission to investigate her false allegation.”

Genn is a partner at the Annapolis-based firm Bellamy Genn Group and previously served as the delegate from Bethesda-based District 16 from 1987 to 1999.

Genn issued the statement on the same day that three state delegates testified in favor of a bill that aims to take politics out of investigating future harassment complaints leveled in the General Assembly. Two Montgomery County delegates, Ariana Kelly (D-Bethesda) and Marcie Morales (D-Silver Spring), told a House committee that they had been sexually harassed while working at the Statehouse, but felt uncomfortable providing details about the incidents because they feared political retaliation, according to The Baltimore Sun.

State Roundup, March 5, 2018

March 5th, 2018
By Cynthia Prairie
Maryland Reporter
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KAGAN CLAIMS HARASSMENT: Maryland state senator and a former lobbyist went public Friday with allegations of sexual harassment, becoming the first women since the #MeToo movement began to publicly name men connected to the State House — a current lawmaker in one case and a lawmaker turned lobbyist in another — who they say touched them inappropriately, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports. Both men denied the allegations.

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan publicly accused a lobbyist and former legislator of improperly touching her in an Annapolis bar and restaurant, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. Kagan, D-Montgomery, released a statement accusing Gil Genn of inappropriately touching her during a karaoke event Thursday night at Castlebay Irish Pub. The statement was released less than a day after Kagan posted on her Facebook page that a then-unnamed lobbyist “put his hand on my back and slid it down down down.”

“How someone would still have the audacity to do that, in this climate, astonished me,” Kagan said. She said she plans to file a formal complaint about the incident. Genn denies he touched Kagan at all, calling her account of their brief karaoke night encounter “delusional,” reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

Letter by female lawmakers about sexual harassment in Annapolis causes a backlash


March 4 at 5:48 PM
By Ovetta Wiggins
The Washington Post
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The open letter — signed by almost every female lawmaker in the Maryland General Assembly — was supposed to refocus attention away from ugly allegations about sexual harassment in Annapolis and onto women’s progress in the legislature and efforts to address inappropriate conduct.

But instead the missive released last week created a backlash, with the head of the women’s caucus asking for her signature to be removed and alleged victims of harassment saying they felt blindsided and further marginalized.

“We are disappointed to learn so many legislators had disregarded the stories of current and former staffers,” said a statement provided to The Washington Post last week by an advocate and two former Annapolis staffers, including Nina Smith, who testified before the caucus last month about being harassed by six lawmakers over eight years. “With this action, many of us have been forced to relive our traumatic experiences.”

The letter, signed by 57 of the 60 female lawmakers, pushed back against part of a report by the women’s caucus, in which an anonymous victim of alleged harassment describes the General Assembly as a “frat house.” The characterization was “unfair and . . . is disrespectful to the work that we do every day,” the letter said.

On Wednesday, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) had a clerk read the letter on the Senate floor, then thanked the women for writing it. The letter, Miller said, “shows that we’re making progress . . . and if they recognize that, it makes everybody feel better that what we’ve been doing to protect the workplace has not been in vain.”

Del. Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City), one of three women who refused to the sign the letter, said she considered it the latest attempt by legislative leaders to control the narrative coming out of the State House on the topic of harassment. “It was more focused on protecting the institution rather than those who are experiencing sexual harassment,” she said.

Washington said she was taken aback by a decision by Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) to form a commission to study the legislature’s anti-harassment policy at a time when the women’s caucus was finalizing its recommendations on the same issue.

Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), president of the women’s caucus, said she initially signed the letter because she wanted to highlight that there “is more to the legislature than just the horrifying ‘frat house’ environment we described in our report.” She said she also wanted to “keep peace among women legislators,” including those who had circulated the letter in the first place.

She removed her name late last week because of what she said were unintended consequences. “Unfortunately some of the very victims we are working to support have communicated to us they feel betrayed by this letter,” Kelly wrote in a statement. “Others have attempted to use this letter to support the idea of holding off on legislation to address these issues.”

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday on a bill sponsored by Kelly that would strengthen anti-harassment policies, adding procedures to deal with lobbyists who might be victims or perpetrators and requiring the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to refer claims against lawmakers to an independent investigator.

But Miller said last week that although procedural changes are possible, he does not expect any anti-harassment legislation to be approved before the commission he and Busch created comes up with its own report, which is expected by the end of the year.

Maryland’s capital has been increasingly focused on allegations of harassment in recent months. Last week, Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgmery) accused a lobbyist of touching her inappropriately, and former lobbyist Sarah Love said Del. Charles E. Barkley (D-Montgomery) in the past had hugged and kissed her in ways that were not acceptable.

It was the first time women connected to the State House have publicly named men who they said were responsible for wrongdoing. Previously, women had spoken anonymously, or without naming alleged perpetrators, about what they called a pervasive culture of misconduct in the General Assembly. Barkley and the accused lobbyist, former delete Gil Genn, denied behaving inappropriately.

The women’s caucus report, released in mid-February, included numerous accounts of alleged harassment and assault, including one incident in which a woman said she had to “forcefully” push a co-worker away after he grabbed her breasts and stuck his tongue in her ear during a ride home from a work event.

Another woman is quoted saying, “It feels like a fraternity house.” That description, which was picked up in news reports, is what prompted some female legislative leaders to propose the open letter and ask their colleagues to sign it.

Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), one of the women legislators who came up with the idea, said she never intended to appear to dismiss the accounts of the women who shared their stories.

“Under no circumstance would I ever do anything to minimize a victim’s experience,” she said. “I’m sorry if someone took it that way. Our concern was that the articles seemed to concentrate on the reports of pretty despicable behavior and the term ‘frat house’ was used. . . . We just thought the stories were not balanced. That’s what we were trying to address.”

Dumais said the idea to write the letter came from conversations she had with Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) and House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County).

Although Szeliga said she doesn’t think anti-harassment legislation needs to be passed — noting several policies implemented over the past two years to expand the process for reporting harassment and tracking complaints — McIntosh seemed open to the option.

“Nobody who wrote the letter, signed the letter . . . viewed it as saying to the women who came forward ‘shame on you,’ ” McIntosh said. “All of us are going to be supporting bills to try to address sexual harassment, not only in this workplace but in other workplaces. Rather than getting into the battle of the letters or the battle of the press, I’d rather get down to work on legislation or policy work, changes to our personnel practices.”

In addition to Smith, the statement from the former Annapolis staffers criticizing the open letter was signed by Jessica Semachko, who worked for an advocacy group until 2015, and Neal Carter, who worked at the State House from 2007 to 2009. Both had posted on social media about experiencing and witnessing sexual harassment.

In their statement, they and Smith said the letter from the female lawmakers has made them even more determined to push for changes in Annapolis.

“Those of us who have shared our stories won’t be deterred,” the statement said. “We’ll continue to demand systemic change, and we’re determined to use the legislative process to do so now more than ever.” 

Maryland senator accuses lobbyist of improper touching

March 2nd, 2018, 4:00 PM
by Erin Fox, Contract Reporter
The Baltimore Sun
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State Sen. Cheryl Kagan said a General Assembly lobbyist touched her inappropriately Thursday evening during a karaoke night at an Annapolis bar.

In a statement she released Friday on Senate letterhead, Kagan said it was not the first time that lobbyist Gil Genn, a former lawmaker, put his hands on her. She said she decided to publicly “call him out” now because it was the first time it happened since the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment began dominating national news.

“How someone would still have the audacity to do that, in this climate, astonished me,” Kagan said. She said she plans to file a formal complaint about the incident.

Genn denies he touched Kagan at all, calling her account of their brief karaoke night encounter “delusional.”

Although Maryland’s female lawmakers published a report describing anonymous accounts of sexual harassment in the General Assembly, Kagan is the first sitting Maryland lawmaker to publicly accuse someone of inappropriate conduct.

Kagan said Genn interrupted a conversation she was having with a former aide at the CastleBay Irish Pub on Main Street around 10 p.m. and slid his hand all the way down her back until he “grazed my tush.”

“It was completely inappropriate,” Kagan said. “And then he wanted to carry on a conversation.”

Genn said he and a group of friends had been at the bar for a while, and that he briefly ran into Kagan while leaving the bar with his longtime girlfriend. He said it would have been impossible for him to touch the senator because he had a wet coat and umbrella in his hand.

“This is so stunning and shocking, I’m almost breathless,” Genn said.

Genn and Kagan, both Montgomery County Democrats, have known each other for more than 20 years. Genn said he suspected Kagan was making the accusation in retribution for his lobbying firm’s opposition to the senator’s proposed ban on foam cups.

Kagan said that is not the case.

“Lobbyists have opposed various legislative proposals over my eight years in the House and four years in the Senate,” she said. “I’ve never leveled an accusation like this against any of them. … I don’t mind when people disagree with me. I have a problem with people who lie or disrespect me or my beliefs.”

Justin Fiore, Kagan’s former chief of staff, said that after the senator introduced her to Genn they chatted briefly until Kagan’s eyes went wide and she went stiff.

“All of a sudden, her facial expression changed, her body language shifted, and she is looking at me in the eyes with that stare that says, ‘I need to get out of this situation.’ ” Fiore said. “It was every physical sign that one can give to say they’re not comfortable.”

He couldn’t see the incident, but after Genn left a few seconds later, Kagan told him what happened, Fiore said.

Kagan noted that Genn has donated to her campaigns in the past.

She said that when their terms overlapped in the House of Delegates in the late 1990s, on at least two occasions Genn put his hand on her stomach, right below her breasts. She said he stopped after she threatened to tell his then-wife.

Genn called that allegation “as false as this delusional representation of what she said happened last night.”

Genn’s lobbying partner, Lorenzo Bellamy, released a statement about the allegations.

“As managing partner, I am concerned about the allegations raised by Senator Kagan,” Bellamy wrote. “I have the upmost personal and professional respect for all of my clients and legislators. I do not condone and have zero tolerance for any inappropriate behavior.”

Genn and Bellamy launched the Bellamy Glenn Group in September.

Kagan said in her written statement that she was making the accusation public because she was speaking up for legislative staff and interns “who are clearly more vulnerable than a Senator whose votes could affect a lobbyist’s clients.”

Kagan had posted on Facebook Thursday night after the encounter, saying she was “SO tempted to start naming names as a consequence.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller’s chief of staff, Pat Murray, said their office reached out to Kagan after seeing the post and encouraged her to report the incident.

“We take this very seriously,” Murray said.

The General Assembly revamped its sexual harassment policy late last year to include tracking of complaints and an annual report that identified sustained cases of harassment.

Legislative leaders in January created a 14-member commission to examine how to further expand the legislature’s process for preventing and addressing sexual assault. The current policy and procedures don’t cover lobbyists since they are not General Assembly employees. The commission is considering what to do when a lobbyist is accused of wrong doing.

Current, former Md. lawmakers accused of inappropriately touching women in Annapolis

 March 2nd, 2018
By Ovetta Wiggins
The Washington Post
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A Maryland state senator and a former lobbyist went public Friday with allegations of sexual harassment, becoming the first women since the #MeToo movement began to publicly name men connected to the State House — a current lawmaker in one case and a lawmaker turned lobbyist in another — who they say touched them inappropriately.

Both men denied the allegations.

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) said former delegate Gil Genn, who now works as a lobbyist, put his hand on her back during a chance encounter at a bar near the State House on Thursday night and then “ran it down my back to my tush.”

Sara Love, who worked as a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union from 2013 to 2016, said in a separate interview that Del. Charles E. Barkley (D-Montgomery) made inappropriate physical contact with her during that period.

Barkley, she said, “pulled me in too close, held me too long and gave a sloppy wet kiss on my cheek. . . . His behavior crossed the line. It was inappropriate.”

Kagan, who has served 12 years in the General Assembly, and Love said they were speaking out because sexual harassment continues in Annapolis despite news reports in recent months based on the accounts of women who shared their stories anonymously. Kagan said she filed a formal complaint with the legislative human resources director Friday.

“My goal is to serve as a warning for men that they need to clean up their act immediately,” she said, “that they will be outed and shamed and that their behavior is completely unacceptable.”

Kagan said she has experienced instances of sexual harassment during her career but still was shocked by Genn’s “brazen attitude for disrespecting women’s boundaries,” especially given the country’s ongoing national discussion about sexual harassment.

Genn, who served in the General Assembly from 1987 to 1999 and is now a partner at the firm Bellamy Genn, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He told the Baltimore Sun that Kagan’s allegations were “delusional,” saying, “This is so stunning and shocking, I’m almost breathless.”

Lorenzo Bellamy, managing partner of the lobbying firm, said in a statement: “I am concerned about the allegations raised by Senator Kagan. I have the utmost personal and professional respect for all of my clients and legislators. I do not condone and have zero tolerance for any inappropriate behavior. Thank You.”

Barkley, who has served in the House since 1999, said he did not recall “any behavior that crossed the line” with Love.

“Sara was and still is a very nice person,” he said. “She would give me a hug. I would give her a hug. I don’t remember doing anything other than that. . . . It sounds like I made her uncomfortable. If I did, I’m sorry about that.”

Maryland lawmakers have been grappling with how to address what many describe as a pervasive culture of sexual harassment in the capital. Women until now have been reluctant to publicly describe their experiences.

recent report from the Women Legislators of Maryland caucus contained searing descriptions of alleged sexual harassment and assault by male colleagues, and a former legislative staffer named Nina Smith told the caucus last month that six lawmakers had touched her inappropriately during her time in Annapolis.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) have created a commission to review anti-harassment policies for the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The commission is scheduled to complete its work by the end of the year.

Kagan said her interaction with Genn occurred while she was meeting colleagues from the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties at Castlebay, an Annapolis bar and restaurant that has karaoke on Thursday nights.

“Gil came over . . . and put his hand on my back and ran it down my back to my tush,” she said. “I was so shocked that I couldn’t respond in the moment.”

She said Genn then tried to make conversation and she “pivoted” her body away.

“If a lobbyist who needs my vote for his clients can think it’s okay to harass a senator, imagine how he would act around interns or staffers,” Kagan said. “It’s not okay, and I have to speak out.”

Love said she has not filed a complaint against Barkley, who is giving up his seat at the end of the year and running for the Montgomery County Council. She said she came forward after a former Montgomery County delegate mentioned the veteran lawmaker’s name on social media as an alleged perpetrator. And she said she hopes that making her allegations public will help fuel changes in the legislature, which only this year began tracking how many harassment complaints it receives and how they are resolved.

Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), president of the women’s caucus, has proposed legislation that would require the legislature to have an independent investigator look into complaints. A hearing Monday will determine whether that bill gets assigned to a committee, where it could be considered.

“Enough is enough,” Love said. “There is a serious problem in Annapolis that has got to be addressed, and the focus is on leadership to make serious reforms.”


March 2, 2018
By Adam Pagnucco
Seventh State
View the Full Article Here

One of the things that has been missing so far in the #Metoo movement’s impact on Annapolis is the naming of actual perpetrators of sexual harassment.  Well, that ends now.  Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) has issued a statement on official letterhead accusing former District 16 Delegate and current lobbyist Gilbert J. Genn of touching her inappropriately.  (Genn was once a member of the House Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice.)  Think on this, folks: if a lobbyist is behaving this way with a person of power – a State Senator! – what is happening to others?

Kagan Accuses Lobbyist of Inappropriate Touching

 March 2nd, 2018 at 05:18
By Andrew Metcalf
Bethesda Beat
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State Sen. Cheryl Kagan on Friday afternoon issued a statement accusing Annapolis lobbyist Gil Genn of inappropriately touching her Thursday night.

In the statement, Kagan, who represents Rockville-based District 17, said Genn put his hand on her back and “then slid it down.”

The Baltimore Sun reported the incident happened during a karaoke night at Castle Bay bar in Annapolis after Genn interrupted a conversation Kagan was having with someone else. She told the paper he “grazed” her “tush.”

Genn did not immediately respond to a text message from Bethesda Beat requesting comment and his voicemail box was full Friday afternoon.

He described Kagan’s account of the encounter to the Sun as “delusional” and said he only briefly ran into her at the bar while he was there with his long-time girlfriend.

He also denied that there were any other incidents of inappropriate touching. Kagan told the paper that in the late 1990s Genn had on at least two occasions put his hand on her stomach, right below her breasts, but stopped when she confronted him about it.

Kagan first mentioned what she says happened Thursday night on Facebook, but didn’t name Genn at the time. At 10:30 p.m. Thursday, she wrote, “Damn—I can’t believe it happened again! With all the conversation, awareness and press about #MeToo, did a lobbyist truly just put his hand on my back and slide it down down down…? #DefinitelyNOTacceptable. I am SO tempted to start naming names as a consequence.”

People who responded to the Facebook post encouraged her to name the person.

In Friday’s statement, Kagan wrote, “While the anonymous stories that have been covered by the press are valid and important, it is so critical to call out—by name—men who still fail to respect women’s boundaries. I will be silent no more. Last night, former legislator and current Annapolis lobbyist, Gil Genn, put his hand on my back and then slid it down… . This was not the first time he had touched me inappropriately. I speak up today not only for myself, but also for the legislative staff and interns who are clearly more vulnerable than a Senator whose votes could affect a lobbyist’s clients. It’s time to call him out.”

Genn formerly served as the delegate from Bethesda-based District 16 from 1987 to 1999. He’s listed as a partner at the Bellamy Genn Group on the Annapolis firm’s website.

Md. Sen. Kagan accuses lobbyist of improper touching

March 2nd, 2018
By Bryan P. Sears, Daily Record Government Reporter
The Daily Record
View the Full Article Here

ANNAPOLIS — A state senator is publicly accusing a lobbyist and former legislator of improperly touching her in an Annapolis bar and restaurant. Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan, D-Montgomery, released a statement accusing Gil Genn of inappropriately touching her during a karaoke event Thursday night at Castlebay Irish Pub. The statement was released less than a day …

Statement by Senator Kagan on Sexual Harassment in Annapolis

March 2, 2018

Over the course of my career, I, like most women I know, have experienced some form of sexual harassment. Courageous women all over the country have come forward since last fall to share their stories. As a result, many offenders in various industries have lost power and prestige. Employers have created or enhanced sexual harassment trainings and strengthened their enforcement mechanisms.

After all of these revelations and the ongoing conversations in Annapolis, I was shocked to be touched inappropriately yet again last night. Unfortunately, there are too many women who, for fear of reprisal or career limitation, have needed to remain silent. While the anonymous stories that have been covered by the press are valid and important, it is also critical to call out— by name— men who still fail to respect women’s boundaries. I will remain silent no more.

Last night, former legislator and current Annapolis lobbyist, Gil Genn, put his hand on my back and then slid it down…. This was not the first time he had touched me inappropriately. I speak up today not only for myself, but also for the legislative staff and interns who are clearly more vulnerable than a Senator whose votes could affect a lobbyist’s clients. It’s time to call him out.


A new bill could ban styrofoam in Maryland restaurants

March 1, 2018 at 11:35 PM
by Brooks DuBose
The Diamondback
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A statewide ban on Styrofoam products at restaurants and food suppliers is making its way through the Maryland General Assembly.

Cups, plates and takeout boxes made from expanded polystyrene foam, commonly called Styrofoam, would be banned from use in this state starting July 1, according to the bill. The bill would allow a six-month grace period for businesses to adjust before enforcement of the law would begin, said state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill. Enforcement would begin Jan. 1.

Claire Jordan, the advocacy and outreach manager for the environmental group Trash Free Maryland, has gathered a list of environmental advocacy groups in the state including Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and Blue Water Baltimore, who support the bill.

MaryPIRG, an activist group at the University of Maryland, has collected over 1,500 individual petitions in support of the statewide ban, said sophomore government and politics major Luisa Beltran, who leads the “Save the Bay” campaign for MaryPIRG and has organized phone banking and email blasts to legislators who might be undecided on the bill.

“It’s a momentum thing that people are starting to realize that Styrofoam has no practical use,” Beltran said. “In the long run, it has a lot of negative impacts, not only [on] the environment but a lot health risks that come along with it.”

The bill has gained steam after similar bans were enacted in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Washington, D.C., in 2016. The Baltimore City Council unanimously approved a ban on expanded polystyrene food containers last month, an initiative Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh vowed to sign into law.

The state bill has received over 120 individual petition signatures and 12 letters of support from businesses saying that they are in favor of the bill, Jordan said, including Mom’s Organic Market and Elevation Burger in Hyattsville.

While some local jurisdictions have taken action to ban polystyrene, a statewide ban is preferable, she said, because it “levels the playing field” for Maryland businesses, adding that the goal is to have consistency in the law across the state.

“It makes it harder for businesses in multiple jurisdictions to comply with a variety of different bans,” Jordan said. “Litter doesn’t stop at county lines.”

Both versions of the bill have support from legislators. Nineteen senators are co-sponsors of the Senate bill, and over 30 have put their support behind the House bill.

“It’s always the right time to pass proactive preventative environmental legislation,” Jordan said. “We’ve known for years the negative environmental impacts of expanded polystyrene foam.”

Research shows that expanded polystyrene does not biodegrade. Instead, it breaks down into tiny particles and seeps into the waterways where they are ingested by animals and even humans, Jordan said.

Styrene, the main chemical in polystyrene, is reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic, according to the National Toxicology Program. These chemicals leach into food and beverages, Kagan said.

Opponents argue that replacing polystyrene products would not reduce the environmental impact and that the infrastructure to recycle alternatives does not exist everywhere across the state.

“These materials must be collected and sent to commercial composting facilities in order to fully break down as designed,” said Restaurant Association of Maryland’s Senior Vice President Melvin Thompson. “Howard County is the only jurisdiction we are aware of that has some limited residential collection and composting of food waste and such alternatives.”

“Forcing businesses to use alternative packaging does not reduce litter; it only changes its composition,” Thompson added.

Gary Armstrong, the owner of Heavenly Chicken & Ribs, a small business with locations in both Prince George’s and Calvert counties, testified at last month’s Senate hearing that this issue is a “trash problem, not a Styrofoam problem.”

“Let’s go after where the garbage is going and how to manage that better,” Armstrong said.

The ban would increase costs for restaurants, Thompson said, which is “challenging to absorb for narrow-profit margin industries like ours, and are difficult to pass on to price-sensitive customers.”

The cost of switching away from polystyrene foam would impact his bottom line, Armstrong said. A pack of 200 polystyrene containers costs $16, and the same number of biodegradable containers costs twice as much.

“That’s an increase of $7,000 [in cost] to my business a year,” he said.

The bill’s fiscal note found the financial impact the bill will have on small businesses is negligible.

Kagan said she understands why some businesses are resistant to the ban.

“Some of this is based on fear or lack of knowledge,” she said. “We think that businesses will do the right thing — protect public health — and with little to no cost increase.”

Jordan and Kagan stressed that they do not intend the ban to negatively impact Maryland businesses. Trash Free Maryland is seeking to extend the bill’s grace period to one year, the length of time used in the bans in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, according to Jordan.

“We’re not asking anybody to throw away their current supply,” Kagan said. “We know that, especially in restaurants, profit margins can be narrow.”

Jordan said the bill is not meant to be unfriendly to businesses and that Kagan wouldn’t have reintroduced it had Trash Free Maryland received negative feedback.

To better understand the impact similar legislation has had on businesses, Jordan polled local restaurants in Washington, D.C. The majority of businesses she spoke to were already using a mix of expanded polystyrene foam and compostable containers, she said.

“Businesses go in the direction of the market,” Jordan said. “They’ve been able to switch to other products. It tells us that the market is moving in that direction.”

“We don’t want this to be punitive,” Kagan said. “We want people to do the right thing.”

OpEd: 911 texting a good start, but Md. system needs more to protect lives
By Senator Cheryl Kagan

February 22, 2018
The Baltimore Sun
View the Full Article Here

Every child knows what to do in an emergency: They dial 911. But when 911 fails, people die.

On April 19, 2006, Kaafee Billah called 911 from his office at MedImmune/AstraZeneca in Gaithersburg. He thought he might be having a heart attack. Emergency responders searched from office to office, looking for him. Ten hours later, he was found dead in a different company building that shared the same “trunk” phone line.

On July 25, 2010, Rockville resident and environmental activist Carl Henn was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm; 911 was overwhelmed by calls, so his friends’ efforts were met with busy signals. Carl later died.

On July 10, 2016, Marlon Somarriba was having trouble breathing. Montgomery County’s 911 Center was experiencing a brief outage. No calls could be answered, so no emergency assistance could be dispatched. Marlon died.

The common thread in all these tragedies was the failure of 911 to get help to where it was needed. Next Generation 911 is being implemented around the country and will address some of these shortcomings. It will change how we communicate and help those in crisis. We need to bring it to Maryland.

In 23 of our 24 local jurisdictions, if there’s a bad guy in your house, you need to dial 911 and actually talk to a call-taker. Only in Frederick County can residents currently text to 911, though that’s expected to soon change. The state Board of Public Works on Wednesday voted to approve a $2.4 million contract that will allow 911 texting in other counties as early as May. This is a good start, but it does not eliminate the need for NextGen911, which will also allow you to send photos and videos and allow our emergency personnel to more accurately locate you. This will give our first responders situational awareness before they arrive, improving their response and safety.

While this technology will offer clear benefits, it could be abused with sinister intent. Imagine a criminal sending a video of a murder he is committing to taunt police; or the X-rated videos or pranks that could be sent. We’ll need to focus on cybersecurity.

Another challenge will be regulating exactly what personal information from emergency calls should be disclosed to the public. The Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) is an important tool that ensures government accountability through transparency. There is, however, a need to balance that transparency with reasonable privacy. We wouldn’t want to see gory or gruesome acts on our evening news. Innocent children caught in the background of a crime video shouldn’t have their faces displayed. And our personal medical information should be kept private when it’s not a part of a criminal investigation.

We will also need extra support, training and counseling for the call-takers, who, if you think about it, are our first first responders. Their jobs are stressful, and they are often underappreciated. It takes eight to 12 months to train a call-taker. They are underpaid and have few of the benefits of other first responders. Reclassifying their role to allow local governments to offer better pensions, tax benefits and death benefits could help address our recruiting and retention challenges in these critical jobs.

Once call-takers have information about your emergency, they dispatch police, fire or rescue to help. People often wonder how a pizza delivery driver can pinpoint their location, while the emergency responder has trouble. Some of that is due to the state of our GIS, or Geographic Information System. While our landline telephones are easily traced, cell phones are much less precise. The cell tower is one data point, but that doesn’t help find you in an office complex, apartment building or hotel room. Investments to upgrade the GIS data will help emergency responders get to you faster.

Clearly, enhancing our hardware and software and increasing responsiveness through well-qualified and well-trained professional staff come with a cost. Funding for 911 services has not kept pace with technology. Senate Bill 1051 proposes a new method for calculating the 911 fee and other changes that would raise needed funds now, even before we transition to NextGen911.

911 is a phone number that too many people take for granted. It is arguably the very most important service that our local governments provide. We all assume that when we call, someone will answer and help will be on the way. Unfortunately, that’s not certain. We have already seen that in extreme weather, traffic pile-ups or (God forbid) another school shooting, our current system is inadequate. As I say all too regularly, “when 911 fails, people die.” I hope that policymakers of both parties will step up — even in an election year — to address the urgent need to protect Marylanders.

Politics Roundup: Two Candidates in Montgomery County Slide through Filing Deadline Unopposed

February 28, 2018
by Louis Peck and Andrew Metcalf
Bethesda Beat Magazine
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More than 60 public offices—ranging from U.S. senator to school board—will be on the ballot in Montgomery County this year. A flurry of activity just prior to Tuesday’s 9 p.m. filing deadline created races for several previously uncontested seats.

But two Montgomery County officeholders—State’s Attorney John McCarthy and District 17 state Sen. Cheryl Kagan—emerged with no opposition in the June 26 primary or the November general election, guaranteeing both another four-year term in office.

McCarthy, a Gaithersburg resident, was first elected as state’s attorney in 2006 after serving as chief deputy to his predecessor, Doug Gansler. This will be his fourth term in office; he was also re-elected without primary or general election opposition in 2010, and easily defeated a Republican challenger in 2014.

For a time, it appeared that McCarthy would have primary opposition this year. But Rockville attorney Thomas DeGonia, after initially announcing his candidacy, later decided against challenging McCarthy.

Kagan’s free pass this year follows two often bitter primary contests for the Senate seat—which encompasses most of Rockville and Gaithersburg—in 2010 and 2014. The first time, Kagan narrowly lost a challenge to then-Sen. Jennie Forehand. When Forehand retired in 2014, Kagan defeated then-Del. Luis Simmons to win.

Kagan, a Rockville resident, also served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1994 to 2002.

Two other candidates for state Senate from Montgomery County emerged from the filing deadline with only minor party challenges.

Del. Ben Kramer of Derwood, seeking to succeed Sen. Roger Manno in District 19, has no primary challenger or Republican opponent this fall. But Rockville resident David Jeang filed to appear on the Green Party line in November. The district extends from Silver Spring to the outskirts of Rockville and Gaithersburg; Manno is leaving to run for the District 6 congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. John Delaney.

In Silver Spring/Takoma Park-based District 20, Sen. Will Smith also has no intraparty or Republican opposition in seeking his first full term. But an independent candidate, Vardly St. Preux of Silver Spring, filed Tuesday to appear on the November ballot. Smith was appointed to the Senate seat in December 2016 to succeed now-U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin.

Local Republicans, who have not won a contest for the Maryland General Assembly in Montgomery County since 2002, scrambled Tuesday to file candidates in several previously uncontested races.

The 11th-hour effort produced a full GOP slate of a Senate candidate and three House of Delegate contenders in District 14, which covers the eastern portion of Montgomery County. The Republicans had earlier fielded a full slate in neighboring District 15, which extends from Potomac north to the Frederick County line.

Other Republicans emerged Tuesday to partially fill the party’s slates in Bethesda-based District 16 as well as in District 18, which runs from Bethesda through Chevy Chase to Silver Spring. Both those jurisdictions have overwhelming Democratic registration margins.

The only one of the county’s eight legislative districts in which no Republicans filed is District 20, where Democrats have a better than 7-1 registration advantage.

Debate over international election observers ends in Maryland Senate

February 21, 2018
by Danielle Gaines
The Frederick News Post
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ANNAPOLIS — The debate over Russian influence on American elections reached fever-pitch in the Maryland Senate on Wednesday, when the Senate president entered the debate over international election observers at Maryland polling places on Wednesday, taking the unusual step of removing himself from the rostrum to participate in floor debate.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) read extensively from a Washington Post column about the indictment of 13 Russians on charges related to interference in the 2016 election through social media and said he wants to limit those allowed in polling places to “bona fide” Marylanders, echoing concerns Republican lawmakers have made on the floor during a debate of fits-and-starts over Senate Bill 190 during the last two weeks.

Miller supported a decision to send the bill back to committee, adding “I hope [it] doesn’t see its rise again any time in the near future.”

“This bill might have been ready for prime time four weeks ago or six years ago or four years ago or even two weeks ago, but what has happened now with the indictment of these 13 men showing how vulnerable our elections are … our elections are very easy to manipulate,” Miller said. “I don’t want these people in the room.”

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery), said she was surprised by Miller’s nearly six-minute speech and said Republican attacks on her bill were disingenuous.

The state Republican party sent an email last week stating “Maryland Democrats introduce a bill to invite Russians into polling places” and encouraged members to sign a petition urging the bill’s defeat.

“Do you think foreign nationals should be openly invited into our polling places on election day?” the email asked. “… For all the complaints about potential foreign involvement in U.S. elections, Maryland Democrats sure are trying to invite outside influences into our elections.”

Kagan defended the bill, saying that its purpose was to codify uniform rules to guide foreign election observers, who are often directed to Maryland polling places to learn more about democracy on election days because of the state’s proximity to Washington.

“One of the reasons we do this is to be able to educate leaders from other countries about democracy. They learn from us by watching our election process, and then they take it home to their own countries and bring democracy there,” Kagan said. “It’s an important State Department program, and it’s vital that we continue that while also increasing our security.”

Kagan said it was a “topsy-turvy world” when a bill that would have increased election security was derailed.

She said the State Board of Elections will achieve the precautions included in the bill — but will do so through office policy since the legislation is unlikely to re-emerge from committee.

Kagan shared a letter from Linda H. Lamone, the state’s election administrator, which noted that foreign election observers are governed by international agreements and are “forbidden from talking to voters or touching any equipment whatsoever. Local election officials retain their authority to place or remove any observer at any time if the rules are violated.”

The letter also stated that “Maryland will continue to abide by our international treaty commitments without ever endangering the safety and security of our election process.”

Baltimore set to ban Styrofoam use

February 21, 2018
by Luke Broadwater
The Baltimore Sun
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The Baltimore City Council is poised to forbid city businesses from using polystyrene foam containers for carryout food and drink — a bill that Mayor Catherine E. Pugh has pledged to sign into law.

By an unanimous vote Monday night, the council gave preliminary approval to the bill that Councilman John Bullock introduced as an effort to cut down on the number of foam cups floating in Baltimore’s waterways. The bill would enact criminal fines on businesses that fail to comply with a ban that states that “no food service facility may use any disposable food” container made from polystyrene foam, commonly called Styrofoam.

The overwhelming display of support comes after several previous attempts failed to overcome opposition from stores and restaurants, which continue to resist an environmental initiative that has been enacted in other parts of Maryland and in Washington. A final vote is still required at the council’s next meeting in March before the measure is sent to Pugh, but it is considered largely a formality.

“We look at all the litter in our waterways. It’s not biodegradable. It’s not actually being recycled,” Bullock said. “For the most part, it’s ending up in landfills or being incinerated. In water, it breaks apart into small pieces, which makes it very difficult to clear up the water and dangerous for wildlife.”

Violating the law would be a misdemeanor that carries a $1,000 fine. Bullock said he was not worried that the measure makes it a criminal offense.

“I don’t expect anyone to go to jail because of this,” he said. “There is a fine attached to it. We want to change behavior.”

The mayor said she plans to support the legislation because the council agreed to amend the bill and give city businesses 18 months to comply with the foam ban after she signs it.

“The good thing is it gives folks time to transform into a more environmentally friendly material,” Pugh said. “I think 18 months ought to be enough time.”

The foam is a cheap way to package food and a popular method for serving carryout coffee, business owners say. But environmentalists say that when the material is discarded it often ends up in the Inner Harbor, where it breaks into ever-smaller floating pieces which can harm wildlife.

Baltimore is not alone in its concern. The city would join other jurisdictions in the area with similar bans, including Washington, Takoma Park, and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Restaurant and store owners who have resisted the bill say the ban will increase their costs and do little to clean up the harbor.

“It is puzzling and disappointing that the Baltimore City Council is becoming more involved with policies affecting the minutiae of restaurant operation,” said Melvin R. Thompson, vice president at the Restaurant Association of Maryland. “This type of unwarranted focus on the restaurant industry exacerbates the operational challenges already facing city restaurants.”

The ban is the latest of repeated attempts to pass similar legislation. In 2013, the council postponed action on a proposed ban after several members withdrew their support.

Bullock introduced a new bill after calculating that younger, more progressive council members voted into office in December 2016 might support the concept. When he introduced the bill last year, Bullock stood on the council floor with a cluster of white foam products that had become mushed together in the water — underscoring the point that the products remain in water for long periods.

New Baltimore City Council takes office pledging improvements
A key moment for the bill’s success came this month when council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced his support for a measure he had previously opposed. Young shifted his position at the urging of city school students.

Young, who once called the ban “anti-business,” said at a committee hearing on the measure that he’d been convinced to support it after schoolchildren lobbied him.

“I asked them questions, and they came back with tough answers,” he said. “They were really educated and knew exactly what they wanted to say.”

The council also was pushed by environmental activists.

Claire Jordan of Trash Free Maryland called the council’s vote “an important step forward for the health of the Baltimore City environment, for future generations, and for taxpayers, and puts Baltimore city on the right path to be a leader on trash and litter pollution.”

Laurie Schwartz, president of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, said her organization’s trash-cleaning service called Mr. Trash Wheel picks up 175,000 foam containers a year.

“The Waterfront Partnership looks forward to spending less money on trash cleanups and more on beautification projects,” Schwartz said.

The council also granted preliminary approval for a bill that would bar restaurants from including sodas and other sugary drinks as default options in children’s meals, a move supporters say could improve children’s health. The bill would still allow families to request a soda if desired.

“Many people say we are attacking industry. We’re not attacking industry. We are doing something we haven’t done for too long: focusing on our children,” said City Councilman Brandon Scott, the bill’s lead sponsor.


Here’s an idea for infrastructure week: Bring 911 into the 21st century

January 15, 2018
by the Washington Post’s Editorial Board
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THIS FRIDAY marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.

But even as an estimated 240 million 911 calls continue to be placed annually, the systems that service them have grown obsolete, unable to handle photos, video, downloads, precise geo-locating and even, in most places, simple text messages. That’s a threat not just to public safety but also to national security.

Worryingly, no one seems quite sure how to pay for a modernization to what’s known as Next Generation 911 (“NG911” in industry parlance), whose cost could exceed $20 billion. This week, as hundreds of public-safety and industry officials gather in the District for their annual 911 conference, many will have one main question on their minds: Why not prioritize an upgrade as part of the Trump administration’s national infrastructure project?
Good question. Given the dearth of funding in the president’s proposal, however, there’s little room for optimism in the short term. And in the White House’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, a 55-page document released Monday, there’s not a word about upgrading 911 service.

Part of the problem is that 911 is a victim of its own success. For much of the service’s history, people who called the emergency number, which was handled by the single local phone company, could be all but certain the system would work. Calls were answered promptly and handled efficiently, and help would be quickly on the way.

That’s still the case for the vast majority of 911 calls, but glitches have multiplied as technology has aged and Americans have switched to cellphones, from which 80 percent of 911 calls are now made. A six-hour outage in April 2014 left 750,000 wireless customers in California without access to 911. In October 2016, a cyberattack via Twitter triggered nonstop cellphone emergency calls in cities nationwide, flooding 911 call centers. One day last March, AT&T Wireless customers nationwide couldn’t get through to 911.

“Every call to 911 must go through,” said Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Yes, but that’s not happening. In Maryland, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat alarmed at the deaths of constituents in her district involving 911 breakdowns since 2006, has introduced legislation to help localities start the transition to NG911. As things stand, callers can send text messages to 911 in just one county — Frederick County, home of the Maryland School for the Deaf.

As the system ages, it will become ever more prone to pranks, hackers and cyberattacks, and ever less reliable. It will also be increasingly vulnerable to collapse in emergencies, unable to reroute calls in the event of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

At the heart of NG911 is a shift to Internet, digital-based routing to replace old-fashioned phone lines. That will take a large helping of funds from Congress, plus significant contributions from state and local governments. So far, there’s little sign of either.


February 9, 2018
by Suzanne Pollak
The Montgomery County Sentinel
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Maryland’s controversial state song – “Maryland, My Maryland” – could soon go the way of eight-track tapes and cassettes if a number of state legislators get their way.

The Civil War-era battle hymn, which makes reference to “Northern scum,” takes its lyrics from a poem written in the early days of the conflict by James Ryder Randall, and with verses like “Thou wilt not cower in the dust, Maryland! Thy beaming sword shall never rust,” gained popularity with Confederate troops before being adopted as the official state song.

One proposal for changing the song is SB0790, sponsored by State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D) of District 17. Kagan has been pushing to change the state song since 2016, and introduced her bill to “repeal and replace” the current song, which she called “embarrassing and dated and racist,” last week.

Kagan’s plan would replace “Maryland, My Maryland” with a song to be selected via a contest in which “artists, musicians, school kids, historians” would work to create a new song. 

“It would be a thoughtful and inclusive contest,” Kagan said, that would result in “an appropriate song that honors our past that celebrates our present and anticipates our glorious future.”

Another option is HB0508, sponsored by Democratic Delegates Krill Reznik (D-39) and Bonnie Cullison (D-19). This legislation – which will be considered at a House of Delegates hearing March 8 at 1 p.m. – would first abolish “Maryland, My Maryland” and establish a state-level panel to hold three public hearings and make recommendations for a replacement based on public submissions.

“We have had a hard time coming up with a song,” Reznik said. “My bill is not a study. It’s probably time we already do it,” he said of replacing the current song.

Reznik said he initially favored a song performed by the Naval Academy Glee Club in the 1970s, but he was unable to determine who holds the copyright to the song.

Instead of continuing to debate the matter, Reznik said he wants to let a commission “come up with an appropriate group who are experts in Maryland history and music” and choose a new song.

A third, more conservative option is SB0588, which was introduced two years ago but is still under consideration. Under SB0588, the lyrics to “Maryland, My Maryland” would be revised by eliminating certain verses and replacing them words from a second poem called “Maryland, My Maryland,” which was written by John White in 1894.

This option has its own problems, said Baltimore Songwriters Association member Sean Tully, who, in an email to the Sentinel, noted that the authors of both versions of “Maryland, My Maryland” owned slaves, and pointed out that the rhyming schemes of the two poems are different. “It will sound ridiculous when sung (or even read for that matter),” he wrote.

While Kagan was once a co-sponsor of SB0588, she now says she no longer supports the merging of the two poems. 

“To me that’s putting lipstick on a pig,” she said. “Fixing it is better than doing nothing, but replacing it would be better.”

Yet another proposal is HB0608, which is sponsored by Democratic Del. Antonio Hayes (D-40) and provides for the “repealing and reenacting” of the state song with the same combination of poems envisioned in SB0588.

The bill contains language stating that the current poem “in its entirety, is inappropriate as a State song inasmuch as it represents emotions that were characteristic of the most divided period of this country’s history.”

Sen. Kagan scolds state school board veep for disparaging students

February 8, 2018
by Glynis Kazanjian
Maryland Reporter
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A Democratic senator scolded the Republican vice president of the state school board for his choice of words at an Annapolis hearing Wednesday when describing what he called Maryland’s low-ranking accountability standard used to measure student academic achievement.

Chester Finn, vice president of the Maryland State Board of Education, said legislation approved by the state legislature last year placed Maryland “in the cellar” in terms of how U.S. schools rate student academic outcomes, which makes Maryland “second lowest” in the country.

“Last year’s legislation was aptly named Protect Our Schools Act, because sadly it protects our schools from rigorous accountability for the achievement of their students,” said Finn, a panelist at a Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs (EHE) Committee hearing. “In both grades K-8 and high school, Maryland’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan is second lowest in the country in counting actual student outcome.”

When Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, castigated Finn for his use of language, however, she used the state’s efforts to lure a second Amazon headquarters to Maryland to make her point.

Kagan said to Finn, “I want to take note of the words you used. Messaging matters . . . I don’t think that when we’re trying to get Amazon here and trying to spread the word that Maryland is open for business that your using words like ‘worst, lowest, in the cellar’, is helpful in any way.”

Changing the formula

Finn, along with other panelists, was testifying before the committee, in support of emergency legislation proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan. The legislation, Protecting Our Students Act of 2018, SB301,  would change the formula the state uses to measure student academic performance by increasing the percentage of academic accountability from 55% to 80% to measure student success.

Currently, under a plan passed by the legislature last year, 55% of academic performance and 45% of school quality (or “school climate”) is used to measure how well students are learning in Maryland.

Hogan legislative advisor Keiffer Mitchell said the governor thinks the state can do better that 2017 legislation to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, an initiative striving to improve standards across the K-12 education system. Hogan vetoed the bill, and then the state legislature overrode his veto.

“Gov. Hogan believes every child in Maryland deserves a great education regardless of what neighborhood they grow up in,” Mitchell said. “The status quo is not good enough. Taxpayers, parents and especially students have a right to expect and deserve more when it comes to standards, account oversight and innovation. Gov. Hogan believes we can do it better.”

Kagan, who many believe will be picked as a running mate for one of Hogan’s Democratic challengers in this year’s election, defended the committee’s work and called Finn’s remarks “inappropriate.”

Maryland students ‘incredible’

“Maryland students are incredible, many of them labor under significant economic, learning or linguistics challenges,” Kagan said to Finn. “I think we want to do what we can to support them. I worked really hard with the panel, with stakeholders, advocates, and put in a lot of hours with a lot of experts working with ESSA and enacting it . . .

“I don’t think your testimony acknowledged that  . . . you can absolutely support this bill and support a modification, but I don’t think that disparaging this committee and this body is appropriate.”

Finn, a longtime education professor and an assistant U.S. secretary of education in the Reagan administration, said the plan originally submitted to the U.S. Department of Education called for student academic outcomes to count for 65% of the state education ratings – “the most allowed” under the protect our schools act.

“But last year state legislation required that we fit into the 65% at least 10% to be based on student accessibility to a well rounded curriculum,” Finn testified. “The federal government determined that such access does not qualify as an academic indicator under ESSA, so they reclassified it as a school quality indicator, which had the effect of shifting the balance in Maryland’s approved plan to 55% academic and 45% school quality – which is the second lowest in the country.”

EHE Committee Vice Chair Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, defended the 2017 Protect Our Schools Act, HB978. He said there were plenty of studies to show that low performance and bad attendance were directly related to school climate, a term used to represent qualities associated with school conditions.

Feds approved plan

Others opponents of the governor’s bill said the 2017 plan was already approved by the federal government and implementing a new version would delay progress across the state.

“I was part of the discussions for over a year to put that plan together,” said Cheryl Bost, Maryland State Education Association vice president and a Baltimore County school teacher. “There were internal teams, external teams, regional town hall meetings which I attended, legislative action. It was a stakeholder, grassroots effort to put that plan together.

“It’s a little Johnny-come-lately for the governor to tell us we have to change a plan that was approved by the federal government. We joined a coalition including the NAACP-Maryland, Maryland PTA, Casa de Maryland, Disability Rights Maryland, the ACLU, Advocates for Child and Youth, School Social Workers in Maryland, Arts Education in Maryland, Maryland Schools Alliance, Attendance Works, Maryland Coalition for Community Schools, Maryland Out of School time Network. All of these groups came together and support this plan.”

MSEA Assistant Executive Director Sean Johnson said the state will be using PARCC test scores this year as a baseline to measure.

“To come back at this point when we are in an implementing mode in 24 local school districts would be delaying progress,” Johnson said. “We’re using this year’s PARCC testing as a baseline. We are preparing to implement this new accountability program for the 2018-19 school year. SB301 delays the work that need to get done . . . We recommend an unfavorable vote.”

Finn defended his comments to Kagan and the committee, stating he was in no way trying to disparage children.

“Just to be clear,” Finn said to Kagan. “The testimony makes clear I’m not talking about the performance of our students. I was talking about the ranking of our plan among other states’ plans. It is among the lowest when it comes to the attention it pays to student achievement. That was my point, that is my point now, and it is a fact.”


January 15, 2018
by Bruce DePuyt
Maryland Matters
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State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) said Monday’s Metro derailment in Washington, D.C., underscores the need for Maryland, D.C. and Virginia to approve a new source of maintenance funding for the beleaguered system.

“It’s distressing,” she said. “After all of the inconvenience of SafeTrack, it’s very worrisome to have a problem like a derailment.”

The train derailed along a downtown stretch of Metro’s Red Line around 6:30 a.m. Monday. Because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, ridership that hour was fairly light; only 63 passengers were on board when the crash occurred, and no serious injuries were reported.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told reporters on Monday that it’s going “to take some time” for repairs and testing to take place, though he did not offer a more specific estimate.

“It underscores the urgent need for a reliable source of funds to maintain Metro’s infrastructure,” Kagan said. “Metrobus and Metrorail must be safe, frequent, reliable and affordable.”

Lawmakers in Annapolis, Richmond and the District are all hoping to approve legislation this year to provide the agency a dedicated source of maintenance funding. A maintenance backlog led the agency to embark on a lengthy catch-up program in 2016 and 2017, work that required large sections of the system to single-track or stop running entirely, at great inconvenience to commuters.

Metro ridership has dipped in the wake of safety and reliability concerns.


January 14, 2018
by Amanda Iacone
Washington’s Top New
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WASHINGTON — State legislatures in Maryland and Virginia have largely avoided the sexual harassment scandals that have erupted in state capitols around the county this year. Still, state lawmakers in both states are calling for changes to better protect legislators, their aides, interns and lobbyists from sexual misconduct.

“It is high time that the conversation occur about sexual harassment in Annapolis, in Hollywood, in Congress, and in newsrooms and boardrooms around the country,” said Cheryl Kagan, who represents Gaithersburg and Rockville in the Maryland Senate.
“Every woman, every professional woman, has stories to share about sexual harassment in the workplace,” Kagan said. “I assure you that senators are not immune.”

Conversations about how to handle complaints and alleged misconduct by members are taking place in the halls of both general assemblies as the legislative sessions begin this week.

The Senate and the House chambers in both Virginia and Maryland have written sexual harassment policies. And lawmakers in both states are mandated to receive sexual harassment training, according to nationwide data compiled by The Associated Press.

In Maryland, state legislators receive the training once per term, or every four years. Virginia legislators receive the training just once following their initial election.

Complaints filed against lawmakers are not investigated by an outside agency in either state, according to the data compiled by the AP.

D.C. council members and staff will complete harassment training that Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered last month for all District employees. Additional training for the council is being planned, said council spokesman Josh Gibson.

The council adheres to the District’s recently updated policy, which states that each agency must designate an employee to receive and investigate any complaints of misconduct. Employees will receive updated training every two years. The policy also calls for advanced training for supervisors.

In comparison, about 20 percent of state legislative chambers nationwide require no sexual harassment training about what constitutes sexual harassment and how to prevent, report or investigate it, the AP data showed.

And a majority of legislative chambers do not require external investigations of sexual harassment complaints, instead relying on legislators or their staff to handle such reports.

Roughly three-quarters of states have at least one legislative chamber that has either updated its sexual harassment policy in the last three months, developed specific proposals or undertaken a review of whether changes are needed.

Reforms sought
Maryland will start tracking harassment complaints and will provide a report of what complaints were filed and the outcome annually.

In December, the Legislative Policy Committee voted to update the sexual harassment policy enacting those and other changes.

Women lawmakers in Maryland say that is a good first start, but they have plenty of other recommendations that could improve the statehouse culture, not just for lawmakers but for the entire State House community, said Maryland Del. Ariana Kelly.

A group of Maryland State Senate pages look over documents handed to them by senate page coordinator Renee Smoot, right, as they prepare for the first day of the state’s 2018 legislative session in Annapolis, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
“Our goal is to make Maryland the most women-friendly place to work in politics in the country,” said Kelly, who also leads the Women Legislators of Maryland.

For example, she’d like the once per term training to incorporate scenarios that are relevant to the legislature — such as interactions in committee meetings or receptions. The current training doesn’t do that, she said.

Kagan wants more transparency and accountability. She said that an independent office should receive and investigate any misconduct claims. And she’d like to see a range of disciplinary options — including that careers could be on the line for the most egregious misconduct.

Legislative leaders announced on Wednesday that they plan to convene a panel, made up of women, that would hold hearings and ultimately make recommendations on “ways to root out sexual misconduct in Annapolis.”

In Virginia, Del. Roxann Robinson, who represents Chesterfield County, wants state lawmakers and legislative branch employees to receive annual harassment training. And she’s filed legislation that would make that change.

Northern Virginia Sen. Barbara Favola supports the idea of annual training, and she said the bill should receive unanimous support in both chambers.

Favola, who said she has never experienced any sexual harassment during her years in Richmond, said lawmakers have a duty to create a professional work environment that “is a model workplace.”

She credited the culture in the Virginia Capitol to the tenacity of the women who preceded her and who demanded such treatment.

A cultural shift
“What has helped has been getting more women elected,” Favola said. “Having younger lawmakers from both sexes coming into the General Assembly has been a good thing.”

A flood of new female lawmakers joined the ranks of the House this session after a historic election in November driving the number of women serving in the 100-member body from 17 to 27.

Ten women currently serve in the 40-member Senate.

In Maryland, the ranks of women legislators are equally small — 11 in the Senate and nearly a third in the House.

But women are running for State House seats in record numbers this year, and Kagan hopes that will result in a more diverse legislature and ultimately snuff out sexual harassment in the halls of power.


January 13, 2018
by William F. Zorzi
Maryland Matters
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As the Maryland Senate’s first order of business Friday morning, Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, rose to speak on “a point of personal privilege.”

Almost immediately it became apparent she was about to lay into President Trump’s reported comments about immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa. And just as quickly, she was interrupted by the objections of Sen. Robert G. Cassilly, a Harford County Republican.

When it was clear that Cassilly was not going to let it go without a fight, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D), postponed the entire matter until after the scheduled votes – and considerable debate — to override the governor’s vetoes of certain bills.

More than two hours later, Kagan got up again. And once again, Cassilly objected to her planned speech, invoking Senate Rule 117, which references Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, and arguing that she could not speak on “a point of personal privilege” about what was happening in Washington, D.C., based on Section 220 of the manual.

Miller disagreed.

“It also goes, Senator, it relates to rights and privileges of the body or any of its members in their official capacity, or to the comfort and convenience of the body or its members,” Miller said.

Cassilly countered, reading a little more from Mason’s.

“Senator,” Miller said.

Cassilly kept reading.

“Thank you.”

He kept reading.

“Thank you,” the Senate president interjected quietly, when Cassilly seemed to take a breath.

“Senator, thank you. Let the distinguished senator proceed, if you don’t mind,” Miller said. “If anyone wants to get up and leave — you don’t have to stay for prayers — if anyone wants to leave while the senator makes her remarks….”

But Cassilly felt the need to have a last word.

“Mr. President, I certainly enjoy hearing other people speak, but it just seems that in this year, rather than consume excessive amounts of this body’s energies on attacking the issues in Washington, D.C., that it would be an appropriate year … to abide by Mason’s Manual and enforce the rules of the Senate.”

Cutting off any further discussion, Miller said, “I agree, Senator. Thank you so much.”

Kagan finally restarted her remarks, beginning with details about the diversity in her home county, where a third of the population hails from other nations.

“Denouncing whole countries or an entire continent is so remarkably ignorant and despicable,” Kagan said, referring to Trump’s reported comments. “The Statue of Liberty says, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ It doesn’t say, ‘depending on what language they speak,’ or ‘depending on the country that they come from.’”

Kagan then cited as evidence of immigrants the incident late last month in which a Ghanaian immigrant and member of the New York Army National Guard died, after returning into a burning Bronx apartment building three times to rescue four other people.

“Please join me in condemning the language, the disrespect, the hatred and, yes, the racism, that we continue to see coming out of this administration,” she said.

Her remarks drew a small round of applause from Senate members.

“Senator, thank for your remarks,” Miller said, clearly trying to move on. “I think we all understand what has been said. I don’t know that we need any further comment. Is that correct?”

Apparently not.

Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat, stood to speak briefly about the effect of the president’s reported remarks on her family, as her daughter-in-law is a Haiti native, a college-educated registered nurse.

“It touched me really personally … trying to explain to my three granddaughters that their mother was a worthwhile human being,” Kelley said. “This is important, and I appreciate the fact that you raised this issue. It harms real people.”

Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, an immigrant and naturalized citizen from Jamaica, then rose to thank Kagan.

“If all of the immigrants left this country, it would collapse,” said Nathan-Pulliam, a Baltimore County Democrat.

And then Susan C. Lee, the Montgomery Democrat who chairs the Maryland Legislative Asian-American and Pacific Islander Caucus, weighed in, speaking of her own family, many of whom served in the U.S. armed services in conflicts dating to World War II.

Finally, believing the discussion was over, Miller thanked the Senate.

“I think everyone, all 47 agree with the concept of what’s been said, including our governor…. It’s important to recognize the value of those who make our country great,” he said.

But not before Sen. Victor R. Ramirez, a Prince George’s County Democrat with roots in El Salvador, stood, microphone in hand.

“It’s unfortunate that we are sitting here in 2018 talking about this issue,” he said, going on to explain why the matter was important to him and his community. “Thank you so much, Mr. President, for allowing us to have this dialogue here.”


January 12, 2018
by Talia Richman
Baltimore Sun
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Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Gov. Larry Hogan were both quick to condemn President Donald Trump’s recent comments in the Oval Office, in which he reportedly said immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations come “from shithole countries” and questioned why they should be welcomed in by the United States.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, after lawmakers discussed restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.

Trump’s statements, first reported by The Washington Post, have drawn widespread outrage. Trump has since denied using the word.

Pugh, a Democrat, called upon all elected leaders, regardless of party, to condemn the president’s comments.

“Like all Americans who embrace decency and the values of diversity and inclusion, and who celebrate what made America great in the first place, I’m appalled by these latest comments of President Donald Trump regarding Haitians and people of African nations,” Pugh said in a statement. “They reinforce abhorrent racist attitudes, and evidence of the lack of knowledge, understanding, and empathy we expect of the person who occupies the highest office in the land.”
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Friday, “The president’s remarks are beyond unacceptable, beneath the office, and unrepresentative of the African people.”

Rep.Andy Harris, the sole Republican in Maryland’s congressional contingent, offered a statement Friday in response to Trump’s comments.

“I wasn’t in the room, and I don’t know what was or wasn’t said, but I would hope that any president would minimize his or her use of profanity. But even if the president did use profanity, he would be joining Presidents Obama, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, and Truman — all of whom used profanity occasionally — some of whom even used it to describe their political opponents.”

Maryland lawmakers were quick to denounce the president’s comments on Twitter. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said he was “disgusted,” while Sen. Ben Cardin said Trump’s “comments do not represent America’s values.”

“I condemn this unforgivable statement and this demeaning of the office of the Presidency,” Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said in a tweet. “I will always fight for the vulnerable among us and against bigotry in all its forms.”

Some of Maryland’s Democratic state senators condemned President Donald Trump’s comments about immigrants on Friday, while one of their Republican colleagues said their comments were out of place.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who addressed Trump’s comments on the Senate floor in Annapolis, said nearly a third of Montgomery County’s 1.1 million people come from other countries. The Montgomery County Democrat asked her colleagues to “please join me in condemning the language, the disrespect, the hatred and yes, the racism that we continue to see coming out of this administration.”

“Denouncing whole countries or an entire continent is so remarkably ignorant and despicable,” Kagan said. “The Statue of Liberty says give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses. It doesn’t say, depending on what language they speak or depending on the country that they come from.”


January 12, 2018
by Ovetta Wiggins
The Washington Post
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A Maryland senator who represents Montgomery County, where a third of the residents are foreign-born, called on her colleagues on Friday to condemn President Trump for using the word “shithole” to describe Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.

“Maryland is better than we are seeing right now in this White House,” Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor. “Please join me in condemning the language, the disrespect, the hatred and, yes, the racism that we continue to see coming out of this administration.”

Kagan’s remarks prompted applause, an unusual response in the normally orderly chamber. Five other senators — three of them immigrants — also spoke about the impact Trump’s remarks have had.

Sen. Dolores Kelly (D-Baltimore City) said the president’s words prompted her to reassure her three granddaughters, whose mother is Haitian, that “their mother was a worthwhile human being.” She thanked Kagan for “raising this issue that harms real people.”

Trump on Friday appeared to deny using the word “shithole,” saying he used “tough” language during a meeting on efforts toward a bipartisan immigration deal.

When Kagan began speaking about the incident, after Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) acknowledged her for a point of personal privilege, she was interrupted by Sen. Robert G. Casilly (R-Harford).

“We’re living in really contentious and divisive times, and it is shocking, deplorable and offensive when the president of the United States disparages groups of people, nations and an entire continent,” Kagan began.

“Mr. President, Mr. President, point of order,” Casilly said. “Can I just ask the nature?”

“This was a point of personal privilege,” Kagan retorted.

“Mr. President,” Casilly said.

“This is the Senate of Maryland, and we can do it now or later, Senator,” Miller responded.

Casilly said he thought Kagan’s remarks were out of order. “Points of personal privilege are to relate to the matters before this body,” Casilly said. “There is no matter before this body.”

Miller opted to move on with taking up override votes on Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes and gave Kagan a chance to finish her remarks later.

In Virginia’s House of Delegates, Del. Lee Carter (D-Prince William) also addressed the situation on the floor, without directly mentioning the president. He drew groans from Republicans in the chamber when he rose and said he wanted to speak to the recent comments made in the White House.

Carter, a Marine Corps veteran, recalled his deployment to Haiti after a deadly earthquake eight years ago, and how a teenager approached him to ask about life in the United States and how he could join the U.S. military.

“I personally saw what the lives of those folks down there are like. I saw the hardships that they face,” Carter said. “So I understand just how important it is for people who want to come here from Haiti and from the other nations like Haiti to come here and have a better life for themselves and their children.”


January 12, 2018
Washington’s Top News
by Kate Ryan
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WASHINGTON — As Maryland senators gathered on the Senate floor in Annapolis Friday morning, Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat, asked for time to respond to President Trump’s reference about immigrants from “shithole” countries.

“We’re living in really contentious and divisive times,” Kagan said to her colleagues. “And it is shocking, deplorable and offensive when the president of the United States disparages groups of people, nations, and an entire continent.”

She was then interrupted by Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Harford County Republican. Cassilly addressed Senate President Mike Miller, challenging the Senate leader for allowing the comments on Trump’s conduct.
“This is just not an appropriate matter for the Senate of Maryland,” said Cassilly.

Miller then shifted gears, telling lawmakers that he would allow Kagan to comment once the agenda was cleared.

Famous poem cited
When Kagan did rise to speak, she referenced the poem “The New Colossus” that’s engraved on a plaque and mounted inside the Statue of Libertry’s pedestal.

“‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,’” she quoted. “It doesn’t say ‘depending on what language they speak, or what country they come from.’”

She concluded her speech by saying, “Please join me in condemning the language, the disrespect, and, yes, the racism that we continue to see coming out of this administration.”

Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, a Democrat who represents Baltimore County and Baltimore City, applauded Kagan’s comments. Originally from Jamaica, Nathan-Pulliam added that “if all of the immigrants should leave this country, it would collapse!”

Sen. Victor Ramirez, who described himself as a proud Salvadoran-American, said “Nobody likes to be called names.”

“We want to make America great,” he said, before catching himself and adding, “I shouldn’t say that.” Some of his fellow senators laughed and applauded, noting the reference to the ubiquitous Trump 2016 campaign slogan.

Ramirez concluded by saying, “We’re all Americans, right?”

Cassilly finally stood to speak, saying as a Republican, he refrained from criticizing former President Obama’s policies on the floor of the Maryland Senate, “because I felt that kind of vitriol was inappropriate for the decorum of this body.” It was necessary, he said, to stay focused on the issues facing Maryland.

Cassilly was clearly frustrated with what’s become an emerging strategy on the part of Democrats in Annapolis — to tie President Trump’s policies to the GOP in Maryland.

“I realize that some people don’t want this president in the White House,” Cassilly said. “I realize that there are some people who find him offensive every day, but at some point, we’ve got to address the issues of the state of Maryland.”

Hogan: ‘Beneath the office’
Asked if Gov. Larry Hogan, a popular Republican running for re-election, had any comments about President Trump’s recent statements on immigrants, Hogan’s Deputy Communications Director Amelia Chasse released a statement from the governor saying, “The president’s remarks are beyond unacceptable, beneath the office, and unrepresentative of the American people.”


January 12, 2018
by Brian Witte
The Kansas City Star
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ANNAPOLIS, MD. — Some of Maryland’s Democratic state senators condemned President Donald Trump’s comments about immigrants on Friday. One of their Republican colleagues said their comments were out of place.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who addressed Trump’s comments on the Senate floor in Annapolis, said nearly a third of Montgomery County’s 1.1 million people come from other countries. The Montgomery County Democrat asked her colleagues to “please join me in condemning the language, the disrespect, the hatred and yes, the racism that we continue to see coming out of this administration.”

“Denouncing whole countries or an entire continent is so remarkably ignorant and despicable,” Kagan said. “The Statue of Liberty says give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses. It doesn’t say, depending on what language they speak or depending on the country that they come from.”

Trump’s comments came during an Oval Office meeting where a participant and people briefed on the conversation say he questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa as he rejected a bipartisan deal.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, criticized the president’s comments.

“The president’s remarks are beyond unacceptable, beneath the office, and unrepresentative of the American people,” Hogan said in an email.

Maryland state Sen. Delores Kelley, a Democrat whose daughter in law was born in Haiti, also rose to address the president’s comments.

“It touched me really personally and I had to have a conversation last night trying to explain to my three granddaughters that their mother is a worthwhile human being,” Kelley said.

Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Harford County Republican, objected to hearing these comments in the chamber, saying they were “not appropriate matter for the Senate of Maryland.”

He said he refrained from criticizing former President Barack Obama “when the last commander in chief, I felt, took actions that directly resulted in the death of police officers.”

“I realize that some people don’t want this president in the White House,” Cassilly said. “I realize some people find him offensive every day, but at some point we’ve got to move beyond that and address the issues that are very serious to the state of Maryland.”


January 9, 2018
by Nickolai Sukharev
The Sentinel
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Sen. Kagan said the Trump presidency is causing many issues for Maryland residents and requires care in crafting a response.

“The question is how to prioritize because there are so many alarming policies that have been enacted by this White House and this Congress,” Kagan said. “Marylanders will be deeply and directly affected.”

Kagan said she is concerned about political division she believes the Trump administration is causing. This division is affecting state government as well, she said.

“Our country is divided now in a way that is more extreme and more obvious than I have ever seen before,” Kagan said. “It starts at the White House, and certainly trickles down through Congress.” “The fact that this administration and this Congress doesn’t even pay the Democratic Party’s viewpoint into account when drafting policy is not only unfortunate but also offensive,” she added.

The budget is the biggest issue the state legislature faces in the upcoming legislative session, she said. “The budget is always the hurdle,” said Kagan. “We have a constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget, and there are a lot of Marylanders that are struggling, and yet we still want to have top-notch public schools, a clean environment, and provide support for those who needed it.”

Another of her top priorities is reforming the state’s 911 system.

“I have had two constituents die as result of 911 failure,” Kagan said. “We are vulnerable. Whether it is a train derailment, a freak weather accident, a (crash) on the Beltway, or, God forbid, a terrorist attack, Maryland is vulnerable and needs to move forward immediately.”


January 6, 2018
by Peter Rouleau
The Sentinel
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GAITHERSBURG — Senator Cheryl C. Kagan (D-17) came to Gaithersburg City Hall Tuesday night to brief Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council on the issues she would prioritize in the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly.

“I have had two constituents die when 911 failed,” Kagan said. She said she would pursue legislation to improve and modernize 911 service. “In a lot of the country, you can text 911. In Gaithersburg, you can’t. If there’s a bad guy in your house, you should be able to text 911. Currently, Frederick County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland where you can text 911. Montgomery County is moving in that direction, but I don’t think they’re moving fast enough.”

Kagan said she would seek a statewide ban on polystyrene, a polymer used in Styrofoam containers,

“Gaithersburg had the wisdom to ban it some years ago and Rockville finally did recently as well,” Kagan said. “It’s time for Maryland to follow suit. Never heat up your Chinese food containers in the microwave; that releases toxic chemicals into the air. Polystyrene does not biodegrade. When it’s in the water, fish it, then we eat the fish.”

Kagan said she would seek to reform the Maryland Public Information Act.

“We need transparency as well as privacy,” Kagan said. “If someone signs up for Montgomery Alert, they don’t want their name, address, email, or God forbid, Social Security number to be made public.”

Kagan said, in light of recent backlash throughout the country against Confederate monuments. She would revisit efforts from previous years to change the Maryland state song. The current song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” was composed by James Ryder Randall following the 1861 riot in Baltimore between Confederate sympathizers and northern militia regiments en route to service in Washington, D.C., an event often referred to as the first bloodshed of the Civil War.

Ryder Randall’s sympathy for the Confederacy is reflected in the lyrics of the song, whose final stanza reads, “She is not dead nor deaf nor dumb/Huzzah, she spurns the Northern scum.”

“We have a state song that calls Abraham Lincoln a tyrant and disparages values that we hold dear,” Kagan said.

Gaithersburg Sustainability Coordinator Dyan Backe joined Lindsey Shaw, Commercial Energy Program Manager for Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Affairs, to brief Ashman on the Council on the Environmental Affairs Committee’s recommendation that the city opts into the County’s energy benchmarking initiative. This initiative aims to improve air quality, reduce energy costs and reduce carbon footprints by requiring facilities and public properties with an area of 50,000 square feet or more to monitor their annual energy usage and compare it against past performance and their peers nationwide. This standard would apply to 119 buildings in Gaithersburg. The most significant city facility to fall under the standard would be the Bohrer Activity Center.

Council member Neil Harris, who served on the Economic Advisory Committee before he was first appointed to the Council in 2014, said that at meetings of the committee, city business owners were “unanimously” in favor of opting in.

“It provides a model for being as being as energy-efficient and cost-efficient as possible,” Harris said. “I had concerns going in that it would be yet another onerous requirement on businesses, but we got exactly the opposite reaction.”

The record will be open on the opt-in until Jan. 26, with a vote expected to be taken on Feb. 20.

During the customary moment of silence at the beginning of the meeting, Ashman asked for thoughts for the family of Montgomery Community Media CEO Merlyn Reineke, who took his own life on Dec. 22. Ashman described Reineke as a “great partner for the city.”

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