Cheryl Kagan | Maryland State Senator - District 17
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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
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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
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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
View the Full Article Here

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
View the Full Article Here

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
View the Full Article Here

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
View the Full Article Here

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
View the Full Article Here

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
View the Full Article Here 

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
View the Full Article Here

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.”

Rockville Bans Polystyrene

December 15, 2017
by Neal Earley
The Sentinel
View the Full Article Here

The Rockville Mayor and City Council on Monday unanimously approved a bill banning the use of polystyrene carry-out food containers that restaurants often use for take-out and delivery.

The bill’s passage means Rockville joins the rest of Montgomery County in banning polystyrene, more commonly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam. Polystyrene is a petroleum-based thermoplastic material that is often used to make temporary containers for food or packaging peanuts, for which it is well-suited because of its strength and light weight. However, polystyrene is not biodegradable and often finds its ways into streams and rivers as it one of the main sources of litter in the County.

Mark Charles, the environmental management division chief for the City of Rockville said 15 to 20 percent of the litter the city removes from streams contains polystyrene.

Council member Beryl Feinberg introduced the bill at the Nov. 6 Mayor and Council meeting before its passage Monday night.

While council members said they heard no objections from businesses regarding the ban, the City Council decided to forego a public hearing for the bill. While the City Council often holds such hearings for bills, the bylaws of the Rockville City charter do not require it. Still, the City held a 30-day public comment period on the bill before it passed. According to City staff, the ban will affect around 400 restaurants in the City.

“The reaction we have had was … a willingness, a readiness and really not any problem because of the way the law was constructed, allowing businesses that already had inventory – that were the polystyrene or plastic – that they were able to draw them down so that they didn’t have that hardship and that there was a good transition,” Feinberg said.

During the last legislative session Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) sponsored a bill in the Maryland Senate that would ban the material statewide, but the bill did not make it out of committee.

“I think it would be helpful to our state senator (Kagan) and her efforts with the statewide ban if we could get ours in place before the legislative session starts,” said Council member Julie Palakovich Carr.

Other local jurisdictions that have banned polystyrene include Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia.

The ban will take effect starting Jan. 1, 2019.

Maryland lawmakers to track sexual harassment claims — but not reveal offenders

December 12, 2017
by Fenrit Nirappil and Ovetta Wiggins
The Washington Post
View the Full Article Here

Legislative leaders in Maryland on Tuesday ordered officials to start collecting data on sexual misconduct complaints against state lawmakers or their staff members, the latest fallout from a tidal wave of harassment allegations that have toppled elected officials and industry leaders nationwide.

“This is a watershed moment in time, and we need to make certain that everyone is treated fairly and that there’s a place they can go,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said shortly before the Legislative Policy Committee — chaired by him and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) — approved the changes.

The General Assembly’s human resources department will begin tallying harassment complaints and will brief the Legislative Policy Committee annually on the nature and outcomes of investigations. The identities of accused harassers will not be included in the report, regardless of whether the claims are found to have merit.

The report will be considered a public record, though it is unclear whether people who want to see it will have to file a public-information request.

“That type of data is better than nothing, so that the public can get a sense of how big of a problem is this and what types of steps are taken to address it,” said Avi Kumin, a Washington lawyer who represents sexual harassment victims.

But he and other experts on sexual harassment issues said the General Assembly should name those who are found to have acted inappropriately.

“I understand the need to be sensitive for due process and for privacy, but if a complaint is substantiated, don’t the voters have a right to know about the malfeasance and misbehavior of their elected officials?” said Jennifer A. Drobac, a law professor at Indiana University who studies sexual harassment. “These elected officials answer to the people.”

Miller and Busch, through their aides, did not respond to this criticism.

Under the current process, alleged victims of sexual harassment can file complaints with the legislature’s human resources director or with staff members of Busch and Miller. The human resources director investigates the cases. The presiding officers are informed of cases involving lawmakers, have a role in deciding disciplinary measures and handle appeals.

Complaints may be referred to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, a panel of lawmakers that can punish colleagues with public reprimands or provide victims with written findings that the victims can choose to make public.

Neither scenario has occurred in connection with harassment allegations in recent memory.

Experts on sexual harassment investigations said the involvement of legislative leaders has both benefits and drawbacks.

“The pro, of course, is it’s handled at a higher level and there is some sense of greater accountability than it just disappearing into an HR reporting system,” Kumin said. At the same time, he added, knowing that Busch and Miller will be told if allegations are made against a sitting lawmaker could discourage people from coming forward. “One of the reasons that people are fearful now is that they are concerned about possible retaliation,” he said.

Debbie Dougherty, a professor at the University of Missouri who studies institutional harassment, said having only one person designated to investigate complaints can also be problematic.

“The standard reasons why people don’t report usually come back to the people they are reporting to,” she said. “I would be a lot more comfortable if multiple people investigated, even independently.”

Del. Shelly L. Hettleman (D-Baltimore County) said she believes that many victims are reluctant to come forward. “I know, talking with people, that the issue is more prevalent than what’s reported,” she said.

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), one of 11 women in the 47-seat state Senate, said the decision to track complaints reflects “encouraging progress, but I suspect we can do more” in terms of transparency and accountability.

Asked at a news conference about the policy change, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said he was surprised that the legislature wasn’t already compiling data on sexual harassment.

“The legislature obviously doesn’t fall under our purview, but it’s surprising to me that they haven’t had any kind of policy before and a good idea for them to do,” he said.

Public Interest Podcast: Fundraising for Foundations

December 1, 2017
by Jordan Cooper
Public Interest Podcast
Listen Here

Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan and Community Ministries of Rockville‘s Executive Director, Agnes Saenz, discuss fundraising for foundations. Listen to the full episode here!

Local women say #MeToo

October 25, 2017
by Hannah Monicken
Washington Jewish Week
View the Full Article Here

It wasn’t so many years ago that Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17) sat down at a public event and a lobbyist sat down next to her. He leaned in to say hello and, as he did so, placed his hand on her thigh.

“Nobody should be touching my thigh without my invitation,” Kagan, 56, said last week. “And especially not in a work setting. It was just totally inappropriate. And that [story] is just one of many.”

Washington resident Danielle Cantor has her own story. When she was in her 20s, her boss told her she wasn’t wearing enough makeup and no one would take her seriously. Now 42, Cantor is one of millions of women saying #MeToo.

The hashtag picked up steam after accusations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had been serially sexually harassing and attacking women for decades. And if the campaign has proven anything, it’s that every woman has not just one story like these, but a lifelong collection.

“I don’t think there’s a woman who doesn’t have an experience that she could share in this campaign,” said Lori Weinstein, CEO of Jewish Women International (no relation to Harvey Weinstein). Weinstein, who began her career in male-dominated political circles, said she experienced harassment.

The five women interviewed for this article were not surprised by the reach and number of posts with the hashtag. But some said the men in their lives were.

Women often don’t speak out about harassment and abuse because they don’t think they will be believed and because the perpetrators often have power over them, Weinstein said. Many acts against women are meant to make them uncomfortable and vulnerable, which keep women from speaking out about them. And it becomes a part of everyday life — both horrible and mundane.

Washington resident Ariella Neckritz, 23, has experienced a spectrum of these actions, from street harassment to abusive relationships. She became involved in preventing violence against women starting in high school and now works on prevention on college campuses.

“Seeing so many people I’m closely connected to sharing their experiences was deeply upsetting and overwhelming,” she said. “I think this hashtag is emphasizing a moment in a movement. It didn’t just come out of nowhere.”

The question now is what to do with the momentum #MeToo has created.

Cantor isn’t sure if the #MeToo campaign will change anything, but she still felt the need to add her voice. It was cathartic, she said, not just for herself, but on behalf of other women. And that can be worthwhile in itself, she said.

“Do I feel like it’s really going to make a difference?” she said. “I don’t know. But it’s an act of solidarity.”

But for Lori Weinstein, #MeToo is a game-changer.

“I think we’re at a point of inflection where things will never be the same,” she said. “It was every woman and it was all women.

“There’s power in numbers.”

Women finding their voice will always be an important tool in fighting sexual harassment and assault, she said. And she hopes the hashtag can be a wake-up call to the Jewish community, too.

“We have to accept it’s not different in the Jewish community than anywhere else,” she said.

And society seems more willing now to believe women. The reputation of Bill Cosby as America’s dad was shattered after dozens of women came forward alleging sexual misconduct. Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly were let go from Fox News after pervasive sexual harassment was made public. And, most recently, Harvey Weinstein was ousted from his namesake studio, The Weinstein Co. after two major publications revealed the accusations.

But beyond that, both Kagan and District of Columbia Councilmember Brianne Nadeau are fighting for local legislative reform to help address some of these issues.

Nadeau, 37, has a bill to combat street harassment through education and training and a city task force making its way through the D.C. Council. Nadeau was once accosted by a man on the street who demanded her phone number. When she refused, he spat at her.

“I think something has to change and I hope [the #MeToo campaign] can help tip the scale,” she said.

Kagan hopes that the momentum from #MeToo can make this year — the ninth try — the year the Maryland Assembly passes a bill to take away the parental rights of rapists if the victim becomes pregnant as a result of rape, eliminating the need for the victim to negotiate with her attacker over custody or adoption.

“This #MeToo campaign is both uplifting and awful,” Kagan said. “Uplifting because it’s creating a community of women to support each other. But it makes it impossible to ignore the number of women in our lives who have been harassed, assaulted, abused or raped.”

Cantor’s call to action is closer to home. She’s determined her month-old son will grow up to be a man who respects and supports women.

“I was always going to try to raise a little feminist,” she said.

And then maybe the future will see fewer women saying #MeToo.

Senator Critical Of State’s Response To Making Websites Multilingual

October 25, 2017
by Anne Kramer
WBAL NewsRadio 1090
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A Maryland senator is criticizing the Hogan administration over it’s response to a new law that requires government websites be multilingual.

Montgomery County Senator Cheryl Kagan’s legislation was approved and signed by the Governor several years ago.

She tells WBAL News Radio 1090 that after studying more than 112 websites they found the majority were in only available only in English. Senator Kagan says that is a problem for people who don’t have English as their primary language, for international companies considering relocating to Maryland and for travel and tourism.

The law that was passed requires that the websites be available in Spanish and Chinese.

Kagan says there was no real cost to the state because the Google Translate widget is available for free, but it needs to be installed by state workers.

Back in August, Kagan says she learned that only twelve-percent of the websites had the widget put on and were able to be read by those who speak Spanish and Chinese.

She says several weeks later, she discovered that state workers had bumped that up to 39 percent of the websites.

Kagan says she was still shocked to see it has taken so long to put this in place. The final day that the websites were supposed to multilingual was last October.

WBAL News Radio 1090 asked Senator Kagan if Maryland should make English the official language. She says it takes seven years for someone to learn English comfortably when it is not their native language.

Political Roundup: Kagan declines to run for county executive

October 6, 2017
by Andrew Metcalf
Bethesda Magazine
View the Full Article Here

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Rockville), who was considering entering the race for Montgomery County Executive, announced on Thursday that she will seek re-election to her District 17 senate seat instead.

She wrote on her Facebook page that Montgomery County’s delegation in (?) the state Senate is expected to see significant turnover and she wants to continue supporting progressive policies in the Legislature.

“Should the voters of District 17 elect me to another term, I will continue my work on issues including consumer protection, public safety, educational excellence, environmental protection, progressive social policies, and support for the nonprofit and business communities,” Kagan wrote.

Kagan has said she wanted to see a woman or minority candidate enter the race for the county government’s top job.

So far, Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) and County Council members George Leventhal, Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich make up the Democratic field for county executive.

Potomac business David Blair said this week he is “very likely” to run for the Democratic nomination. Former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow has said she is “seriously interested” in running, too.

The only Republican vying for the post so far is Boyds defense attorney Robin Ficker.

State Roundup: Sen. Kagan to Seek Re-election

October 6, 2017
by Cynthia Prairie
Maryland Reporter
View the Full Article Here

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D), who has pondered running for Montgomery County executive over the past several months, instead has decided to seek re-election, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters. In a statement to be posted on her Facebook page, Kagan will say she was “intrigued…by the possibility of serving as our next County Executive at this critical juncture” and “humbled by the incredible support offered by hundreds of residents and activists,” but has decided to try to remain in the Senate.


October 5, 2017
by Josh Kurtz
Maryland Matters
View the Full Article Here

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D), who has pondered running for Montgomery County executive over the past several months, will announce Thursday afternoon that she is seeking re-election instead.

In a statement to be posted on her Facebook page, Kagan will say she was “intrigued…by the possibility of serving as our next County Executive at this critical juncture” and “humbled by the incredible support offered by hundreds of residents and activists,” but has decided to try to remain in the Senate, which will see significant turnover following the 2018 election.

“I have worked hard to build coalitions with legislators and advocates from across the aisle and around the State,” she says in the statement. “Should the voters of District 17 elect me to another term, I will continue my work on issues including consumer protection, public safety,educational excellence, environmental protection, progressive social policies, and support for the nonprofit and business communities.”

In an interview, Kagan said she was swayed in part by her excitement last week when former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow (D) put out the word that she was contemplating running for executive.

“The energy I felt when Rose told me that she was considering was the beginning of the answer for me,” Kagan said. She called Krasnow “a common-sense Democrat who is thoughtful and progressive.”

Currently, four Democrats are seeking to replace term-limited County Executive Ike Leggett (D): Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal – who are term-limited themselves – and state House Majority Leader Bill Frick. Businessman David Blair told Maryland Matters on Wednesday that he is “likely” to join the race within the month.

Political provocateur Robin Ficker is the lone candidate on the Republican side.

Kagan, 56, served two terms in the House of Delegates, from 1995 to 2003, representing the Rockville and Gaithersburg areas, before taking a break from elective politics. In 2010, she challenged veteran state Sen. Jennie Forehand in the Democratic primary, losing narrowly, then won the seat following a bruising primary after Forehand announced her retirement.

With at least two Montgomery senators departing at the end of next year – Sen. Rich Madaleno (D) is running for governor and Sen. Roger Manno (D) is running for Congress – Kagan said she felt it was important to maintain “some stability” in the county’s Senate delegation.

Kagan spent the past few months talking to Montgomery County business, civic and political leaders about a possible bid for executive.

“All of those meetings will help make me a better senator,” she said.

Md. Democrat says state has failed to translate websites; Hogan administration says it is complying with new law

October 5, 2017
by Ovetta Wiggins
The Washington Post
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A Montgomery County Democrat says the Hogan administration has failed to comply with a 2016 law requiring state websites to offer translations in Spanish and Chinese.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, the bill sponsor, said less than 40 percent of the state websites are in full compliance more than a year after the law was signed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

“It’s appalling,” Kagan said. “It’s hard to determine whether this is a philosophical reluctance or ideological statement of some sort or whether it is disorganization.”

Kagan and her staff reviewed 112 state-agency websites in August. At that time, just 12 percent of the Web pages offered translations into Spanish and Chinese, and 29 percent offered Spanish translation. Since then, the numbers have increased.

Article continued here…

Hogan sets transportation announcement during Rosh Hashanah

September 20, 2017
by Michael Dresser
The Baltimore Sun
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When Gov. Larry Hogan makes a transportation announcement in Montgomery County Thursday, some local elected officials are likely to be absent.

It’s Rosh Hashanah. Many of the local politicians are Jewish. And some are less than impressed with the political savvy of his scheduling.

“I am surprised and disappointed that the governor would hold a major event on the Jewish New Year,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who is Jewish. “It seems unlikely that they would hold a similar event on Good Friday or Christmas out of respect for Marylanders observing their faith.”

Kagan, who received an invitation Wednesday, noted that half of the county’s Senate delegation is Jewish.

Hogan’s invitation to the Gaithersburg event promised a “major multi-jurisdictional transportation announcement.” Messages left with the governor’s office were not answered.

Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College, noted that Montgomery County has a significant Jewish population.

“I would consider that to be a faux pas,” Eberly said. “Why would you schedule a major announcement for a day that is a holiday for those folks?”

Focus on Charlottesville, Roger B. Taney statue overshadow 2018 primaries

July 31, 2017
by Ovetta Wiggins
Frederick News-Post
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OCEAN CITY — Gov. Larry Hogan (R) told a group of county leaders here on Saturday that he signed an executive order to create a statewide land-use plan that, unlike a highly-criticized development plan set by his predecessor, seeks input from local and county officials.

“As I have traveled across Maryland, local elected officials have repeatedly asked for a plan that better reflects the needs of our state,” Hogan said. “One that will improve coordination between state agencies and local governments, support thoughtful growth and infrastructure planning, stimulate economic development and revitalization in existing and planned communities.”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who had not seen the details of the order, said Hogan has done “a very good job of reaching out and coordinating” with local officials.

“I look forward to seeing the details of what he is suggesting,” he said. “I think it’s a good step for all of us.”

Hogan’s speech capped off the Maryland Association of Counties’ summer conference, a four-day annual gathering of state and county officials where talk of the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the decision to remove the Roger B. Taney statue from the State House grounds in Annapolis largely overshadowed discussion of next year’s high-stakes gubernatorial race.

Candidates seeking the 2018 Democratic nomination for governor, many of whom are largely unknown throughout the state, made the rounds during the convention, meeting with potential donors and trying to connect with and build support from elected officials from across the state.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is considering a bid for governor, was seen early Friday morning huddled in a booth at a local diner with U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md. The site of the pair — Kamenetz a likely Hogan challenger and Brown the candidate who was upset by Hogan in 2014 — left many speculating about their discussion.

Was Kamenetz asking Brown for campaign advice on what not to do? one person joked.

Kamenetz said Saturday it was just two “old friends catching up.”

Rumors also swirled over the weekend after Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery, was seen in what several described as an awkward, tense exchange with Senate President Thomas Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, during a fundraiser for another senator. Earlier in the day, Madaleno criticized Miller on Facebook for defending Taney, the author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, and refusing to vote as a member of the Maryland State House Trust to remove the statue.

Several people said they thought the two were talking about the statue. Madaleno said Saturday that they were not.

Hogan, who spent some of his time answering media question about his change of mind over the statue, was largely in campaign mode, using most of the time pressing palms, attending fundraisers and taking pictures.

While walking the boardwalk, flanked by about dozen members of his staff, Hogan was stopped by Alexandro Bonilla, 36, of Clarksburg. Bonilla asked Hogan if he would take a picture with is family. “Very good job,” Bonilla repeated as he shook Hogan’s hand.

Bonilla, a Democrat, said he’s been impressed with the governor and could see himself voting for him. “We just need him to continue to work for the school system,” his wife interjected. 

Many Democratic elected officials said the gubernatorial race, which includes candidates who range from veteran politicians to people who have never run for elected office, remains wide open. With 10 months until the June 2018 gubernatorial primary, they say they have yet to see a candidate move ahead of the pack.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, said she is waiting to see which candidate shows an ability to raise money, to put together a strong operation and to galvanize Democrats, independents and possibly even some Republicans.

Despite Hogan’s strong popularity, Democrats said they remain encouraged that they could win back the governor’s office.

Washington Post-University of Maryland poll earlier this year found that support for Hogan’s reelection lags behind his approval ratings. Hogan held a 65 percent approval rating in March, but just 45 percent of registered voters said they would support him for a second term and 37 percent said they preferred a Democrat.

“It’s clear that the right Democrat can beat Hogan, but it’s still unclear who the right Democrat is,” Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, said.

Most of the Democratic candidates, who have officially launched their campaigns, attended the conference. They include: Madaleno, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, attorney Jim Shea, and tech entrepreneur Alec Ross.

Krishanti Vignarajah, a onetime policy director for former first lady Michelle Obama, and Ben Jealous, the former NAACP president, who held a fundraiser in New York City with David Chappelle on Friday night, did not attend.

Sen. Kagan considers race for Montgomery County executive

July 31, 2017
by Len Lazarick and Glynis Kazanjian
Maryland Reporter
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Sen. Cheryl Kagan is an unconventional politician, particularly when it comes to fundraising. No breakfast fundraisers or evening receptions for the Gaithersburg/Rockville senator.

Kagan goes more for ice cream socials and afternoon concerts with the kind of singer-songwriters she’s been promoting in house concerts for years, as she did Sunday afternoon at an art gallery in the new Crown section of Gaithersburg, part of District 17.

The Democratic senator not only knows the songsters, she can sing along with their lyrics. But she’s also being serenaded with some catchy new tunes. She’s being encouraged to run for county executive and being mentioned for lieutenant governor.

In an interview last week, Kagan said, There are a surprising number of thoughtful county leaders who are not satisfied with the current field of candidates for county executive, but she won’t say who those leaders are.

“There is some sentiment that has been expressed that because of overwhelming passage of the Ficker amendment [setting term limits for council and executive], there is a sense that council members who were ‘fired’ for a next term are instead, three of them, are seeking a promotion.”

Kagan made no mention of this speculation at Sunday’s fundraiser. The politicos there  included fellow Montgomery Democratic Sens. Brian Feldman and Roger Manno, who is running for Congress (he insists he already has a video tracker from someone else’s campaign); the three delegates from her district — House Environment Committee Chair Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist and the newly slim Andrew Platt; two current County Council members, Sid Katz and Hans Riemer, and several candidates for council.

“Raise your hand if you’re not running for office,” joked Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman, who is on the ballot this year along with the majority of the city council who attended Kagan’s fundraiser in Maryland’s third largest municipality. Ashman praised Kagan for her “diligence and thoughtfulness.”

Frosh for the resistance   

The room quieted down for 25 minutes of short speeches, including one from Attorney General Brian Frosh, a former Montgomery senator flexing his legal muscles to sue the Trump administration on multiple counts along with other Democratic AGs around the nation.

“It’s important to have the resistance not just in the District, but in all the states,” said Frosh He thanked Kagan and the other legislators for granting him his new powers against the wishes of Gov. Larry Hogan, who used to control whom Frosh could sue.

“He is protecting Maryland from the crazy stuff” that is going on in Washington, Kagan said. On Jan. 20, Kagan was a prime host of an UnNaugural Concert to raise money for five nonprofits boosting progressive causes including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

Kamenetz and Baker

Kagan’s low key event also brought out two leading candidates for governor, although Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has not officially announced.

Kagan served eight years in the House of Delegates with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who she said has “helped turn that county around in economic development and education.”

One of the quirks of a governor’s race in Maryland is that the candidates must first recruit running mates for lieutenant governor before they file.

In interviews last week, Kagan admitted, “I’m having conversations” about lieutenant governor. “I’m going to have a little bit of time to reflect.”

She is reflecting more seriously on the race for Montgomery County executive.

“I am thinking about it and talking to people and meeting with people. I had lunch with [current executive] Ike Leggett last week.  I have talked to a number of current and former elected officials to get their guidance, and I continue to be surprised by the strong, positive reactions I’m getting.”

Intended to run for re-election

“My intention had been to seek re-election for the Senate representing the residents of Gaithersburg and Rockville. I’ve enjoyed my work and feel like I’m making a difference in Annapolis, for my district, for the county and for the whole state.

“Then I started getting calls, which was quite unexpected.  First people were telling me I was on several short lists to be considered as lieutenant governor by various candidates and then people started calling suggesting I consider county executive. That is something I had never thought about before.”

“I was very disappointed the Ficker amendment passed, but the numbers were decisive.  There was a very strong sentiment of disapproval of this County Council.  People have called me wondering why it is if they were basically being kicked out of office or precluded from seeking re-election, why three of them would be running essentially for a promotion to become county executive.”

Montgomery County Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal are term limited and running for executive.

At Sunday’s fundraiser, Councilmember Hans Riemer said that the pluses for Kagan in the executive race are that she is woman with proven progressive values, but is viewed as more moderate than others in the race.

Kagan conceded in an earlier interview that “there’s the gender issue. It’s not something I’m talking about. There are people who are calling me disappointed that there had been (and that may change) no woman running for governor and no woman running for county election.”

“With Hillary Clinton’s defeat, there is a real hunger for electing women especially in light of the craziness — sexist, misogynist and homophobic statements and actions creeping out of this White House,” Kagan said.

Senator Kagan on Asbury View from AVTV on July 25, 2017.

For women on Md. boards, it’s still lonely at the top

June 1, 2017
by Christine Condon
The Daily Record
View the Full Article Here

When attendees gather for the first annual Daily Record Women’s Leadership Summit on Tuesday, one of the key topics for discussion will be how to improve Maryland’s below-average rate of including women on company boards.

Increasing female board representation won’t happen on its own, says Ann Quinn, the president of Executive Alliance, a nonprofit advocating for women’s leadership in business.

“It has to be a priority and it has to be intentional,” said Quinn, who is also the owner and principal of Quinn Strategy group.

Quinn said that offering flexible maternity and paternity leave policies and equal pay for equal work are critical steps toward the goal of enhancing gender diversity within companies.

She said many boards want applicants to have been a CEO of a major company, which can be a big obstacle for women. Of all Fortune 500 companies, only 27 have a female CEO.

Studies have shown that boards with greater gender diversity perform better than those with less.

A report conducted by wealth management company Credit Suisse conducted from 2006 to 2012 found that companies with women on their boards surpassed their less diverse counterparts. The companies with a market value of more than $10 billion that had at least one female director outperformed companies with boards made up exclusively of men by 26 percent.

An earlier study conducted by Catalyst, a nonprofit pushing for female inclusion in the workplace, found that companies with more women board directors experienced 53 percent greater returns on equity, 42 percent greater returns on sales and 66 percent greater returns on invested capital.

Maryland Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who proposed legislation aimed at diversifying boards in the state, said that it’s all about “having different voices in the room.”

Her bill  would have required a clause in procurement contracts outlawing discrimination in the formation or composition of corporate boards, but it stalled in the House of the Maryland General Assembly in March. Kagan said her bill was “shockingly controversial.”

“My colleagues … didn’t seem to share my belief that with taxpayers dollars we should be able to extract some commitment towards equality, or at the very least outlaw intentional discrimination,” Kagan said.

In April, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation regarding corporate board diversity. The law encouraged, but did not require, companies to have at least 30 percent female directors on their boards by the end of 2020.

A similar measure passed in California in 2013, similarly lacking in enforcement provisions.

“It’s one thing to call on people to do the right thing, it’s another to offer an enforcement mechanism,” Kagan said.

How Maryland stacks up

Maryland companies continues to lag behind national averages for female directors, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Executive Alliance. (The 2017 survey will be released in early June. The 2016 survey can be found here.)

The study found that 14.4 percent of  Maryland companies surveyed had women as directors, compared to the national average of 20.1 percent. Over 30 percent of the 76 companies in the  survey had no women directors at all, compared to the national average of about 5 percent. The number of women of color holding board seats remained stagnant at 13.

Quinn said she attributes this to the large number of banking and financial services companies in the state, which tend to be male-dominated, she said. She expects the 2017 surveys results, which are expected to be released in June, to mostly stay the same this year, since boards typically have minimal turnover.

Executive Alliance member Carol Coughlin, who is also the CEO of BottomLine Growth Strategies, agreed.

“It’s not something that happens overnight, it’s something that happens over time. We are moving in the right direction, though,” Coughlin said, adding that flexible scheduling policies and mentorship programs are positive steps for businesses.

Quinn said that businesses must recognize unconscious gender bias in order to improve.

“I’ve been in situations where I’ve been the only woman visiting a client or visiting an investment bank and no one knows where the women’s room is or even thinks to tell me that,” she said.“ We need to acknowledge those and laugh about them and talk about them.”

Men should play a role too, she said.

“The message really shouldn’t be that women need to lean in. We do, but men sort of need to pull us in as well,” she said, adding that men should seek female opinions in discussions and meetings.

Both Coughlin and Quinn will be in attendance at The Daily Record’s Women’s Leadership Summit on June 6, where they’ll discuss how women can prepare for and gain board and other management positions in their companies.

How to succeed

The companies that have successfully diversified their boards and senior management teams have some things in common — most had clear strategies and consistently sought to make diversity or inclusion a core value of their business.

Nancy Prue is the director of shareholder communications for Adams Funds, which was lauded on the study’s honor roll for having at least 20 percent female representation among directors and executives. She said the investment company, which has 21 employees, has a sort of informal mentorship program for women. Women leaders and board members tend to engage with new female hires, she said.

“There’s always been a female rising in the company as new women were coming in. It’s just a natural fit,” she said.

The company offers eight weeks of paid maternity leave, and an additional four when new mothers can choose to use their vacation days or go unpaid, she said.

Asset management firm T. Rowe Price, which was also noted in the survey, now has 4 women directors, perhaps due in part to their Women’s Roundtable, which was started in 2011.

The group has been focused on those in leadership and has about 350 members, but is transitioning to welcoming all associates, including men, and hopes to reach 1,000 members by the end of the year, said Roundtable chair Donna Anderson.

The group hosts quarterly two-hour Diversity Dialogues on topics such as the obstacles faced in negotiation and networking.

“You don’t ever get good at having uncomfortable conversations if you don’t practice,” Anderson said.

The group’s mentorship program, which pairs females in mid-level management positions with women in senior leadership position, is in its third year, and includes about 20 pairs. Each pair is given 12 discussion topics, one per month, Anderson said.

The group also found that a disproportionate number of men came into the business with experience discussing stocks, so it set up a training program for female first-year MBA students.

Other approaches

Other companies noted on the survey for having large numbers or percentages of female directors pursued different strategies.

For example, Marriott International, which has four female directors according to the Executive Alliance study, established a Women’s Leadership Development Initiative in 1999, offers 70-day job-protected and 10-day fully paid maternity and paternity leave, and childcare subsidies.

At Lockheed Martin, which was on the businesses on the honor roll of the Executive Alliance study, diversity councils drive inclusion efforts.

As for Executive Alliance, Coughlin said it is reaching out to public companies in the area, as well as the governor’s appointments office, to make them aware of qualified female candidates for their boards.

Supporters of paid sick leave call for override of Gov. Hogan’s veto

May 30, 2017
by Tom Roussey
View the Full Article (Including Video!) Here

KENSINGTON, Md. (ABC7) — Several dozen people rallied in Kensington Tuesday afternoon, calling on the Maryland General Assembly to override the governor’s veto of a paid sick time bill. Republican Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill on Thursday, saying it would be “disastrous to our state economy.”

The bill the General Assembly passed would have required five days of paid sick time at businesses with 15 or more employees.

The governor proposed a plan to give five days of paid sick time at businesses with 50 or more employees. He also wants to give tax breaks to encourage businesses smaller than that to provide paid sick time.

“For companies of over 50 people – businesses that size already provide that kind of benefit because it’s a competitive advantage,” said State Senator Cheryl Kagan (D – Rockville/Gaithersburg), who plans to vote to override the veto.

She spoke at Tuesday’s rally and says Hogan’s bill won’t help the employees of smaller businesses who need paid sick leave the most. Speakers at the rally said the bill would be a big help for families who have to take care of sick children.

But Hogan, who pulled off a rare win by a Republican in Maryland in part by running against what he calls excessive burdens on businesses, says the bill was “poorly written” and “deeply flawed.” 

“If we allowed this legislation to go into effect next January…it would make Maryland less competitive in our region,” Hogan said Thursday while announcing he was vetoing the bill. “It would kill small businesses and jeopardize thousands of Maryland jobs.”

There is not likely to be any resolution for the bill until the General Assembly reconvenes in January. Although it passed both houses with veto-proof majorities, supporters of an override cannot afford to lose even a single vote in the state senate. The bill passed there with 29 votes, which is the minimum needed to override a veto. No Republican state senators voted for the bill, and four Democrats joined them in voting no.

Barve & Kagan Brief Gaithersburg on Legislature

May 4, 2017
by Peter Rouleau
The Sentinel Newspaper
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GAITHERSBURG – Legislators from the 17th District visited City Hall Monday night to brief Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council on key issues addressed in the recently concluded legislative session.

Del. Kumar Barve (D), chairman of the Environment and Transportation Committee, discussed the “thorny” issue of stormwater management fees and securing reimbursement from Montgomery County for Gaithersburg and Rockville.

Barve noted that he drafted legislation to negotiate a compromise between the County and municipal governments that passed his committee and the House of Delegates by a wide majority but that it stalled in the Senate because the chairman there was “skittish” about the issue.

“I think I have a way around the problem. I don’t want to say what it is yet, but I think next year will be the charm,” Barve said. “I was very heartened to hear representatives from Montgomery County government tell me that regardless of whether a bill passes next year or not – and I’m very committed to passing a bill – that they felt that the negotiated compromise we were able to get to was a good template.”

“We’re appreciative for all you did to get it as far as you did, and we’re optimistic that your strategy will get it done next year,” Ashman said.

Early last year, Ashman and the Council were incensed to learn that the Hogan administration had scaled back funds for a long-planned interchange at I-270 and Watkins Mill Road and have since aggressively lobbied for funding the construction of the full interchange, arguing that the project is essential to the economic health of Gaithersburg and the entire upcounty region.

At last year’s legislative update, Barve said he had confronted Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn about the funding reduction, echoing the city government’s concerns.

“For the second year in a row, a bill was introduced by Delegate Kirill Reznick to basically force the governor to fund the interchange, and for the second year in a row we felt that discretion was the better part of valor and did not move forward,” Barve said. “We’ve been assured that the governor and the secretary of transportation are committed to the project.”

Barve said he expected the interchange project to get underway next year.

Barve said one of the most important projects his committee was responsible for in this year’s session was passing a ban on fracking in Maryland.

“It passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan margins, it involved the House and the Senate, and I think that’s that an example of what you can do when you spend two years examining the science behind an issue and building a coalition of business people and environmentalists,” Barve said. “You can defeat the oil and gas industry occasionally.”

Del. Jim Gilchrest (D) discussed the legislature’s effort to grant the state’s attorney general powers comparable to those of other state attorneys general to sue the federal government.

“We provided authority this year for the attorney general this year the power to engage in civil and criminal suits based on federal action or inaction,” Gilchrest said. “We laid out a number of specifics. We talked about the health and safety of Marylanders, natural resources and health of residents. It’s something the attorney general hasn’t had but now does.”

Gilchrest said the legislature had limited the use of antibiotics in livestock.

“That’s one of the ways that bacteria are becoming superbugs, so we passed a bill to significantly limit that,” Gilchrest said.

Gilchrest also said that he had worked to pass legislation granting state municipalities more authority over Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission projects, which Gaithersburg’s legislative affairs department identified as a priority last year.

In her remarks, Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D) said that the legislative session had begun and ended with overrides of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes. In January, the legislature overrode Hogan’s veto of a law requiring 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources, and in the final week of the session, it overrode his veto of the Protect Our Schools Act, which prevents the board of education from privatizing low-performing public schools.

Kagan said the legislature had taken “preventative and precautionary measures” in response to the sweeping federal budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

“We were the first state in the country to ensure that if Planned Parenthood loses its funding that we will still provide reproductive health care for women and men,” Kagan said. Kagan also said the legislature was also concerned by the Trump administration’s proposed elimination of funding for cleanup efforts in the Chesapeake Bay.

“We’ve made so much progress on the environment that the idea of backsliding is just irresponsible for our economy, for tourism and for all of our health,” Kagan said.

“The legislature enacted a law that would provide paid sick leave for companies with 15 or more employees,” Kagan said. “This exempts our smallest businesses, which would face a hardship, but it really guarantees that employees don’t have to face a choice between staying home with a sick child or being sick themselves and going into work that day. We may or may not see a veto by this governor on that.”

Kagan expressed frustration that the legislature again failed to pass a law ending parental rights for rapists.

“Unfortunately, for the ninth year, a woman who was raped and becomes pregnant as a result continues, in Maryland, to need her rapist’s permission if she chooses to continue her pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption,” Kagan said. “The women’s caucus and I were disappointed that the conference committee was six men for something that so fundamentally affects women.”

Auditors say Maryland election board put voters’ personal data at risk

April 28, 2017
by Michael Dresser
Baltimore Sun
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A report released by legislative auditors Friday says the State Board of Elections needlessly exposed the full Social Security numbers of almost 600,000 voters to potential hacking, risking theft of those voters’ identities.

The determination that election officials did not fully protect voters’ personal information was one of several highly critical findings in the report. The audit also faulted state election officials’ handling of issues including ballot security, disaster preparedness, contracting and balancing its books.

State lawmakers called for a hearing in response to the Office of Legislative Audits report, which prompted strong reaction from critics of the board and its longtime administrator, Linda H. Lamone.

“This audit is an A-to-Z criticism of the way the board operates,” said Michael Greenberger, director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland School of Law. He said the “damning” findings call for the establishment of an independent, bipartisan commission of computer experts to examine the board’s handling of information technology issues.

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said the report underscores some of the Republican governor’s longtime concerns about a “lack of executive oversight” at the board, where the day-to-day management is outside the administration’s control.

“This is a perfect example of why those concerns are valid,” Mayer said. “Properly securing Maryland’s election data is critically important and needs to be given the utmost priority.”

Lamone said she agreed with most of the auditor’s findings, but “virtually everything” they identified has already been addressed.

“We were working on a lot of these things even before the auditors came in,” she said.

The audit found that the board needlessly retained the full nine-digit Social Security numbers of about 592,000 active and inactive voters in its data base — or almost 15 percent of the state’s 4.1 million registered voters — when only the last four digits were needed. The report said the board then shared voters’ personal information — including driver’s license numbers and the last four digits of Social Security numbers — with a third-party organization without ensuring that the data was safeguarded.

The organization that received the data is the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonprofit that helps state election officials around the country identify ineligible voters. While auditors did not question the board’s cooperation with ERIC, they said state officials had not received sufficient assurances that ERIC and its outside contractor were adequately protecting data.

Auditors warned that such information is frequently the target of criminals attempting identity theft.

Aviel Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University who has frequently sounded alarms about election security, said the report “exposes a lack of best practices in the area of securing personal voter data and protecting the information in their databases.”

“This report tells me that the [elections board] is way behind the high-tech industry in maintaining the availability and security of their information,” Rubin said. He said the board “needs to get its act together and catch up with best practices in the industry.”

Lamone said she’s confident in the protections her agency has adopted to prevent hacking. She said officials do not ask for voters’ full nine-digit Social Security numbers, but sometimes people voluntarily provide that information on registration forms.

The information the state provides to ERIC doesn’t include full Social Security numbers and is encrypted before it is sent, Lamone said. “You can’t get into ERIC data. There’s no way” she said.

Lamone rejected Greenberger’s call for an independent commission as unnecessary.

“I think we’re doing everything we can here,” she said.

Lamone was appointed elections administrator under Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 1997. Under current law, the administrator is appointed by the five-member state board, which the governor is allowed to fill with three members of his own party. Hogan’s board has a 3-2 Republican majority, but state law requires a 4-1 vote for the board to take action. Lamone has kept her job with the support of the the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders.

In addition to the finding on Social Security numbers, the audit identified several other lapses in the state elections process and in board operations. According to auditors:

  • The board did not ensure the accuracy of its voter registration rolls and allowed too many people — its employees and those of local election boards, as well as contractors — to have access to that database when they did not need it for their job duties.
  • Officials allowed voters to receive ballots solely by providing publicly available information such as name, address and date of birth. Auditors recommended they also require information such as the last four digits of the Social Security number to guard against voter fraud.
  • The board could not document why it awarded two contracts worth $18.8 million without competition. Auditors also found other violations of state procurement rules.
  • The agency ended its 2015 budget year with a deficit of $3.4 million that it could not explain.

Greenberger said the report’s findings are consistent with his dealings with the board over the years. He said Lamone has run the board as a “personal fiefdom” and has dismissed criticism by outside information technology experts as partisan attacks by Republicans.

The board’s problems have less to do with dishonesty than with defensiveness and incompetence, Greenberger said.

“It is one day going to play out during an election where the results will be called into question and there will be no adequate audit trail to determine who the winner of the election is,” he said.

Two senators, one from each party and both critics of Lamone, called for the legislature’s Joint Audit Committee to meet this summer to delve more deeply into the findings.

“There are certainly things [in the report] I’d think would be troublesome to our voters,” said Sen. Gail Bates, a Howard County Republican.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, said the agency has long been mismanaged.

“We’ve got a big election next year and voters have to have confidence that our State Board of Elections is performing in tip-top shape,” she said. “This audit is clear evidence we’re not there yet.”

Md. Gen. Assembly All-Male Panel Made Decision On Rape Legislation

April 17, 2017
CBS Baltimore
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In a decision made by an all-male committee, Md. Gen Assembly did not pass legislation that would allow rape victims to terminate the parental rights of their rapist.

The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Kathless Dumais, failed on the last day of General Assembly.

Both the House and Senate passed bills that made it through both chambers, and the committee was of three delegates and three senators was called together to reconcile differences between the two bills. The meeting was set for the last day of General Assembly, but was not passed because of the committee ran out of time.

Our Media Partner, the Baltimore Sun, reports that committee members were chosen by Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Senator Cheryl Kagan, who watched the all-male conference work, says “Although I have great respect for my colleagues, not having women on the committee was tone-deaf.”

The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act would have created a process to allow a rape victim to terminate the rights of a rapist, if the rape victim became pregnant from the rape.

The lack of women on the committee has prompted coverage from several media outlets, including The Daily Beast, and reaction from sexual assault survivor advocacy groups like MCASA, Maryland Coalition, which lobbied for the bill.

MCASA’s Executive Director and Counsel, Lisae C. Jordan, noted that several of the panel members were long-time supporters of the bill, including Senator Will Smith, and Delegates David Moon and Brett Wilson.

“Some of the legislators on the committee unquestionably care about rape survivors and co-sponsored the bills. At the same time, the committee would have benefited from including women legislators,” says Smith in a statement.

This was the ninth time Del. Dumais has introduced this bill into the Maryland legislature.

According to The Sun, Maryland is one of 16 states that has not passed such a law. Women here still have to negotiate with an alleged rapist over custody or putting the child up for adoption.

State Roundup, April 17, 2017

April 17, 2017
View the Full Article Here

‘TONE DEAF:’ As the 2017 legislative session wound down Monday evening, five men sat on couches in a lounge inside Maryland’s State House. They would soon decide the fate of a bill that would allow a woman who is raped and conceives a child to terminate the parental rights of her assailant, writes Catherine Rentz of the Sun. “Although I have great respect for colleagues, not having women on the committee was tone-deaf,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who stood over over the men at the conference with her arms crossed, overseeing the group with Sen. Delores G. Kelley.

Gov. Hogan Signs Emergency Bill Creating Regional WMATA Compact

March 30, 2017
Montgomery Community Media
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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has signed emergency legislation creating a compact between Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. to create a new safety oversight commission for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

The governor was joined by Senate President Mike Miller, House Speaker Mike Busch, and several Montgomery County legislators including, Senator Brian Feldman, Senator Cheryl Kagan, Delegate Kumar Barve and Delegate Alfred Carr for the signing.

“Collaboration between Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. is crucial to ensure the safety and security of WMATA,” said Hogan. “I would like to thank Governor McAuliffe and Mayor Bowser for their partnership in an oversight commission that will help make sure that millions of Metro riders have access to a world-class public transportation system.”

The legislation, which was filed as an emergency Maryland Department of Transportation departmental bill, officially establishes the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission and the Metrorail Safety Commission Interstate Compact granting the Commission specified safety, regulatory, and enforcement authority over the WMATA system.

The creation of the compact is contingent upon passage of identical legislation in Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Washington, D.C. City Council passed the legislation in December 2016 and the Virginia General Assembly passed it in March 2017.

Powerful Women Leaders: Senator Cheryl Kagan

March 8, 2017
by Kelly Livingston
College Magazine
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No one dissents quite like Senator Cheryl Kagan. On inauguration day she held an UnNaugural Concert to raise money for many of the causes Trump poses a threat to. Bringing 500 people together the day before the Women’s March, in solidarity against a hateful agenda, is just one of the ways Senator Kagan has doubled down to do the work that needs to be done. A firm believer in the power of women’s voices to make a difference, she refuses to sit down and stay quiet. We’re going to need more fearless women like her in our push to reach 50% of women in congress by 2050.

1983 – Graduated from Vassar College with a bachelor’s degree in political science

1994 – Elected to the Maryland House of Delegates

2014 – Elected to the Maryland State Senate

Q: At College Magazine we’re working together with EMILY’s List, Emerge America, Human Rights Campaign, Higher Heights, She Should Run, Victory Fund and IGNITE on an initiative to fight for equal representation in congress called “50 by 2050.” What are your thoughts on the goal of achieving 50 percent of women in Congress by 2050?

A: Oh my gosh. I think it’s fantastic and important and we can start at the state legislative level. Years ago I worked at the National Women’s Political Caucus and we used to talk about the pipeline. It doesn’t always happen this way, but most of the time, people start in local government in elected office and work their way up. So we need to start by electing women as council members and commissioners and then state legislators and ultimately send them to Congress—to bring a woman’s voice and perspective and life experience to Washington.

Certainly there are women who’ve served in the military or who’ve run businesses or who’ve been community activists or nonprofit leaders who can go straight to Congress, but oftentimes it can be useful to get state or local experience in elected office first.

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to get involved in politics? What inspired you?

A: Let me tell you a story about when I was at Vassar. I always thought that being a person who supported peace and freedom and equality and justice and clean environments and a reasonable budget, I always thought that made me a moderate. And I discovered my first semester, freshman year, that made me a liberal. I decided that I needed to get involved in politics and the first of those ideas was that I needed to engage on those issues.

I ended up walking in off the street as a volunteer in a presidential campaign—and ended up as paid staff on the floor of the democratic convention by the end of that summer. This was 1980. It was on Ted Kennedy’s presidential campaign and, as a Marylander, it was easy for me to get on a bus and go down to D.C. to the national office and work with and get to know some of the top leaders of the national campaign headquarters.

There are very many exciting attributes or benefits of being involved in politics. One is the really smart, passionate, and effective leaders you get to know and work with. And another is, truly, one person can make a difference. I had that experience in college and its part of what inspired me to get connected politically.

I will tell you, the morning after election day, this past November, when many of us were pretty despondent and frightened by the election results, I was thinking about what I could do—because I couldn’t single-handedly protect the Supreme Court or change the election results. But I came up with the idea of combining my political skills, my fundraising skills, and my connections in the music world—I’ve hosted a music series for 15 years—and I ended up founding and producing an UnNaugural concert.

I ended up getting five performers. We raised money for five protective causes. Specifically ACLU, Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. We raised $60,000 and had 500 seats sell out a few weeks in advance. And that was one person’s idea and then recruiting a bunch of folks to be engaged and I had a wonderful steering committee and amazing performers and generous donors and I had two county executives, I had the attorney general of Maryland. I had a member of Congress and local elected officials and legislators. So I think that one person with passion and vision and the ability to recruit support from others, and use social media and reach out to the community and be organized and effective, any one person can make a difference.

I served 8 years in the House, and a lot of times, once people are elected they kind of stay elected. And I think people stay in office too long sometimes and I decided not to seek re-election after 8 years and went back into the community and ran a charitable foundation and stayed active in politics and in the community and it’s 12 years later that I came back and was elected to the senate. While I believe we must have more women running and serving in elected office, one doesn’t always need a fancy title in order to make a difference.

Q: What issues are you most passionate about?

A: I consider myself to be the senator for the nonprofit sector. Because of my background I have been a founder, a funder, a volunteer, a board member, so there’s a lot I am doing and have done for that sector. I have two nonprofit bills this year, both of which are moving, which is exciting. One of them establishes a short-term microbridge loan for nonprofits that have government grants or contracts that are coming through, but sometimes the bureaucracy around getting the money processed can cause such a delay that it causes a cash flow crisis and they just need 5 or 10 thousand dollars to pay staff and pay their rent and all of that in order to continue focusing on their mission. So this is a new fund that I take it will have a great impact for the sector. So working for and advocating for the nonprofit sector is really important to me.

I have three consumer bills this year. They deal with consumer privacy and data protection and bait and switch issues, so I’m working on those. And also, my district is comprised of two large municipalities. So I also work very hard on issues that effect municipalities.

And I will mention one more issue. I was a lobbyist with Jim and Sarah Brady on gun control issues—the handgun waiting period—the Brady Bill, as well as the assault weapons ban back in the ‘90s. So public safety is something that I have often been focused on.

Q: Over the last few months in particular, we’ve seen a lot more women running for office. How do you feel that will end up shaping our political landscape?

A: I think that our president scares a lot of us—terrifies a lot of us. So whether it’s about our reproductive choices, the denial of climate change, his hateful and divisive thoughts on immigration, or his foreign policy priorities—I think a lot of us are deeply concerned and have decided to speak out in a way that many have never done before. And that does make a difference. Keep doing it.

It may sometimes feel discouraging and progress can be hard to spot sometimes—it can be incremental, it can be slow—but smart, talented, effective, constructive thoughtful activism is very effective. And elected officials hear it and see it, so keep doing it. We really have to speak out. It is the only way that members of Congress, and members of the executive branch, will hear us.

There is much study that shows that men self-identify but women have to be asked to run. So consider yourself having been asked and never say never. Pay it forward. Talk to other women about running. We all just have to encourage each other. We don’t have to know every issue before ever running, we just have to jump in and be willing to take a try. Get out there and talk to people and listen and learn.

Q: Can you speak a little bit about your experience running for the senate?

A: Well I ran twice. As I said, I had run, I had served 8 years in the house. To be elected to the house was a ten-way race. There were two incumbents and then 8 of us going for the third seat—a former legislator, a former county council member, it was a good field and I just had to out-hustle and out-door-knock, and I did, and I won my first race—which doesn’t often happen for folks. Then I thought about running for the senate and I didn’t do it—my senator said she wanted one more term. And then four years later I thought about running for the senate and I talked to her and she said she wanted just one more term. And our terms are four years, so this is a long time. So I challenged her. She had been in office 32 years and I thought that was plenty long enough.

So I ran. I was endorsed by The Washington Post, all of green groups, the women’s groups, the largest chamber of commerce and the largest union. I really had a great coalition of supporters, but she had 32 years and incumbency and all of that and I lost by 300-something votes, and I was ok with that. I was like, “Ok, I get my life back.” But then the calls started coming for me to run the next term, and I didn’t want to do it because it was hard and you really have to put your life on hold. And long story short, it turns out that my successor in the House turns out to be a bad guy. He was bad on domestic violence and guns and just was really disliked.

I took him on. He out-spent me by a lot but I had a lot of money, I had a lot of supporters, and ultimately beat him handily, but it was a pretty brutal race and I had been warned that he would take no prisoners, and that was true.

Q: What do you think has been the most rewarding moment of your career?

A: The UnNaugural was pretty amazing. To give 500 people an opportunity to find a safe haven, an ability to be joyous and celebrate and be inspired and be ready to engage and speak out for the next four years while raising money. That was pretty amazing.

I just found out yesterday, for what it’s worth, that I was named one of Maryland’s top 100 women, and it was the third time, which means I’m going to be inducted into the Circle of Excellence which is like a hall of fame.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: Run! Run, run, run. Women need to run. We need more women’s voices in our legislatures at all levels.

1. Get involved

“Get involved in whatever makes you passionate—whatever issue, whatever candidate, it doesn’t matter,” said Kagan. “Pick something that motivates you and know that you will need to start small. Volunteer for anything that makes a difference.”

2. Be accountable

“Be reliable. Be enthusiastic. Stay in touch with people that you meet. Build a network,” said Kagan.

3. Be careful what you put online

“Use social media, but use it wisely—and remember that your Facebook posts or tweets can come back to haunt you, so be savvy about that,” said Kagan.

Dems move to rescind Md. calls for U.S. constitutional convention

March 2, 2017
by Dan Menefee
Maryland Reporter
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Responding to fears about how President Trump and a runaway constitutional convention might tamper with the U.S. Constitution, Democrats at the State House are moving closer to rescinding decades-old calls for a constitutional convention to deal with issues of the day.

A Senate resolution that would “rescind, repeal, cancel, void, nullify, and supersede” four historical applications to the U.S. Congress for a convention was adopted in the Senate on Thursday. Republicans fought in vain for an amendment to keep the 1975 call for a balanced budget open for seven years.

The measure, SJ2, heads for a final vote on Friday where passage is expected. The House Rules Committee takes up its version of the bill, HJ2, on Friday.

“We as a legislature need to take a stand and ask the federal government to…balance the budget,” said Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings in floor debate on Thursday.
Jennings said at the time of the 1975 call the federal debt was $503 billion, 33% of gross domestic product (GDP), but today’s $20 trillion debt is now at 105% of GDP — and represents a national security threat that has brought stern warnings from former military leaders and heads of state.

Debt worse than enemies

Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, said great civilizations like the Romans and Greeks fell to staggering debt and unaffordable social programs, not war.

“They did not fall from the outside they imploded,” Serafini said. “The biggest threat to our country would be our debt.”

Serafini said both political parties were responsible for the behemoth national debt.

“It is a bipartisan problem, the Republicans have added to this debt as much as the Democrats,” he said.

He said most of the U.S. debt is owned by foreign governments that could bring ruin to the United States be simply selling off the debt.

“All they have to do is sell the U.S. Bonds they hold,” Serafini said. “It would be devastating. “They don’t have to fire one missile or put any military boots on the ground.”

He said the ruin would come in a matter of days.

Fear of Republican states

Democrats shot down the amendment over fears that 33 Republican-led states could use Maryland’s open calls to move for a convention and advance a conservative agenda that would not be limited to a single topic. Currently 28 states have calls for a balanced budget, among other calls.

“It would leave open very broad agenda items,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery. “It’s those who are in the room that make the rules and they can do whatever they want.”

It takes 34 states, two-thirds, to call a convention and 38 to ratify any changes to the Constitution, four-fifths. But fears have been raised in some Democrat states that their open calls could be used to get to the magic number of 34. Delaware recently passed a similar measure to void its calls.

Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery,the lead sponsor of the resolution, said the language in Jenning’s amendment would broaden the scope of Maryland’s participation in a convention.

“It says we are willing to have our call grouped into whatever other calls different states have made,” He said. He said there were different calls from other states on a wide range of subjects.

“This [amendment] is dangerously broad as far as what we would now be going on record to do,” Madaleno said. “We should not be lumping ourselves in with those states that passed very different [calls].

Balanced budget ties hands

Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, argued that a balanced budget amendment at the federal level would have tied former President Obama’s hands from borrowing the U.S. economy out of the 2008 recession. Pinsky said the last time the country had a balanced budget was under former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Since 1939 the Maryland General Assembly has made four requests for a convention under Article 5 of the Constitution. They called for limiting federal taxing power, apportioning legislative bodies, allowing school prayer and mandating a balanced federal budget.


Bill would give local school officials flexibility over calendars

February 24, 2017
by Tim Tooten
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A bill in the General Assembly would give school districts more flexibility in setting yearly calendars. 

This comes on the heels of Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order to end school by June 15 and start fall classes after Labor Day, and what’s being discussed has everything to do with the weather.

It didn’t take Senate Bill 153 very long to get the thumbs up from members of the Maryland state Senate. It’s a bill that would give local school boards the power to adjust their academic year by up to five days without having to go to the state board to request a waiver. This applies to days students are forced to take off when the governor has declared a state of emergency.

“If there’s a year when we use eight or 10 snow days, they need to have some flexibility. So this would give them up to five days to play with before they would have to (go to) the state board for a waiver,” said Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery County.

By law, Maryland students must attend school 180 days except when weather is a factor. Some lawmakers said the legislation not only gives local boards flexibility, but gives them their voice back following the governor’s executive order to start school after Labor Day.

“The executive order by this governor made no sense. It was disrespectful to locally elected officials, and the state felt like it was time to step in and offer a balance,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery County.

“We go from one side, we talk about school after Labor Day, where it’s a state issue, and then back to local control, so I support this from the local control,” said Sen. Jim Mathias, D-Eastern Shore.

The bill could come up for a third reading by next week. Most lawmakers expect it will pass without a problem.

Area school systems build in anywhere from three to seven days for snow for the year. So far this year, most districts have not used the snow days.




Nonprofit Bridge Loan Program Hearing on Feb. 14th
Sen. Kagan seeks to eliminate cash flow troubles
for nonprofits with government grants or contracts 

Senator Cheryl C. Kagan
District 17 (Rockville & Gaithersburg)
(301) 858-3134

Annapolis, MD: Nonprofits provide vital services to our communities, addressing needs like hunger, homelessness, health care, and illiteracy. Many of these organizations operate on government grants or contracts that reimburse them for costs rather than providing the funding up front. Meanwhile, the nonprofits still have to pay rent, staff, utilities, and other expenses– resulting in short-term cash-flow problems.

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (District 17, Gaithersburg & Rockville) has introduced legislation, SB465, to create a “Nonprofit, Interest-free, Micro-Bridge Loan” (NIMBL) program to solve this problem. The revolving fund would allow nonprofits to borrow up to $25,000 interest-free. The loans must be repaid within 60 days of receiving the pledged funds.

Kagan’s bill, drafted in cooperation with Maryland Nonprofits and with insights from her Nonprofit Advisory Group, is co-sponsored by an impressive 44 of her 46 Senate colleagues and will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, February 14th at 1pm.

“Nonprofits are an integral part of Maryland’s economy, with 10% of Marylanders employed by the sector,” said Senator Kagan, adding that, “taking care of nonprofits is an essential aspect of taking care of our most vulnerable populations.

Click here to view the full press release.


Press Release: Hearing for Sen. Kagan’s 9-1-1 Legislation Scheduled for Feb. 14th
Advancing our 9-1-1 systems to “NextGen” technology 

Senator Cheryl C. Kagan
District 17 (Rockville & Gaithersburg)
(301) 858-3134

Annapolis, MD: When Carl Henn, a Rockville resident, was struck by lightning in 2010, many came to his aid by calling 9-1-1 for assistance. Tragically, they all got busy signals. Mr. Henn died. Another Rockville resident, Marlon Somarriba, died last summer while his loved ones dialed 9-1-1 repeatedly during a system outage.

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (District 17, Rockville & Gaithersburg) has introduced a multi-faceted bill, SB466, to update our 9-1-1 centers to the “Next Generation” of emergency technology and collaborate on best practices.

“Our region is at risk of massive 9-1-1 disruptions from severe weather incidents; major transportation accidents; or– heaven forbid– a terrorist attack,” said Senator Kagan. “When people dial 9-1-1, they expect someone to answer and dispatch first responders immediately,” she added.

Kagan has visited 9-1-1 centers across the State over the past two years, and her bill was crafted with a broad coalition of emergency professionals. The bill is co-sponsored by Senate Finance Chair “Mac” Middleton and will be heard in his committee on Tuesday, February 14th at 1pm.

“My bill would help transition Maryland’s 9-1-1 centers to “NextGen” technology, ensuring that our residents can rely on a world-class response in times of crises,” said Senator Kagan, adding, “9-1-1 systems are the backbone of our public safety apparatus; if they fail, people die.

Click here to view the full press release.

Acts Warm up for Sold Out UnNaugural Concert (Photos & Video)

January 20, 2017
Montgomery Community Media
by Phyllis Armstrong
View the Full Article (Including Photos & Video From the UnNaugural Concert!) Here

Progressive-minded people, political leaders and representatives from nonprofit organizations are preparing to show support for their causes at tonight’s UnNaugural Concert.

Tickets are sold out for the 500-seat auditorium inside the Cultural Arts Center at Montgomery College in Silver Spring. Five musical acts are performing at tonight’s concert.

Nationally-touring groups, including Sweet Honey in the Rock, Brother Sun, Josh White, Jr., Tret Fire and Emma’s Revolution prepared for the concert with sound checks at the Cultural Arts Center.

Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan organized the event to raise money for progressive organizations whose missions are targets of the Trump administration. “Tonight’s concert will be a positive and uplifting way to kick off this weekend when countless numbers of women and men will gather to show their support of progressive causes and make their voices heard at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday,” says Kagan.

Several of Montgomery County’s elected officials are making remarks at tonight’s event, including County Executive Ike Leggett and Congressman Jamie Raskin.

Proceeds from the UnNaugural Concert will go to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the League of Conservation Voters, the National LGBTQ Task Force and Planned Parenthood. Contributions for these groups are being accepted at

Opposition holds alternative inauguration events

January 17, 2017
by Kristi King
View the Full Article Here

WASHINGTON — While Donald Trump celebrates this week with a Thursday concert and inaugural balls Friday, alternative events will host people who don’t support the incoming administration.

The venues and related entertainment are diverse, happening everywhere from the Black Cat on 14th Street NW to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall.

But, the events share a theme.

“We can stay focused on the issues, focused on the opportunity to mobilize to speak out and to do our jobs as Americans,” said Maryland Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who is hosting Friday’s UnNaugural Concert in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Most of the events have reached capacity or are sold out, but Kagan hopes the spirit of their intentions will endure. 

“Protest where appropriate, but stay engaged and advocate for the issues that concern us most,” Kagan said.

Kagan’s sold-out event will benefit Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the League of Conservation Voters and the National LGBTQ Task Force.

“We’ve got folks from 19 states that’ve bought tickets,” Kagan said.
A concert Thursday evening at the 9:30 club in Northwest D.C. will feature rapper Common and indie rock band The National.

“Show Up! Is more than a concert — it’s a call to action for supporters of reproductive freedom to take action wherever they are,” Planned Parenthood said on its website.

It’s unclear whether tickets are available to the public, DCist reports organizations partnering for the event will be given tickets to distribute.

At last check there were still $15 tickets to the all-ages DISRUPT J20: A Benefit for Diverse City Fund concert being held at the Rock & Roll Hotel, on H Street Northeast, 8 p.m. Friday.

Many of the gatherings also will act as fundraisers “to raise money for causes that are most threatened by the incoming administration,” Kagan said of her UnNaugural Concert.

Montgomery County leaders breakdown hopes for 2017 legislative session

January 11, 2017
by Emilie Ikeda
View the Full Article Here

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. – “If we could get the Highway User Revenue restored, Storm Water Management fees paid and full funding for our schools, I think it would be a home run for all of us in the State of Maryland,” said Mayor Bridget Newton, City of Rockville.

Mayor Newton may not be calling the shots in the legislative session, but for the most part, she is on the same page as state senators from Montgomery County, who you will catch in Annapolis today.


“Our state has challenges,” said Senator Cheryl Kagan, District 17. “We’ve slipped in our education standing, [and] we’ve got budgetary challenges.”

Maryland schools continue to fall in national rankings, according to Education Week’s analysis, this time from fourth to fifth.

“Education is the path forward,” said Newton. “It is the greatest equalizer there is.”

MCPS is requesting $119 million from the state to support its construction program this year.

Storm Water Management

As Storm Water Management projects spread throughout the county, many government officials are hoping for help paying the fees.

“We all want to protect the Chesapeake Bay, and we agree that we need to be doing these steps, but these steps are very, very expensive,” said Newton.

Right now, several municipalities are responsible to pay for storm water management.

Mayor Newton believes the county, state and school systems should contribute to coverage as well.


As a county bordering our nation’s capital, a large priority this session is focused on smoothing over transportation.

“Transportation is vital to Maryland’s economic success,” said Kagan. “If people can’t get to work [or] can’t get to their jobs, we lose.”

So, the county’s legislative body is pushing for things like funding for Interstate-270 and the establishment of a Safety Oversight Agency for Metro.

But with a very blue county and a red governor, Senator Kagan is concerned with compromise the year before local elections.

“When we’re all figuring out what’s our next step, I think a lot of people are going to be looking to establish themselves,” said Kagan. “I think it’s going to be more partisan than it’s been, as we start to look towards a reelection year.”

An UnNaugural Concert Set for Jan. 20 in Silver Spring

January 5, 2017
Montgomery Community Media
by Phyllis Armstrong
View the Full Article Here

UPDATED 1.5.17 The UnNaugural Concert has sold out, according to organizer Cheryl Kagan.

An “unNaugural” concert to raise funds for national progressive organizations is scheduled to be held at 7:30 p.m. on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, at the Cultural Arts Center on the campus of Montgomery College in Silver Spring.

“Progressive activists are dreading Inauguration Day,” said State Senator Cheryl Kagan, who is the event’s executive producer. “Folks are looking for something positive and uplifting to do that night.

According to Kagan, profits from the event will be donated to five national advocacy organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Planned Parenthood.

Five nationally-touring singer/songwriters and groups are slated to perform, including headliner Sweet Honey in the Rock, Brother Sun(Pat Wictor, Joe Jencks, Greg Greenway), Josh White, Jr., Tret Fure, and Emma’s Revolution.

Concert organizers say they chose the name “unNaugural” as a way to differentiate this event from the official presidential inaugural events being held the same night.

“Women and men from around the country are coming to the DC-area for the Women’s March on January 21st,” said Kagan. “The concert the night before will help kick off a weekend of gathering to speak out on progressive causes.”

UnNaugural organizers from Maryland, Virginia, New York, West Virginia, Illinois, and Pennsylvania are working together to finalize the details of the event, Kagan said.

Tickets range in price from $25 for students, $60 for persons with limited incomes, $100 for a standard reserved ticket, and $250 for a VIP ticket, which includes reserved parking and a post-show reception with the performers. Sponsorships are also available.

For more information, visit the event’s website, here.

7 On Your Side: Md. state senator upset over return policy

December 28, 2016
by Kimberly Suiters
View the Full Article (and Watch the Video!) Here

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (ABC7) — Montgomery County State Senator Cheryl Kagan is upset over a return policy that allows retailers to gather personal data from consumers.

Senator Kagan will introduce legislation in Maryland to limit license scanning of consumer data. Nine other states currently have similar laws.
Some consumers are split on whether they are willing to give up private data to return items to stores.

Seven On Your Side investigator Kimberly Suiters has more on this story.

Year in Review: Hate Incidents Roil County Known for its Inclusion

December 27, 2016
Bethesda Magazine
by Douglas Tallman
View the Full Article Here

In a county that prides itself on a population drawn from 170 countries, the hate incidents of 2016 came as a shock. As the year drew to a close, swastikas were drawn igniting concerns and forcing action by county institutions.

None of the incidents have resulted in arrests, police said recently, though the cases remain under investigation.

“Detectives have very little information and few leads, if any, to go on with the open cases and are still asking for anybody with information to come forward,” Montgomery County police Officer Rick Goodale said.

In some incidents, the hate images were scrawled on the walls of elementary and middle school bathrooms. In others, church signs were defaced. Vandals used a “caustic substance” to burn a swastika into the grass of an athletic field. Spray paint was used on school signs and on a homeowner’s door.

Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Derek Turner said only one school case resulted in punishment. That case occurred earlier this month when someone put a “Whites Only” sign on a restroom door at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. According to a report in The Washington Post, students found the sign and “posted it to see how people would react.” Turner would not describe the punishment that students received.

An incident at Silver Spring’s Sligo Creek Elementary School, originally described as racial slurs scratched on a wall, was actually just an act of vandalism, according to a letter that went home to parents.

“The investigation revealed that the message, which was scratched into the wall and not written on as originally believed, consisted of the text ‘Kill Kill B.’ It was concluded that while there is evidence of the crime of vandalism, there is no evidence to show that it was a hate crime, or biased based,” wrote Matthew A. Devan, MCPS director of school support and improvement.

The spate of hate graffiti prompted the County Council on Nov. 15 to issue a resolution condemning the incidents. County Executive Ike Leggett hosted a rally in downtown Silver Spring on Nov. 20 that drew more than 1,000 people to reaffirm the county’s values of diversity, inclusion and respect for all.

Efforts to determine the reasons behind the hate incidents have sparked some debate. Some, like state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Rockville), blame the rhetoric from President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.

In an address at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville on Dec. 16, Gov. Larry Hogan looked at the issue more broadly.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration and anger out there in the country, and we need to figure out a way to bring everyone together,” the Republican governor said.

Two weeks before, Kagan had engaged in a Twitter war of words with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. Kagan tweeted her shock that Rutherford had said at a meeting in Potomac the night before that he was perplexed by recent increase in hate crimes in the United States. In his tweet reply, Rutherford said hate is not new and he’d “rather people show their real colors than hide.”

A timeline for hate incidents:

April 27: Swastikas spray-painted at Welsh Park on Mannakee Street and at Beall Elementary School in Rockville. A witness told police he saw two teenage boys spray-painting swastikas in a wooded area near the school, but police were not able to locate the suspects.

Oct. 28: Someone used a “caustic substance” to create a swastika on the grass of the Quince Orchard High School football field in Gaithersburg. A vehicle was captured by surveillance video.

Oct. 31: Swastikas and other inappropriate images were spray-painted on banners, sidewalks and telephone poles at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda.

Nov. 11: Multiple swastikas were drawn in a boys bathroom at Westland Middle School in Bethesda.

Nov. 11: A “Black Lives Matter” sign at Christ Congregational Church in Silver Spring was vandalized on election night.

Nov. 12: The phrase “Trump Nation, Whites Only” was written at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior at 1700 Powder Mill Road, Silver Spring, on a sign advertising the church’s Hispanic service, and on a wall in the church’s memorial garden that serves as a cemetery.

Nov. 17: Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger appeared in a video saying that so far in 2016, police have seen a 17 percent increase in hate crimes and bias incidents.

Nov. 21: A swastika was spray-painted on the front door of a Trump supporter, which police investigated as a possible case of “hate-biased” vandalism. The homeowner also reported an American flag he had hanging from a tree in yard, had also been stolen.

Dec. 9: A “derogatory, racial statement” was written on the wall of a restroom at Woodlin Elementary School in Silver Spring near third-grade classrooms.

Dec. 22: Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith condemned hate in holiday message.

For Trump Critics, an ‘UnNaugural’ Concert

December 13, 2016
by Josh Hicks
The Washington Post

A progressive state senator from Maryland is organizing a concert on Inauguration Day to raise money for liberal causes she thinks will be threatened under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

The UnNaugural Concert will take place the night of Jan. 20 at Montgomery College’s 500-seat Cultural Arts Center in Rockville, while thousands of Trump supporters and Republican faithful from across the country are celebrating downtown at inaugural balls.

Ticket prices range from $25 for students to $250 for VIP seating, with general admission running $100. Proceeds will go to five national advocacy groups that promote abortion rights, civil liberties, environmental protections, gay rights and gun control.

Performers include five largely regional acts known for activist music: the Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Emma’s Revolution, Brother Sun, Josh White Jr. and Tret Fure.

“I wanted an opportunity for like-minded people to get together for healing and inspiration on a day when the new administration is going to be talking about its agenda,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery County).

Other groups benefiting from the UnNaugural Concert include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the League of Conservation Voters and Planned Parenthood.

Organizers are hoping to attract locals and visitors traveling to the area for the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington, the most high-profile anti-Trump protest planned, which organizers say could draw hundreds of thousands of attendees.

Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, compared the protest efforts to the actions of conservatives after Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008.

 “I have no problem with it,” he said. “They should be fighting back. That’s what we did. We worked to beat Democrats all over the country, and now we have 33 Republican governors, the majority in the Senate and House, and the presidency.”

Similar efforts have sprung up throughout the nation since the Nov. 8 election, including a “revival meeting” featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep.-elect Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) that drew more than 800 people to a civic center in Silver Spring last month.

Raskin, who served in Annapolis with Kagan before being elected to Congress, is scheduled to speak at the UnNaugural Concert as well.

Maryland Lieutenant Governor Slammed for Saying He’s Glad Hate Now Out in the Open

A swastika and a chart showing incidents of post-election hate crimes are shown during a press conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., November 29, 2016.

December 8, 2016
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Maryland’s lieutenant governor is raising hackles for saying he was glad haters are coming out into the open.
Boyd Rutherford, a Republican, speaking last week at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, had been asked by a local rabbi about a spike in hate crimes in Maryland directed at Jews.
Rutherford, according to the Baltimore Sun, condemned the spike, but said he didn’t know what was causing it.
The Jewish audience laughed at that remark and Democratic State Senator Cheryl Kagan almost immediately chided him on Twitter, using the hash tag #Trump to suggest the spike was a result of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.
“You act as though hate is new,” Rutherford replied on Twitter. “It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”
Jews and Democrats were scathing in their response.
“It’s worrisome that our lieutenant governor is not aware of what’s happening around our state and our country as we prepare to inaugurate a new president whose language has caused such hate and such fear,” Kagan told Bethesda Magazine.
Susan Turnbull, a former vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and a former chairwoman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, told the Sun that Rutherford’s apparent defensiveness was “mind blowing.”
“He could have said so many other things, and he didn’t,” she said.
Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokeswoman for Rutherford, who is an African American, expanded on his tweet in a statement to the media.
“As someone who has personally experienced racial discrimination, the lieutenant governor was referencing the indisputable fact that, unfortunately, racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years, and he believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena,” she said.


December 8, 2016
by Bethany Rogers
Bethesda Beat MagazineScreenshot of Tree House Concerts webpage

A few days after Donald Trump clinched the presidency, Chevy Chase concert organizer Doug Mangel was wide awake at 2 a.m. compiling a playlist of ‘60s protest songs.

The election results had left him feeling “sort of punched in the gut,” but he found comfort in listening to Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie.

“It felt cathartic putting it together,” Mangel said.

The early-morning experience got him thinking about using music to unite the community during a time of tumult. Now, Mangel is working to stage one of at least two local shows planned to calm frayed nerves in the hours before Trump’s inauguration in January.

“I think people are looking for something to forget about what might be happening the next day,” said Pete Marra, who is co-hosting one of the events with Mangel.

Mangel’s BlackBox Live concert series is partnering with Marra’s Tree House Concerts to put on the Peace, Love and Understanding Alt-Inaugural show at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, the day before Trump takes office.

The second event, dubbed the UnNaugural Concert, is slated for the big day itself on Jan. 20. But unlike the D.C. extravaganza, “no limousines, tuxedos, or fancy gowns are needed” at the UnNaugural Concert, its website states.

The concert, which state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Rockville) is planning, will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring and will promote progressive issues such as gay rights and gun control.

“I tend to be a problem solver. So I came up with the idea of hosting a concert to raise money for progressive causes that are among those most threatened by the incoming administration,” Kagan said.

Both events will feature musicians who have engaged in political or social activism.

The UnNaugural Concert will include performances by activist musicians such as Grammy-nominated vocalists Sweet Honey in the Rock and musical duo Emma’s Revolution. The event will support the American Civil Liberties Union, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, League of Conservation Voters, National LGBTQ Task Force and Planned Parenthood. Kagan said she’d like to let concert goers help decide how the event proceeds will be divided between the organizations. Tickets are available at

The Peace, Love and Understanding show at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club will present singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, “populist musician” Jonah Smith and cellist Ben Sollee, an environmental advocate who has opposed mountaintop removal in Appalachia, Mangel said. The show’s proceeds will go to the artists and to two local nonprofits, Ayuda, which serves low-income immigrants, and Washington Womenade, which helps the needy in the D.C. area.

“Both women’s rights and immigration will rise to the forefront over the next four years—and so we’d like to give to [these nonprofits] at this time,” said Marra of Takoma Park.

Mangel said the response to the planned show has been overwhelming. Since tickets went on sale over Thanksgiving, 375 of 500 seats have already been taken, he said. The $30 tickets are available at

In a largely Democratic county where 76 percent of voters chose Hillary Clinton for president, the Jan. 19 crowd probably won’t contain many Trump supporters. But the goal isn’t to rally against the Republican president-elect, Mangel said.

“We’re not doing it as a protest, in-your-face show,” he said. “I think that music is a very powerful thing. …I think it brings people together.”

Dan McHugh, vice president of Montgomery County Young Republicans, doesn’t remember past presidential inaugurations inspiring concerts like the planned events and said the response to Trump’s election has been unusually emotional.

“Clearly, the Democrats are not going to accept Donald Trump as president,” McHugh said.

“My basic message to people is that we’re not a marginal minority — we’re the majority in exile,” he said, referring to Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote victory. “We’re clearly going to be the opposition party in Congress, but I believe we’re speaking for most Americans on Day One.”

Although Trump’s positions on key policy issues have been hard to pin down, he has said that climate change is a hoax, that he would defund Planned Parenthood, that he opposes gun-free zones, that states should be able to decide whether same-sex marriage is legal and that Muslim immigrants should go through ideological screening as part of an “extreme vetting” process.

Each concert attendee will receive a token to place in one of five containers representing the groups that benefit from the show, allowing guests to choose which organizations they want to support. Concertgoers can also place their tokens in a sixth container, which will allow them to divide the proceeds evenly among the groups.

Raskin explained the purpose of the concert by offering a twist on first lady Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” catchphrase.

“When they go into office, we go out and organize,” he said. “It’s important for our people to feel strong and to stand strong.”

Maryland Senator Blasts Lieutenant Governor over “Remarkably Offensive” Hate Crimes Comment 
December 7, 2016
by Menachem Rephun 
Jewish Political News & Updates
Boyd K. Rutherford, Maryland’s Republican Lieutenant Governor, is facing controversy for his apparently dismissive attitude regarding a surge in hate crimes in Maryland since November.  

Rutherford only dug himself into a deeper hole during a Twitter exchange with Democratic state Senator Cheryl Kagan, who expressed dismay at a speech Rutherford had recently given to the Jewish Relations Council of Greater Washington. In Kagan’s view, the speech betrayed a lack of understanding about the root cause behind the recent surge in hate speech, which she believes is the election of Donald Trump.

When Kagan took Rutherford to task, Rutherford retorted that “you act as though hate is new. It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”

Rutherford’s response was “remarkably offensive,” Kagan told the Washington Post. The remark was also criticized by Ron Halber, the JRC of Greater Washington’s executive director. According to the Washington Post, Halber also sees a direct link between the rhetoric of Donald Trump and “the uptick of anti-Semitic and bigoted events happening across the country and in my home town of Montgomery County.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Rutherford defended him in a statement to WJZ, a sports radio station based in Baltimore.

“As a black man who grew up during the Civil Rights movement and someone who has stared real racism and discrimination in the face, the lieutenant governor was simply referencing the indisputable fact that racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years,” the statement read. “He believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena.”

Kagan, for her part, recounted her exchange with Rutherford in a December 2 Facebook post.

“Yesterday, I had an interesting… no, distressing… Twitter exchange with our Lt Gov, Boyd Rutherford,” Kagan wrote. The Senator described Rutherford as “a personally nice man,” but said she was “shocked by his answer to a question about hate crimes.”

“He indicated first that he couldn’t understand why there was a recent and meteoric rise,” she wrote. “He then tweeted in response to mine that he’d ‘rather people show their real colors than hide.’ I STRONGLY disagree; it seems that the shame of racist words and actions has evaporated due to the mortifying example by President-Elect Donald J. Trump. We need strong leadership to stand up and speak out in the face of hate. All Marylanders need to feel safe!”

Maryland Lt. Gov.’s Response to Hate Crime Wave Upsets Some

December 7, 2016
by Ron Kampeas
The Forward

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Maryland’s lieutenant governor is raising hackles for saying he was glad haters are coming out into the open, referring to a question he fielded about a rise in anti-Jewish attacks.

Boyd Rutherford, a Republican, speaking last week at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, had been asked by a local rabbi about a spike in hate crimes in Maryland directed at Jews.

Rutherford, according to the Baltimore Sun, condemned the spike, but said he didn’t know what was causing it.

The Jewish audience laughed at that remark, and a Democratic State Senator, Cheryl Kagan, almost immediately chided him on Twitter, hashtagging her tweet “Trump,” a reference to her belief that the spike was a result of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

“#Shocked by Lt Gov @BoydKRutherford’s response to @ShaareTorahGbrg’s Rabbi about hate crimes. He’s perplexed by the increase. #Trump,” said Kagan, referring to Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal of Shaare Torah synagogue in Gaithersburg, Maryland, who asked the question.

“You act as though hate is new,” Rutherford replied on Twitter. “It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”

Jews and Democrats were scathing in their response. “It’s worrisome that our lieutenant governor is not aware of what’s happening around our state and our country as we prepare to inaugurate a new president whose language has caused such hate and such fear,” Kagan told Bethesda Magazine.

Susan Turnbull, a former vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and a former chairwoman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, told the Sun that Rutherford’s apparent defensiveness was “mind blowing.”

“He could have said so many other things, and he didn’t,” she said.

Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokeswoman for Rutherford, who is an African American, expanded on his tweet in a statement to the media.

“As someone who has personally experienced racial discrimination, the lieutenant governor was referencing the indisputable fact that, unfortunately, racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years, and he believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena,” she said.


December 2, 2016
by Erin Cox
The Baltimore Sun
Amid an uptick in hate speech following the divisive presidential election, Republican Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford said this week that he’d rather people “show their real colors than hide.”

Rutherford was tweeting in response to state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, who had tweeted that she was “shocked” by Rutherford’s lack of awareness about the root of recent anti-Semitic vandalism.

“You act as though hate is new,” Rutherford tweeted at the state senator. “It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”

The lieutenant governor had just given a speech Thursday to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, where several attendees said Rutherford condemned a recent increase in hate speech but also said he didn’t know what was causing it. That remark set off uncomfortable laughter in the audience.

Progressive lawmakers and other groups have been pushing Gov. Larry Hogan‘s administration to make more forceful public comments about hate speech.

Since Election Day, about 1,000 people have called or emailed Hogan’s office, encouraging his administration to publicly condemn an uptick in hate speech in the state, according to the governor’s office. Another 627 asked the administration to decry President-elect Donald Trump‘s appointment of former Breitbart news executive Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist.

Rutherford, who is African-American and normally low-key, clarified his tweet about 24 hours after he posted it. His spokeswoman issued a statement Friday, saying the lieutenant governor thought the country could benefit from a candid discussion about racially motivated hate.

“As a black man who grew up during the Civil Rights movement and someone who has stared real racism and discrimination in the face, the lieutenant governor was simply referencing the indisputable fact that racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years,” spokeswoman Shareese Churchill said in the statement.

“He believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena.”

Hogan’s spokesman, Doug Mayer, said Friday, “We condemn all acts of hate and racism. Period.”

Last week, Hogan said of the increase in post-election hate speech that “we would not like to see any hate crimes on either side of this issue.” He also said that “everyone should take a deep breath” about Trump’s election and declined to comment on Bannon.

The remarks did little to quell progressive lawmakers who thought the administration was shying away from taking a stand.

“What are we really asking him to do?” said Democratic Del. Kirill Reznik of Montgomery County. “To say that he comes out and stands with the people of Maryland, all the people of Maryland, and that people who commit who hate crimes should be punished.

“I don’t see how we’re cornering him into anything other than being a decent person.”

Kagan blamed the rise in hate speech on a presidential election rich in racially and ethnically charged rhetoric.

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, who asked Rutherford the question that sparked this controversy, said he wanted to know what the administration will do about the anxiety and bullying he’s seeing in his Gaithersburg community.

“I know that I, as Jewish person, don’t feel better that it’s out there,” said Blumenthal, rabbi of the Shaare Torah congregation. “We just have to recognize that’s an issue — that there are parts of the community that feel vulnerable, and there are parts of our society that now feel like hate speech is a legitimate activity.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report this week documenting about 900 hate-based incidents across the country in the 10 days following Trump’s election.

In Montgomery County, school officials said a swastika was discovered Tuesday at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, the second time such a symbol has been found at the school since October. Other swastikas were found painted outside a Bethesda elementary school in October, and more in a Bethesda middle school in November.

On Wednesday, police said three cars in Burtonsville were defaced with swastikas.

And earlier this month, a 15-year-old wearing a “Make American Great Again” hat was attacked at a Rockville high school while students protested Trump’s victory.

“The anxiety that is going on about this is pervasive,” said Susan Turnbull, a longtime Montgomery County activist and former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party. Turnbull attended Thursday’s event and said she was stunned by Rutherford’s response to the rabbi’s question.

“He could have said so many other things, and he didn’t,” she said. “The lieutenant governor’s total lack of connection with that feeling was mind-blowing.”

The push for the Hogan administration to take a stand has come with some nastiness, according to Mayer.

One anonymous email provided by the governor’s office to The Baltimore Sun told Hogan that “maybe you’ll take hate crimes in Maryland seriously when they come to register your foreign mail order bride,” a reference to Hogan’s wife, Yumi, who is Korean-American.

On Thursday night, Trump forcefully denounced hate speech at a rally in Ohio, saying, “We condemn bigotry and hatred in all of its forms.”

Kagan said her Jewish community is “mystified” by Rutherford’s remarks.

“It’s hard to imagine how the lieutenant governor could have been blind to the hate speech that has been spewed by Donald Trump and many of his supporters,” Kagan said. “He missed an opportunity to be an effective role model.

“Just because racism has existed for hundreds of years doesn’t make it right. Nor does it sanction the shocking increase in race-related hate.”


November 7, 2016
by Mitti Hicks
My Community Media

cwbuexlxeaecjhqThe Corporate Volunteer Council (CVC) of Montgomery County held their 2016 annual luncheon and awards ceremony on Friday to recognize local businesses for their successful volunteer programs.

The CVC educates local businesses on how to partner with and support non-profits in need by helping them create successful volunteer and charitable programs.

In this extra video, Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan explains the importance of local businesses volunteering with nonprofits:

“Through them, seniors are being helped, the homeless are being helped, the hungry; they’re making a difference,” said Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan. “It makes employees feel great about their employers, inspires loyalty within their organizations and makes a worthy charitable difference.”

Joining the local businesses and non-profits at the luncheon were state and local-elected officials.

“Many times, we’re quick to criticize,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Sidney Katz. “When we do the right things, someone should also thank.  We don’t do that enough, so this is an opportunity for us to say thank you.”

 Vote Like A Girl: Cheryl Kagan

October 28, 2016
by Lauren Landau
Jewish Women International Magazine 

Q: Why do you vote like a girl?

A: I vote because I think my voice and my opinions matter. I think that women tend to care about people more than profits. While we are conscious of the present, I think we tend to be future-oriented in terms of the next generation and the impact of top quality schools, a clean environment and peace and justice. I think we’re really conscious of those issues and when we do our homework, that’s how we vote.

Q: We know that only a fraction of eligible voters actually make it out to the voting booths. Do you find that troubling? Why should people—and women in particular—participate in the electoral process?  

A: My favorite campaign button says “vote or you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.” So many Americans complain about this, that and the other. They have a distrust and disinterest in many political things, and yet while they’re unhappy and gripe about it, they don’t always vote.

When I get letters, phone calls, or emails from constituents or interest groups, and I look them up in our voter database and find that they have not voted, I don’t care if they’re of the other party. I don’t care if they have supported my opponent. I want to see that they are engaged in the most basic job that every American has, and that is to cast a ballot in the primary and the general election, all the time. And if they don’t, they just lose credibility with me. 

Q: So you do your homework. What do you tell those people? Do you give them a guilt trip? 

A: Senators in Maryland get to pick notaries public and we get to choose from those who apply. We also have scholarship money for students who are doing either college or graduate work. One of the things that I look for [among the people who apply] is are they registered, and do they vote? At this point, virtually everyone can be registered through Motor Voter so you’re already on the books. In Maryland you can vote by mail, you can early vote or you can vote on Election Day —so there’s no good excuse [for not voting].  Laziness, cynicism or disinterest doesn’t qualify. 

We used to turn down as a notary anybody who wasn’t registered to vote and I give kind of a mini lecture to anyone who is a Kagan senatorial scholar. It is your job [I tell them] as a senatorial scholar to be a role model. Role models are community leaders and community leaders influence their friends and neighbors. Part of your job is to be informed, to vote and to talk to your friends and neighbors about whom you are supporting and why. It is a responsibility. I don’t care if you vote against me every single time. That’s fine. But you have to vote.

Q: And that’s what we’re about here at JWI. Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent, just get out there and vote!

A: I totally agree, and I’m wearing my “H” pin because I’m with her, and I am really hoping that we’re about to elect our first woman president, not just because of her gender, but because of her talent, passion, experience, and the respect with which she is held around the country and around the world. So I am hopeful and optimistic and working hard. 

Q: I’m sure Secretary Clinton appreciates that. You mentioned some of the reasons why people might not vote or might not be registered to vote. But it isn’t just a disinterest in voting. What are some of the hurdles that people face and how can we help alleviate some of those issues? 

A: America is increasingly diverse. I sponsored the “Informed Voter” bill, which we got enacted with “Language Access,” because those who don’t yet speak English fluently may have trouble understanding government and candidates’ platforms. By making our government fully accessible, regardless of which language you speak, we can help people engage more. In other states, but thankfully not in Maryland, there are voter ID laws and other barriers to voting. The biggest barrier to voting in Maryland is being a citizen, and then coming out [to vote]. Once you’re a citizen, in my view, there is just no excuse not to vote, not to cast your opinion, not to be heard.

Q: What are some of the issues that feel particularly relevant or pressing in 2016 that this election could significantly impact?

A: Maryland has no elections at the state level in a presidential year. We have the off years, so the governor, the general assembly, our legislature, our county councils and other [elected positions] are not on the ballot this year—and neither am I. So we’re all looking at Washington and at Congress. Because we are in Maryland, we are right next door, and are very aware of and affected by—as we all are—national decisions. Certainly the leader of the free world is going to be making international decisions about war and peace; about trade; about where we do or don’t intervene abroad; about refugees. Immigration obviously has been a huge issue, but [there are also] budget priorities and [the need for] support for our children and for moving forward, for the environment and climate change. 

I am a partisan Democrat, but I also believe in bipartisanship. So many Republicans, though, are climate change deniers. The scientific data is not debatable, and yet, depending on who gets in office, we are either going to take action to protect our Earth for future generations or we’re not. We’re either going to work with other countries on treaties, and enforce them and comply with them, or we’re not. Obviously issues like women’s reproductive choice are at stake, depending on who runs Congress. So there are hundreds of issues and I am fervently hoping that we’re going to have a dynamic, thoughtful, progressive new U.S. Senator from Maryland; a terrific new congressman from my district, Jamie Raskin, a Senate colleague of mine; and Hillary Clinton, an effective leader, in the White House.  

Please vote! It’s vitally important, and make sure you are prepared. Don’t just vote based on gender or race or religion. Do your homework and figure out who is supporting issues that are of concern to you. 


 Democratic Vets Mull Convention Changes

By  Danica Roem
The Montgomery Sentinel

The role and scope of women participating in the Democratic National Convention changed considerably from the time state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) first attended in 1980. 

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) capped that change as the dean of the Senate women formally nominated Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, the first woman to lead a major party presidential ticket.

Moco Sentinel Prez picture

President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER

“Every convention is different and every convention is exciting and truly a privilege to experience and be a part of history,” said Kagan last week during a phone call from Philadelphia.

Kagan, who said she attended her ninth DNC last week, also saw how disunity affected the party up close when she volunteered for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) campaign during his unsuccessful run for president against incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980.

“I had started off at headquarters photocopying checks,” she said.

It wasn’t the first time she supported a candidate who lost, backing Clinton’s first run for the presidency in 2008.

During that campaign, Kagan knocked on doors during the winter cold in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and eventually traveled to Denver as delegate for Clinton.

However, by the time then-Sen. Barack Obama offered his acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium, she backed the man who would eventually become the country’s first African American president.

“We live in a democracy. After the election results come in, there are winners and losers. And at some point, we have to unify in order to achieve our policy goals.”

According to Leggett, people who protested in favor of former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.), who called for all delegates to back Clinton last week from the floor of the convention, are a small but vocal minority within the party.

“I think the Sanders people are coming around. I think you have a core, which is a very small minority that will never come around,” said Leggett. “What you see is a very intense core of people, who are very small by numbers, who are continuing their fight. And that’s their right and we just deal with it.”

Kagan took her policy advocacy to the San Francisco convention in 1984 as a staffer for the abortion rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America.

She also supported the Rep. Geraldine Ferraro’s (D-N.Y.) vice presidential nomination, making her the first woman nominated by a major party for that position.

Past turned out to be prologue for Kagan as she compared 1984 to 2016.

“And once again, we are facing threats to our health choices,” she said. “And that’s not the only issue to be clear.”

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, attending his fifth DNC, said civil rights have been a big part of Democratic politics since the 1960s, particularly regarding racial equity.

“The only difference now is some of these issues are not concluded or resolved and we’ve had to go back to revisit them more intensely than we anticipated,” said Leggett. “It’s not a new issue, it just resurfaced.”

He specifically mentioned recently passed voting laws in states like North Carolina.

Last week, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a state law banning same-day voter registration and extended early voting.

“(It’s) just a blatant attempt to reduce minority votes and those who would normally vote Democratic,” said Leggett.

Kagan said other issues Democrats should focus on included campaign finance reform, civil rights and protecting marriage equality for LGBTQ people.

She said if any issue should unify the Democratic Party this year, it is the Supreme Court.

“The impact of the Supreme Court on the election cannot be overstated,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said the Democratic Party “has evolved as our society has evolved,” said Kagan, noting there is “a much more visible presence of the gay and lesbian community” at the convention.

On Thursday, Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Sarah McBride became the first transgender person to address a major party’s national convention.

“As more people have come out, there’s a greater focus on civil rights for the gay and lesbian community,” said Kagan. “So we’re seeing more speakers. The speakers are talking more about these issues.”

On the first night of the convention, Kagan watched some of the biggest names among women in the Democratic Party address the audience, including First Lady Michelle Obama, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Featured speakers also included women such as Anastasia Somoza, who advocated for people with disabilities, and military widow Cheryl Lankford, who said she lost tens of thousands of dollars to Trump University.

“A lot of people who were the most effective presenters on the stage last night were women,” said Kagan, later adding, “I think it inspires women to get involved in politics.”

That’s because those speakers offer women “someone who looks like them and speak like them and has life experiences like theirs.”

Kagan said the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D) inspired her the most and she talked to Richards’ daughter Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, at the convention.

“She was plain spoken, direct, opinionated, passionate, insightful, affective and funny,” said Kagan about the former Texas governor. “And using humor to make a point while never deviating from her fundamental values was powerful.”


Maryland Faces Possible Lack of Female Lawmakers in Congress

July 25, 2016
CBS Baltimore
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 26: U.S Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) steps into an elevator after she announced that she would vote against Judge John Roberts for chief justice of the Supreme Court Sept. 26, 2005 during the opening day of debate in the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to recommend Roberts' confirmation as chief justice. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland has been among leading states in electing women to political offices for decades, but the state could have its first all-male congressional delegation in more than 40 years unless at least one of two Republicans or a third-party candidate wins in November in the heavily Democratic state.

Republican Marjorie Holt became Maryland’s first elected congresswoman, serving seven terms from 1973 to 1987. Democrat Gladys Spellman served three terms from 1975 to 1981. They were followed by Republicans Helen Bentley, who served five terms from 1985 to 1995, and Connie Morella, who served eight terms from 1987 to 2003.

And Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat, is the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress. She first served in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1977, before becoming the first woman to win a Senate seat on her own in 1986, without following a husband or father who had held the seat.

But Mikulski’s retirement next year after serving five, six-year terms could leave Maryland without a woman in the 10-member delegation. Her retirement prompted Maryland’s only other female member of Congress, Rep. Donna Edwards, to run for the rarely open Senate seat in a Democratic primary against Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a race Edwards lost in April.

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan, one of 12 women in the 47-member Maryland Senate, said while she would have liked to have supported a minority woman in that primary, she believed Van Hollen was clearly the stronger candidate. She also noted that voters had female candidates to choose from in the 8th Congressional District primary race, but she believes the best candidate in that race happened to be a man as well.

“This time, the male candidates were stronger, were more experienced, were more respected and ran great campaigns, but Maryland should be looking around for talented women to move up,” Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, said.

Edwards, who is black, highlighted her race and gender during the campaign in a polarizing battle. The White House and prominent national Democrats supported Van Hollen, but Edwards’ supporters said her opportunity to become only the second black female U.S. senator in history should not be denied.

Republican Kathy Szeliga is running against Van Hollen, but she is running in a statewide race where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in a presidential election year in which voter turnout is expected to be high. Szeliga, who is the Maryland House of Delegates minority whip, said she doesn’t think people should vote for her simply because she’s a woman, noting she’s also a small business owner. But she said women’s views are essential to good government.

“I just don’t think that Maryland should go back to the time when they didn’t have women representing them,” Szeliga said. “We have a proud tradition.”

The only other female running for a congressional seat for a major party is Republican Amie Hoeber, who is challenging Rep. John Delaney in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. Maryland has eight U.S. House seats.

Maryland has never elected a female governor. However, the state Legislature has the nation’s eighth-highest percentage of female lawmakers. Out of 188 total seats in Maryland’s House and Senate, women hold 59 of them, or 31.4 percent.

Nationally, although women comprise half the population, they serve as mayors of just 19 percent of all cities and represent just a quarter of all state lawmakers. Just 12 percent of governors are women, and they hold just one in five seats in Congress.

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Your Chamber In Action – Excerpt from The Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce Update

Good Transportation News? No it’s not a hoax!…

The Chamber also supported State Senator Cheryl Kagan’s request that the State support Montgomery County’s planned efforts to provide additional transit services during the Metro repairs to the Red Line. The Hogan administration agreed and will provide an additional $1 million for shuttle bus service that will transport riders in Montgomery County between Metro stations. This is a great case of “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Thanks Cheryl!

On that note, keep in mind that the “Safety Surges” on the Red Line Metro Service with start August 1st, so be prepared. Although each surge targets a limited section of the Red Line, you should expect major disruptions and very long delays throughout the entire loop between Shady Grove and Glenmont. on these dates:
● August 1-7 (Continuous single tracking between Takoma and Silver Spring)
● August 9-18 (Continuous single tracking between Shady Grove and Twinbrook)…
Marilyn Balcombe, President and CEO

Press Release: Per Senator Kagan’s Request, Gov. Hogan To Fund Shuttle Bus Service During Metro SafeTrack Repairs

July 19,2016

Annapolis, MD: Senator Cheryl C. Kagan, backed by a broad coalition of Chambers of Commerce; transportation advocates; environmental groups; and municipalities, has been urging Governor Larry Hogan to cover the $1 million cost of providing shuttle bus service during Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance of Montgomery County’s Red Line. 
At a press conference yesterday, Hogan announced that his Administration would provide the needed funds for the August repairs.  This will allow Ride-On buses to run at least every 10 minutes during peak hours and extend to off-peak periods including weekends.  The County’s Department of Transportation has indicated that it will monitor demand and increase the frequency of shuttles if needed.Ride-On Twinbrook bus 2016
“During Metro’s safety repairs, people still need to get to work. If commuters were to give up on our mass transit, our roads would get even more congested. I am grateful that Governor Hogan joined with Virginia Governor McAuliffe in providing much-needed State funds for frequent, efficient, and air-conditioned shuttle buses,” affirmed Kagan.
Kagan’s coalition included the City of Gaithersburg, the City of Rockville, the Greater Gaithersburg Germantown Chamber of Commerce, the Rockville Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, the Maryland Environmental Health Network, and others. 
According to Rockville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Michelle Day, “Thanks to Senator Kagan’s initiative, commuters won’t have to endure excessive wait times in the summer heat.  She delivered some of our tax dollars to benefit the residents and businesses of Rockville, Gaithersburg, and the rest of Montgomery County.” 



Phyllis Armstrong
July 18, 2016

Millions of dollars in state funding will be coming to Montgomery County to ease congestion along the I-270 corridor and local roads. State Senator Cheryl Kagan and County Executive Isiah Leggett attended the news conference in Potomac where Governor Larry Hogan announced the new funding.

Nearly $230 million dollars will be spent on projects designed to relieve the traffic jams commuters are coping with during rush hour and at other times of the day. Kagan is particularly pleased that the Governor responded to her call for the state to cover the costs of providing shuttle buses in the county during Metro’s SafeTrack repair work that is scheduled next month on the Red Line in Montgomery County.

Watch this MyMCMeda Extra video, below, for Senator Kagan and County Executive Leggett’s reactions to the state funding.

State Will Fund County’s SafeTrack Shuttle Bus Service

Gov. Hogan announced Monday the state to pay estimated $1 million cost


By Andrew Metcalf

Gov. Larry Hogan brought a smile to the face of one state senator from Montgomery County Monday when he announced the state would fund the cost of the county’s free shuttle bus program that will transport local commuters between stations during Metro’s SafeTrack repairs on the Red Line later this year.

Gov Hogan and MOCO County Officials pic 7-19-16

Gov. Larry Hogan, center, poses with state and Montgomery County officials including State Sen. Cheryl Kagan, right, ANDREW METCALF

At a press conference in Potomac, Hogan said the shuttle bus plan organized by the county will help transport Metro riders and ease commuting problems created by Metro’s plans to single-track lines and shutdown stations to make the repairs. The county estimated the shuttle service will cost between $350,000 and $1 million. Hogan agreed to provide $1 million in state funds to help pay for it.

“This will help ensure that citizens of Montgomery County will be able to get to work and go about their daily lives in an efficient manner while Metro repairs take place,” Hogan said

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17) sent Hogan a letter in June requesting the state help the county pay for the shuttle bus service because the state is a member of the Metro compact, while the county is not. The compact guides the funding and operations of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Maryland is a member along with Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

“I’m thrilled,” Kagan said Monday. “The governor clearly understood the implications of people in Gaithersburg and Rockville trying to get to work during the Metro repairs.”

The county plans to use Ride On buses to transport Metro riders when repairs are made to tracks in the Rockville and Silver Spring areas later this year.

“I think it was good for him to [fund the shuttles],” County Executive Ike Leggett said Monday of Hogan’s decision. “We’re going to have a real challenge starting next month and especially this fall when we’re trying to move people through those corridors.”

The county plans to provide the free shuttle buses during morning and afternoon rush hours between the Silver Spring and Takoma stations from Aug. 1 to 7 when the Red Line will be single-tracking. Shuttle bus service is also planned to help transport commuters during single-tracking between the Shady Grove and Rockville stations Aug. 9 to 18 and again from Oct. 10 to Nov. 1 between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations when the Red Line will be closed between Fort Totten and NoMa.

Delays! SafeTrack Projects on Red Line Scheduled to Slow Down Summer Commuting

By  Kathleen Stubbs
07 Jul 2016
The Sentinel

metro_logoWith the first Red Line SafeTrack project less than a month away, riders have just weeks left to “rethink their commute,” as Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld requested.

According to Wiedefeld, repair works on three Metro Red Line SafeTrack projects will reduce capacity while trains single-track and stations shut down altogether…

[Click here to read the entire article.]

Ride On President Al Roshdieh told a County Council committee the Ride On shuttles for Red Line SafeTrack projects will cost the County between $350,000 and $1 million.

State Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) is asking Governor Larry Hogan to cover the cost of the additional buses because Maryland, not Montgomery County, is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact (also signed by Virginia and the District). 

“There’s no reason Montgomery County should have to foot the bill where Metro is the states’ responsibility,” said Kagan.

While Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said in a letter Maryland would cover the cost of additional cars on the Maryland Area Regional Commuter Train Service (about $450 million), Kagan said Hogan needs to cover the County-provided shuttle buses as well.

“MARC Train does not do the job,” said Kagan.

She said she thought the amount of funding available would determine how many shuttles are offered. She said she was concerned that if there is insufficient funding, residents won’t reach their destinations in a reasonable amount of time during SafeTrack. Consequently, many Metrorail riders might resort to commute by car, increasing traffic on the highways. 

The senator gathered the support from local chambers of commerce, such as the Rockville Chamber of Commerce, the Bethesda Chamber of Commerce and the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce.

Marilyn Balcombe, the GGCC’s president, said she supports Wiedefeld’s plan for much-needed repairs.

“I don’t begrudge this plan at all,” said Balcombe, later adding she supports “Montgomery County in being proactive to make sure their resources are in place to move people. But I also support Senator Kagan’s view that the cost should be covered by the state.”

Balcombe said WMATA is a necessary part of the County’s economy which in turn stimulates Maryland’s economy. She said Maryland should fund the additional buses for this reason.

“It’s critical for the county to provide services to employees and employers to get people to and from work to make sure that our economy continues to thrive during the time when (part of) the Red Line (shuts down),” said Balcombe.

Metro’s SafeTrack Program to Hit Montgomery County

By Scott Taylor/ABC7
Thursday, July 7th 2016

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — Heads up Montgomery County. Metro’s SafeTrack program is headed your way.

Sections of the Red Line will be going off-line starting in August.

One commuter was shocked to hear the news.

“Oh, that’s awful for us because that’s our main transportation,” said one rider.

So if you live or work in spots like Rockville, be prepared to hear two words you never want to hear dealing with Metro–shuttle buses.

Chloe Pance who commutes from Rockville to D.C. every day said, “Honestly I really don’t know how I am going to get to work downtown.”

Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan wants the State to step in and help pay for shuttle buses and not dump all the cost on county tax payers.

Montgomery County thinks shuttle buses will cost them anywhere between $350,000 to a million bucks.

Senator Cheryl Kagan said, “Do we want a shuttle bus that comes every half-hour or so, or do we want one that comes every 5 or 10 minutes?”

Senator Kagan jumped into the SafeTrack discussion thru a letter she sent to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. She flat out called Safe Track, “an emergency transportation issue.” The Senator from Rockville wants the Governor to hand over $1 million to pay for shuttle buses.

Kagan is already aware that Virginia has promised $1 million dollars to help pay for shuttle buses.

Senator Kagan said, “Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe did come up with the money in an Executive Order to help fund extra transportation options during Virginia’s shutdown.”

We reached out to Governor Hogan’s Office and so far there is no decision on whether Maryland will kick in some state funds to cover the cost of shuttle buses.

Click here to read Senator Kagan’s letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Montgomery County Senator Asks State to Pay SafeTrack Shuttle Bus Costs

Published: July 6, 2016
By Andrew Metcalf


Update – 8:20 a.m., Thursday – Montgomery County State Sen. Chery Kagan (D-District 17) is making the case that the county shouldn’t have to pay for providing free shuttle bus service during Metro’s SafeTrack repair surges on the Red Line later this year.

On Wednesday, Kagan released a copy of a letter she sent June 29 to Gov. Larry Hogan and state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn asking the state to pay for the county’s planned shuttle bus service that will transport riders between Red Line Metro stations during repair surges in August and October.

County officials last month estimated the shuttle bus service, using the county’s Ride On buses, could cost as much as $1 million.

In her letter, Kagan wrote she believes the state should bear the costs because it is a signatory of the WMATA compact, along with Washington, D.C., and Virginia, which governs how Metro is financed and operated. As a result, she wrote the state should provide funding to help mitigate commuting problems caused by Metro’s maintenance surges. “Can you confirm for us that the State will be a full partner in the continued economic success of Montgomery County, one of Maryland’s key economic engines?” she wrote.

Kagan told  Bethesda Beat on Wednesday she hopes the governor will provide the state funding.

“The governor talks a lot about economic development and Maryland being open for business,” Kagan said. “It seems to me if people can’t get to their jobs and visitors can’t enjoy tourist attractions, then that’s going to be detrimental to our state economy.”

If shuttle buses aren’t provided, she said, additional drivers on the county’s roadways are likely to exacerbate traffic.

“It is not reasonable for Montgomery County and Prince George’s County to fund what should be a state responsibility,” Kagan said.

Last month, Prince George’s County officials also detailed plans to provide free shuttle bus service and deploy additional buses along regular routes while SafeTrack repairs are occurring that affect Metro service in the county.

Kagan said she wasn’t expecting an immediate response to her letter—given that she sent it shortly before the July 4 holiday weekend. However, she said she has been in touch with Hogan’s chief of staff and hopes to receive an answer to her request in the next day or two.

Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the state’s transportation department, said in an email the state is working closely with counties in other ways to help commuters navigate SafeTrack delays. She noted the Maryland Transit Administration is planning to increase capacity on MARC trains by adding rail cars on the Camden and Brunswick lines as needed. The state’s highway administration is also planning to coordinate road construction projects to avoid causing traffic congestion from lane closures or scheduled maintenance.

“At every step of the way, [the Maryland Department of Transportation] is actively monitoring ridership on our rails and traffic on our roads to assist Marylanders in getting to work and home as quickly and safely as possible during these challenging times,” Henson wrote in the email.

The county plans to provide the free shuttle buses during morning and afternoon rush hours between the Silver Spring and Takoma stations from Aug. 1 to 7 when the Red Line will be single-tracking while track repairs are underway. Shuttle buses are also planned to help transport commuters during single-tracking between the Shady Grove and Rockville stations Aug. 9 to 18 as well as from the Silver Spring to Fort Totten stations when the Red Line will be closed between Fort Totten and NoMa from Oct. 10 to Nov. 1.

Montgomery Transportation Director Al Roshdieh told the County Council last month the shuttle buses will cost the county $350,000 to $1 million depending on how much demand there is for the shuttles.

Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for County Executive Ike Leggett, said the county plans to move forward with its shuttle bus plans whether or not the state agrees to provide funds. He said it was important for Montgomery County to provide the service to Montgomery County residents.

“We don’t know at this point how much it’s going to cost,” Lacefield said. “We’re more inclined to let it play out and then make a judgment [on whether to request state funds.]”

July 6, 2016

Press Release: Senator Kagan Urges Governor Hogan to Fund Added Transportation During SafeTrack Delays & Closures: Costs Could Reach $1,000,000

Click Here to read my letter to Governor Hogan.

Click Here to access the full press release.

Annapolis, MD: In order to ensure sufficient, reliable transit alternatives during Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance to the Red Line, Senator Cheryl Kagan sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan to pressure his Administration to cover the costs for needed supplemental bus transportation.  The Red Line will be single-tracking in Montgomery County for a significant part of August, and a segment will be completely closed in Prince George’s County through much of October.

For just the Montgomery County portion of the Red Line, the estimated expense of increased bus service for up to 50,000 people who commute Down-County and into Washington, DC could be as much as $1,000,000. 

In her letter, Kagan wrote:

“Because it is the State of Maryland that is a member of the WMATA compact, I believe it should be the State — and not the County — that provides funding for this emergency transportation issue… It is vital that frequent, reliable, and comfortable buses replace Metro to meet the transit needs for those commuting to work.”

 “I often describe my Senate District as ‘up the Red Line,’ so I am always concerned about any impending challenges to my constituents and to the rest of Montgomery and Frederick County commuters who choose WMATA.”

 According to Kagan, “Our State government shouldn’t assume that Montgomery County will open its checkbook to pay for services that should be covered by the State.”


June 25, 2016

Reliable data on 911 outages and service is hard to come by

The Baltimore Sun, By Ian Duncan

When a glitch in phone company systems left Baltimore without 911 service for over an hour last week, The Baltimore Sun wanted to know how often such outages occur.

Public records made it clear that the outage wasn’t unique, but much of the information about problems with 911 is confidential, making it difficult to figure out just how often the emergency phone system is out of action. The secrecy highlights the 911 system’s strange role as a critical lifeline to police and fire departments, but one that is almost entirely run by private companies.

The Federal Communications Commission requires phone companies to submit reports about outages that affect a large number of people or that last for a long time. But the agency doesn’t release the reports because they could contain proprietary information about how the companies set up their networks. When the Government Accountability Office investigated outagesin 2015, it didn’t even bother to look at the reports. Investigators wrote in a footnote that they saw no point in reviewing data they couldn’t talk about publicly.

In 2014, technology website The Verge was able to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain complaints consumers filed with the FCC about problems they claimed to have had reaching 911, such as busy signals or recorded messages. But the records did not indicate whether the complaints were verified or how the agency responded.

David Simpson, head of the FCC’s public safety office, said in a statement that the agency has worked to identify trends in outages and propose new rules to address any deficiencies it finds.

“Preserving reliable 911 service is of the highest priority to the FCC,” he said.

Even run-of-the-mill information about how many people are using 911 is closely guarded. State Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan has been battling to make sure that when people call 911 they can get through. Her efforts began after a constituent of hers was struck by lightning and no one could reach emergency services.

“There’s no accountability,” Kagan said. “There’s no public dialogue.”

The Montgomery County Democrat has proposed legislation to give more state and local officials access to 911 data and to require more regular surveys of usage levels to make sure that counties are providing their systems with adequate resources.

“Without the data you’re in the dark,” Kagan said. “You have no idea how many busy signals people are getting.”

Yet the bill also would prevent certain records from being releasable under the Maryland Public Information Act. Kagan said that protection is necessary to stop the information being used to interfere with the 911 system or cause harm to the public.

“When it comes down to public safety and in this era of increased awareness of terrorism, transparency has to take a bit of a back seat,” she said.

May 20, 2016 
Press Release: Maryland State Senator Cheryl C. Kagan Named MML “Super Star”

Click Here to access the full press release 

The Maryland Municipal League (MML) honored Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) last night for the second time for her effective leadership on issues affecting Maryland’s cities and towns during the 2016 legislative session.

Kagan is one of just seven Senators and Delegates to be recognized as a “Super Star” for her work on behalf of municipalities.

Presented by President Spencer Schlosnagle, the awards are given to legislators who go above and beyond. According to an MML representative, “these legislators work tirelessly to advocate for legislation with impact on municipal government and help protect our cities and towns from harmful legislation.”

“I am honored to be recognized for my work again this session,” Kagan said.  “Maryland’s 157 cities and towns are the backbone of our State.  I am proud to represent two of our largest and most effective municipalities – Gaithersburg and Rockville — which offer services and programming that make my legislative district a terrific place to live, work, and raise a family.”

May 16, 2016
Drawing Attention to our Outdated 911 Emergency System: 
Last night, the HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver highlighted our nation’s crisis with our 911 system and call centers.  According to an FCC report in 2014 that Oliver cites, improving location accuracy could save over 10,000 lives each year.  However, as 70-80% of calls come from cell phones, the location information dispatchers get varies widely based on wireless service provider.
I introduced two bills this past session (SB 424 and SB 686) to modernize our 911 system to “Next Generation” technology and increase crisis preparedness by assessing each call center.  The Senate Finance Committee did not approve either bill this year, but as the video demonstrates, our 911 system is in dire need of reform.  I plan to introduce legislation again next year to address these concerns.
The FCC has mandated that wireless carriers improve accuracy by 2021, but that won’t make much of a difference if many 911 call centers are underfunded and severely understaffed.  Staffing problems continue to plague 911 emergency call centers, which means that when people dial 911, the first thing they hear could be an automated response or busy signal.  This is what happened when Rockville resident, Carl Henn, was struck by lightning.  His passing inspired my legislation.
Please take a moment to watch the clip below. WARNING: The video includes adult humor and some profanity and could be offensive to some viewers.

April 26, 2016
NBC 4 Washington
By Chris Gordon
Click here to watch the full video.

 April 26, 2016

Montgomery County Sentinel/ MOCO VOX


April 25, 2016
As you know, Maryland’s all-important Primary Election Day is tomorrow.  In addition to nominating a candidate for President ( #ImWithHer as the most common sense, experienced leader), we will be choosing our next U.S. Senator, and in 2 districts, a new Member of Congress!
Worthy Successor to Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Barbara Mikulski has diligently worked on behalf of Marylanders since 1987.  With her retirement, we will be electing a new U.S. Senator and have two incumbent Members of Congress from which to choose.
I hope you have noted in repeated missives from me that I have strongly endorsed Chris Van Hollen.  In endorsing Chris, the Baltimore Sun wrote:
Rep. Chris Van Hollen Jr. is by far the most qualified candidate to carry on the Mikulski tradition. [He has] demonstrated the same kind of leadership skills and devotion to progressive causes whether in the halls of the state Senate in Annapolis or in Congress.” 
In Annapolis, Chris was a key leader on issues like the environment, gun control, women’s rights, and civil rights.  In Congress, he has become one of the prime Democratic experts on budget and fiscal issues.  In addition, Chris is known for being a dogged advocate for his constituents and a leader on behalf of federal employees. The contrast in track record of effectiveness versus his opponent’s lack of accomplishment could not be more stark.  Please join me in voting to make Chris our next U.S. Senator!  
Succeeding Chris Van Hollen in the House
I suspect that your mailbox, like mine, has been full of campaign literature from the many talented Democrats seeking the nomination for the U.S. Congress.  I have known and worked with many of the candidates over the years.  In my opinion, two progressive and effective legislators, Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Kumar Barve, are most worthy of your consideration and your vote.  Jamie, my Senate colleague and friend, has been the go-to floor leader on issues ranging from marriage equality to drunk driving.  Respected by both Democrats and Republicans, he is the rare Senator who actually persuades votes to switch with his speeches during floor debates.  Kumar, my District 17 colleague and longtime friend, broke ground as the first Indian-American elected to the legislature.  The former House Majority Leader, he is now the adroit chair of the committee that oversees environment and transportation issues.
Whether or not you agree with all of my recommendations…
PLEASE be sure to VOTE tomorrow!  
You can find your voting location and answers to other FAQ’s here
After you vote, you can follow my work on Election Day and beyond via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I look forward to seeing you in the community this summer and fall! 
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
Rockville & Gaithersburg
PS: Please feel free to forward this to friends or neighbors.  Voter turnout is vital in this year of hotly-contested elections!

Montgomery County Public Schools
April 19, 2016

Legislative Session Summary

When the 2016 regular session of the Maryland General Assembly came to a close at midnight on April 11, 2015, a total of 2,817 bills had been introduced, of which 834 were successful.annapolisdome

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, total state aid for primary and secondary education will increase by $190.5 to $6.4 billion, a total increase of 3.4 percent compared with FY 2016. State aid through the Bridge to Excellence formulas increases by $147.1 million, or 2.7 percent. This increase reflects full funding of the mandated education formulas including the Geographic Cost of Education Index. The budget also includes $19.4 million for five school systems that have lost enrollment and aid in recent years (Baltimore City, Calvert County, Carroll County, Garrett County, and Kent County). An additional $19.0 million in budgetary savings is restricted for grants to help school systems fund the increase in their share of teachers’ retirement costs.

Montgomery County’s share of direct aid for primary and secondary education is more than $671 million, a 5.3 percent increase from FY 2016. The total state FY 2017 capital budget includes $280 million for the traditional Public School Construction Program. By March 2015, $252 million of those funds was allocated, with Montgomery County recommended to receive $31.4 million. The remaining dollars will be allocated by mid-May.

Click here for the full article and breakdown of local issues

MoCo Exec IKE LEGGETT Lowers Proposed Property Tax Increase

Posted on April 6, 2016
105.9 FM WMAL

FLASHBACK: MARCH 14TH: Leggett Proposes Property Tax Increase In Bid to Increase Education Spending.  In his recommended $5.27 billion fiscal year 2017 operating budget, Leggett called for a property tax increase of 3.94 cents per $100 of assessed value, a new rate that would go into effect July 1 and that would cost the average county homeowner about $27 more per month. The average home value in Montgomery County is about $460,000. The 8.6 percent tax increase surpasses the maximum rate allowed under the county’s charter, meaning it could require support from all nine members of the County Council for final approval.

BREAKING NEWS: LEGGETT TO COUNCIL: REDUCE PROPOSED PROPERTY TAX INCREASE. County Executive Ike Leggett today amended his 2017 budget to the County Council to reduce his proposed property tax increase by 46 percent following the announcement by Governor Hogan that he will allow to become law a Maryland General Assembly bill that extends the repayment schedule for counties to comply with the US Supreme Court’s Wynne decision.
“My initial proposed operating budget includes $50 million to cover Wynne case costs,” said Leggett. “I promised our State Delegation that if they passed legislation that would extend the back payments to the State I would reduce my property tax increase request. They have delivered, I have amended my proposed budget to reflect the savings from that legislation, and I recommend to the Council that reduction. The timing of credits to the affected taxpayers will not be delayed.
“I want to thank the sponsors of the bill, Senators Rich Madaleno and Cheryl Kagan, and all the other members of our State delegation who worked hard to ensure passage of this legislation.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 766, saves Montgomery County $33 million for the upcoming year, reducing the Wynne costs to $17 million. Reducing the property tax increase from 3.9 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 2.1 cents – a 46 percent reduction — brings the County Executive’s proposed average monthly property tax increase down from $27 to $18.67.

Leggett Trims Proposed Property Tax Increase

Washington Post: April 6, 2016

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett in 2010. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced Wednesday that he has trimmed the residential property tax increase he proposed last month, citing new state legislation that eases fiscal fallout from last year’s Supreme Court ruling that Maryland’s income tax system was unconstitutional.

It was Leggett’s second consequential economic message this week. On Tuesday, he said he supported a $15-an-hour minimum wage for the county, provided it is phased in over at least six years and that increases can be delayed if economic conditions deteriorate.

Leggett (D) told the County Council on Wednesday that he reduced the property tax increase included in the 2017 budget he submitted last month from 8.7 percent to 6.4 percent. It drops the property tax rate increase from 3.9 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 2.1 cents.

With rising assessments, it means that the average annual residential tax bill would rise just under $242 a year, from $3,749.50 to $3,991.42 — instead of $4,075.

Leggett said he was able to lower his proposed increase after learning that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will not veto legislation extending the period during which the county would receive reduced revenue distributions from the state because of the Wynne case.

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 last year that Maryland was illegally denying residents a full credit for taxes paid on income earned outside the state. The court said the provision of the state’s tax law constituted double taxation and ordered refunds to those who had filed claims.

The county is still looking at more than $200 million in reduced tax revenue as a result of the court-mandated refunds. But under the new law, the reductions will start in May 2019 instead of this June and will be spread out across 20 quarters rather than nine.

The legislation, sponsored by state Sens. Richard S. Madaleno (D-Montgomery) and Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), means that the county will face a $17 million reduction instead of $50 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The proposed slice in the tax increase doesn’t change the major elements of Leggett’s 2017 budget. Most of the increase would still be devoted to the 156,000-student public school system, which is facing explosive enrollment growth.

In a letter to Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), Leggett urged the council “to stay within this revised recommended property tax rate and overall recommended level of expenditures.”

The council will have a series of public hearings and work sessions before taking final action on the budget in mid-May.

On Tuesday, Leggett voiced conditional support for a bill sponsored by council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) to raise the county’s minimum wage — currently $9.55 — to $15 an hour by 2020.

Elrich said he plans to formally introduce the measure next week. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has announced that she will ask the D.C. Council for similar legislation.

Montgomery joined the District and Prince George’s County in 2013 to lift the minimum to $11.50 by no later than October 2017.

A $15-an-hour wage is the target of a national campaign organized by low-wage workers, labor and Democratic activists. New York and California lawmakers have recently approved plans to phase in the new wage over several years.

In an interview Tuesday, Leggett said he would support the Elrich bill if the phase-in period was expanded to 2022, as it is in California. He said the proposal must also have an “off-ramp” that allows the county to delay implementation of increases in a bad economy.

“I would move it back a couple of years,” Leggett said of the phase-in. “Second, if you run into a clear recessionary downturn, you should have a provision to hold it [wage increases] for a period of time.”


Washington Jewish Week: March 30, 2016

Edwards’ Emily’s List support rankles Van Hollen backers 

By backing a woman candidate, is the group opposing one of the ‘good guys’?


Rep. Donna Edwards, left, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen are both progressives who want to succeed Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)


Members of America’s Jewish community, by and large, are some of the most progressive voters there are. They consistently back pro-choice Democrats, in some cases by a margin greater than 2-1, and other candidates who advocate increased public expenditures for social service projects and education.

But they’re also staunchly pro-Israel, a fact which has many in Montgomery County scratching their heads over a decision by the progressive political action committee Emily’s List — which backs Democratic women running for Congress — to throw its financial support, some of it raised from local Jewish voters, behind Rep. Donna Edwards in her primary fight against Rep. Chris Van Hollen. Both want to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

“It’s unfortunate that they’re going against one of the good guys,” said state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17), a Van Hollen backer, member of Montgomery County’s Jewish community and an Emily’s List supporter, said of the push for Edwards over Van Hollen. She said, “And now they have less money to spend in Pennsylvania, California, New York and other key races around the country.”

And at the top of the political heap nationwide stands former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who finds herself in a narrowing race for the Democratic nomination for president.

Emily’s List has “an opportunity to elect the first woman president of the United States,” said Kagan. “It seems to me like that would be a really important use of their time.”

(Emily’s List is on record as supporting Clinton in the primary race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but its super PAC, Women Vote!, has spent more than $2 million on behalf of Edwards, who currently represents the Fourth Congressional District. Van Hollen represents the Eighth District.)

The controversy surrounding Edwards’ ties to Emily’s List played out onstage Monday night during an often contentious debate between the two candidates at Goucher College. When Baltimore Sun opinion editor Andy Green asked Edwards about her contributions from the PAC, she asserted she was “proud” to have its support.

“Emily’s List doesn’t hide who it is,” she said. “They support pro-choice Democratic women because we need to expand the number of women in the Senate and all of our legislative bodies. On the other hand, Mr. Van Hollen, who was swearing off dark money, is now being supported by [the] Realtors PAC putting in almost $1 million into his campaign.”

Van Hollen retorted that Edwards had taken $25,000 in PAC money from Realtors over the last two election cycles.

“Look, if you’re against Citizens United, you don’t get to pick and choose which super PAC you like and which one you don’t like,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court decision several years ago that affirmed the use of so-called “soft money” in federal campaigns.

Van Hollen went on to challenge television ads being run by Emily’s List that assert that she is not tied to big business.

“When you see their ads running that say Congresswoman Edwards doesn’t take any money from Wall Street, guess what? The overwhelming majority of the money for that super PAC, Women Vote! comes from people on Wall Street,” he said. “Hedge fund managers.”

Some in the Washington Jewish community, such as Helane Goldstein of Chevy Chase, dislike Edwards due to her voting record on foreign affairs, in particular a vote in which more than 400 members of the House of Representatives, including Van Hollen, backed a 2013 bill supporting sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. Edwards was one of 21 members who voted against it.

“She has played her hand dozens of times where she has showed us she’s not a supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, because legislatively she’s been on the other side of the fence of the House,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein, a supporter of Emily’s List, feels pay equity along with other women’s issues are important in the race, but she said that one should not vote solely based on gender.

“We don’t back Jewish candidates just because we’re Jewish,” she explained. “We have to be moral and we have to be strategic, and we have to delve into what’s right and what’s wrong for us. And I’m not going to support a candidate just because she’s a female.”

Edwards’ record on Israel has also been a source of concern for Washington attorney Behnam Dayanim, who wrote an op-ed last month for Washington Jewish Week supporting Van Hollen. In an interview, Dayanim said he thinks Edwards has been “distinctively unsympathetic” toward Israel by not standing with other members of the House on votes such one on the Goldstone Report in 2009 — a United Nations-commissioned report that accused the Israel Defense Forces of human rights violations in the Gaza war, and whose conclusions were later disputed by the lead author of the report. Van Hollen voted with the majority of Congress in denouncing it.

“On a consistent basis when it comes to issues that are important to Israel, Chris Van Hollen has been there and Donna Edwards has not,” Dayanim said.  “That’s the kind of unhelpfulness and the lack of Israeli support that we’ve seen from her and that contrasts with what we’ve seen from Chris.”

Dayanim added that Emily’s List’s decision to invest so much money to Edwards’ campaign shows a “lack of sensitivity” for Jewish voters in Maryland who care about Israel, and thinks the organization ought to consider whether there is “anything about the candidate who might raise concerns within the constituency upon which they are running” when considering where it should spend its money.
“I think it raises a lot of questions about how Emily’s list prioritizes the candidates its support,” he said.

In a race in which Edwards has positioned herself as the standard-bearer of women’s issues, Kagan pointed out that Van Hollen is fervently pro-choice and has a record of supporting working families. She characterized Emily’s List’s stance as putting money into a “race against an ally.”

“Fundamentally, we shouldn’t be electing people because of gender. I didn’t ask people to vote for me because I was a woman,” said Kagan, who has known Van Hollen since the 1990s, when they both served in Maryland’s House of Delegates. “I thought I could be most effective and a lot more consistent in my advocacy than my opponents. I would love to have a woman as Barbara Mikulski’s successor, but more important than that I want an effective leader for the state of Maryland in the U.S. Senate, and hands down, that candidate is Chris Van Hollen.”

Personal ties to Van Hollen are key for Bethesda resident and former Democratic National Committee vice chair Susan Turnbull, who has known Van Hollen since the early 1980s. Turnbull said everyone she knows has contributed to the Van Hollen campaign, including those who regularly give to Emily’s list.

“Emily’s list has as its sole mission the election of pro-choice Democratic women, and so I believe that they had no choice in the matter,” she said. “However I believe that the long-term impact will be negligible among those who are paying attention to this race.”

One Jewish voter said he’d be happy with either.

Ken Feinberg, a Washington lawyer who was chief of staff for the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, would be happy with either Edwards or Van Hollen.

He said, “Not with any regard to any specific candidate, I think more women should be in government.”

For her part, Edwards sees Emily’s List support as a logical step in a legacy that reaches back to the PAC’s support for Mikulski during her first run for the Senate in 1986.

“Thirty years later,” said Edwards campaign spokesman Benjamin Gerdes, “we’re proud to have their support and the support of working women all across Maryland and around the country.”

Maryland Senate honors former Cuba political prisoner

By Michael Dresser of the Baltimore Sun

Jan. 26th, 2016

A Marylander who spent five years as a political prisoner in Cuba called for faster progress toward reconciliation with the Communist nation as he was honored Friday by the Maryland Senate.

Alan Gross, of Potomac, traveled to Annapolis a little more than a year after he was released by Cuban authorities as part of the agreement that led to the Obama administration’s restoration of full diplomatic relations with the island state.

Gross, an aid worker who had been assisting Cuba’s small Jewish community, was arrested in 2009 and later convicted of crimes against the state. Former United States President Jimmy Carter and Pope Francis were among those who appealed for his release before Cuba freed him in December 2014 in the run-up to the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana last year.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, said Gross lost five teeth and 100 pounds during his imprisonment but since his release has gained weight and had his teeth restored.

Gross, 66, told senators he is “focused on the next five years, not the last five years.” He said that if his ordeal had no other purpose than to help restore diplomatic ties, he is satisfied.

“Even though we’re moving in a slow pace, it’s better than no pace,” he said.


Maryland League of Conservation Voters: July 23, 2015

Fighting Freshman Sen. Cheryl Kagan Receives 100 % LCV Rating


Legacy Talk Radio Interview: July 17, 2015

Podcast: Cheryl Kagan, “A Passion for Making a Difference” with Gideon Culman


Listen on iTunes:


Two LGBT bills to become law, but without Gov. Hogan’s signature

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is declining to put his signatures on two pieces of legislation that seek to advance LGBT rights, instead allowing them to become law without committing to either measure. 

The two bills in question are one measure dealing with insurance coverage for infertility treatments for female same-sex couples by giving them parity with heterosexual couples, and another measure allowing transgender and intersex individuals to obtain new, unmarked versions of their birth certificate reflecting their correct name and gender.


Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery Co.), the chief sponsor of the Senate version of the infertility treatment parity bill, told Metro Weekly that as far as she knows, Maryland is the first state in the country to require insurance companies to provide the same type of coverage for infertility treatments for married lesbian couples as it would for married heterosexual couples with a similar plan. She said she was glad that Hogan chose to allow the bill to take effect without his signature. Read more…, May 22, 2015

MML Honors Kagan for Advocacy

The Maryland Municipal League (MML) honored Senator Cheryl Kagan Thursday evening for her effective advocacy on issues affecting Maryland’s cities and towns during the 2015 legislative session, according to a news release from the league.

Kagan, in her first year as a state Senator, is one of just seven senators and delegates to be recognized as a “Super Star” for her work on behalf of municipalities. The awards are given to legislators who go “above and beyond,” according to the Maryland Municipal League. Read more…

MyMcMedia Interview, April 28, 2015

Sen. Cheryl Kagan on the Purple Line

MyMCMedia interview, April 24, 2015

State Senator Cheryl Kagan on a Day in Her Life

State Senator Cheryl Kagan on on a Day in the Life

The Kojo Nnamdi Show, April 22, 2015

Men in the Maryland Women’s Caucus

In the first four decades of the Maryland Women’s caucus, not one man requested to join. This year, all that changed. Listen here [starting at 31:23]…

Washington Blade, April 17, 2015

Maryland fertility bill ‘inadvertently’ discriminates against straight couples

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh this week said a bill that would ensure lesbian couples have equal access to fertility treatments may subject heterosexual couples to discrimination.

Frosh in a letter he sent to Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday wrote that Senate Bill 416 and House Bill 838 may violate the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits health insurance plans covered within it from discriminating based on sexual orientation.


State lawmakers last month approved the bill that state Del. Terri Hill (D-Baltimore and Howard Counties) and state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery County) introduced in their respective legislative chambers. Read more…

Bethesda Magazine, April 16, 2015

Bill To Increase Power Of Student School Board Member Suffers 11th-Hour Defeat. Questions from conservative senator stalls final vote as legislature adjourns for year

Maryland Reporter, April 10, 2015

Cap on awards for lawsuits against counties, towns divides senators

By Rebecca Lessner


Photo of Sen. Bobby Zirkin by

The fatal shooting on Saturday of an unarmed black man in South Carolina by a white police officer now charged with murder was clearly on the minds of Maryland senators as they debated a 28-year old cap on damages in lawsuits against towns and counties in similar wrongful injuries.


“There are a lot of small cities and towns that do not have police forces…these little towns could be vulnerable to lawsuits that could bankrupt them,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery. Read more…

Maryland Reporter, April 6, 2015

With a week to go, an update on bills we’ve been following

By Rebecca Lessner

With one-week left to go in the 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly, here is the status of legislation has been following.

Monday after the first meeting of the conference committee on the state budget is scheduled to meet and start resolving differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget.


SAME-SEX INFERTILITY:A bill providing infertility service coverage for same-sex couples, SB 416 sponsored by Sen. Cheryl Kagan, passed the Senate with a 37-10 vote. It moved onto the House for review where it received a favorable report with no amendments from the House Health and Government Operations committee. CLARIFICATION 4/6/2015, 10:30 a.m. The House version of the bill, HB838 by Del. Terri Hill, passed 94-44 March 24 and was sent to the Senate. Read more…

WHAG TV, April 2, 2015

Maryland Lawmakers Work to Provide Fertility Benefits for Married Lesbian Couples

By Kirstin Garriss

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – In 2013, same sex marriage became law in Maryland. Two years later, lawmakers are working on bringing equality to health benefits.

“This is about updating our laws in order to reflect the reality that two women can be married and want to start a family. They deserve the same kind of health care coverage that straight couples would have if they’re having trouble conceiving ” said Senator Cheryl Kagan, (D) Montgomery County. View video…


Washington Post, April 1, 2015

Maryland Senate panel approves watered-down charter school bill

A Maryland Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve a watered-down version of a bill proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) that was designed to increase the number of charter schools in the state.

Hogan’s original bill made sweeping changes to the state’s charter law, giving schools the ability to hire and fire teachers, doing away with a requirement that charters fall under state collective bargaining rules and giving charters more say over who can attend. Read more…

Metro Weekly, March 31, 2015

Infertility coverage, transgender birth certificate bills pass first hurdle in Md.

The Maryland House of Delegates and Senate last week successfully passed, by large margins, their own versions of two bills containing pro-equality provisions that will benefit members of the Free State’s LGBT community. All four bills — two from the House and two from the Senate — will now “cross over” into the opposite chamber, where they will again be considered and voted upon. If passed, both bills will head to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature into law. Read more…

The Seventh State, March 27, 2015

Equal IVF Treatment for Same-Sex Couples Passes Senate

By David Lublin

Sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17), SB 416 requires insurers to give equal coverage for in-vitro fertilization and artificial insemination to lesbian couples. The bill passed third reading in the Senate by 37-10. Read more…

Maryland Reporter, March 26, 2015

Fertilization coverage for same-sex couples causes Senate debate

By Rebecca Lessner

Legislators debated the meaning of “equality” as they considered a bill that will guarantee insurance benefits for same-sex couples seeking artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures.

The proposal, SB 416, expands fertility benefits for all insurance plans in Maryland to include same-sex couples. It passed the Senate Tuesday in a 37-10 vote. A similar bill passed the House Tuesday. Read more…

Baltimore Sun, March 24, 2015

In vitro mandate bill for same-sex couples passes both chambers

By Michael Dresser and Timothy B. Wheeler

Senate and House pass bills extending insurance mandate for in vitro fertilization to lesbian couples.

Proponents say it’s a matter of equal treatment but foes say it misses mark.

Legislation intended to put lesbians on a par with straight couples on health insurance coverage for advanced fertility procedures has passed both the Senate and the House. Read more…

 Baltimore Sun, March 21, 2015

Budget debate unfolds at opportune time for Van Hollen

Just two weeks after Rep. Chris Van Hollen announced his candidacy for the Senate, the legislative calendar has thrust him into a high-profile fight over the federal budget on Capitol Hill that will almost certainly have implications for his campaign in Maryland.

The Montgomery County Democrat, the first to enter the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, will have a national platform in coming days from which to present a message that’s just as compatible with the fledgling Senate race as it is for the budget debate.


“So many times I happen to randomly turn on my television and see my own congressman,” said state Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat who endorsed Van Hollen this week.

He has been a frequent guest recently on national television and radio, and has held daily media events to hammer the GOP budget proposal for cutting financial aid for students, rolling back the Affordable Care Act and trimming food stamps. Read More…

Baltimore Sun, March 19, 2015

Bill would require fertility benefits for lesbians

By Michael Dresser

Fiona Jardine, right, and her wife Jo Arnone will benefit if the General Assembly passes a bill to extend in vitro health benefits to same-sex couples. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

Fiona Jardine, right, and her wife Jo Arnone will benefit if the General Assembly passes a bill to extend in vitro health benefits to same-sex couples. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

If Fiona M. Jardine had a husband, the expensive fertility treatments she’s now undergoing would be covered by her health plan.

But Jardine, 29, is married to a woman, so she and her wife have to pay out of pocket.

A bill that would grant married lesbian couples the same fertility treatment benefits as husbands and wives is advancing in the Maryland General Assembly. The measure passed unanimously in a House subcommittee Tuesday, and full Senate and House committees are likely to vote this week. Read more…

Montgomery County Media, March 18, 2015

Senator Kagan Sponsors Bill to Save Lives

by Sonya Burke

State Senator Cheryl Kagan of District 17 has introduced an organ donation bill to expand entry points to Maryland’s registry in order to enlarge the donor pool and shorten the wait for those in need of transplants.

“This bill is about saving lives,” said Kagan. “Expanding our transplant registry will allow us to find a match for the approximately 3,600 Marylanders on waiting lists.” Read more…

Sen. Kagan Press Release, March 16, 2015

State Government Must be Language-Accessible Under Senator Kagan’s Bill

On Wednesday, March 18 at 1pm, Senator Cheryl Kagan (D/17) will be joined by a disparate group of witnesses advocating for making state government easily understandable to Marylanders of Limited English Proficiency (LEP).  Read more…

WAMU, 88.5 FM, March 12, 2015

Organ Donor Signups Would Be Expanded Under Maryland Lawmaker’s Bill

Sen. Kagan Press Release, March 10, 2015

Senator Cheryl Kagan, Along with 43 State Senators, Sponsors Bill to Save Lives

In Maryland, 54 percent of residents are registered as organ donors.  Unfortunately, that ranks us an embarrassing 27th among states.  Sen. Cheryl Kagan, of Rockville and Gaithersburg, has introduced a bill to expand entry points to Maryland’s registry in order to enlarge the donor pool and shorten the wait for those in need of transplants.  SB415, the “Enhancing Organ Donor Rates Act,” will be heard in the Senate Judicial Proceedings (JPR) Committee tomorrow at 1pm. Read more…

Capital News Service, March 10, 2015

VIDEO: Organ Donor Expansion Bill Aims to Save Lives

By Gillian Morleylondon_live

ANNAPOLIS — An estimated 3,600 Marylanders are currently awaiting life-saving organ transplants. Lawmakers in Annapolis are considering legislation that would help facilitate organ donation and raise the state from 27th in the nation for organ donation registration.  See video…

WAMU, 88.5 FM, March 9, 2015

Maryland Bill Would Help Secure Fertility Coverage For Lesbian Couples

The state of Maryland has been at the forefront nationally regarding equality laws for same-sex couples. But advocates say there are still plenty of gaps, and a state senator from Montgomery County intends to close one of them.

Democrat Cheryl Kagan says health insurance carriers can still deny coverage for fertility treatments to lesbian couples.  Listen here…

Sen. Kagan Press Release, March 2, 2015

Senator Kagan Bill Seeks to Align Insurance Benefits with Marriage Laws

Annapolis, MD: On Wednesday, the Senate Finance committee will hear a bill that will update existing law to include pregnancy and infertility insurance coverage for all married couples.  SB416, introduced in February by Senator Cheryl C. Kagan (Rockville and Gaithersburg), would allow all married women, including lesbian couples, who have exhausted other attempts at pregnancy for two years, to receive the same infertility benefits. Read more…

Baltimore Sun, Feb. 9, 2015

Maryland Senate votes to raise maximum speed limit to 70 mph

Senator Cheryl Kagan, District 17

Yolanda Vazquez is on location in Annapolis Maryland with Maryland State Senator from District 17 Cheryl Kagan. They discuss the the 2015 Legislative Session. Follow Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan on Facebook and Twitter. Taped 01/28/15.

For more videos and information on your your community, go to

Washington Jewish Week, January 29, 2015

Senator Cheryl C. Kagan Sworn-In in Annapolis


Montgomery Gazette, January 28, 2015

Annual legislative briefing empowers women, including next generation

Hogan sworn in as Maryland’s governor

Maryland’s 62nd governor Larry Hogan (R) addressed a crowd in front of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, pledging to make Maryland a place of “unlimited promise.”  Gov. Larry Hogan took office Wednesday calling for a new era of bipartisan cooperation even as he declared that Maryland fell short economically under the policies imposed by Democratic leaders. Read more…

Delmarva Now, January 21, 2015

With inauguration, new governor also gets “Hogan’s Hero”

When Republican Gov. Larry Hogan was sworn in Wednesday, he brought with him promises of bipartisanship in government — and at lunch.

At Chick and Ruth’s Delly, a restaurant on Main Street in Annapolis known for naming its menu items after Maryland politicians, the newest offerings include “Hogan’s Bipartisan soup” ($5.99), which features Maryland crab and cream of crab “working together.” In addition, the new governor will also have a “Hogan’s Hero,” a cheesesteak with American cheese and grilled onions. ($7.79 for a half; $10.79 for a whole sandwich.) Read more…

Montgomery Gazette, January 20, 2015

Rockville to state: Money needed for schools, roads

by Ryan Marshall Staff writer

Rockville city officials’ wish list for its state lawmakers this session include more state money for schools and road projects, plus clarity in how a municipality’s master plan should be adopted.

The session, which started Jan. 14, runs through April 13.

The city is focused on these priorities:

• Getting more money for school construction to allow schools in Rockville and throughout Montgomery County to deal with increasing enrollment and aging buildings.

• Finding a permanent way for municipalities to get money for road and infrastructure projects through highway user revenues. Read more…

Town Courier, January 14, 2015

Legislative Team Ready for 2015

Photo | Pam Schipper Delegate Kumar Barve (standing) addresses the crowd assembled at a District 17 Democratic Club program in the Kentlands Clubhouse. (Left to right) Delegate Jim Gilchrist, Delegate-Elect Andrew Platt and Senator-Elect Cheryl Kagan

The upcoming 2015 legislative session in Annapolis looks a bit daunting. Maryland’s budget shortfall is estimated at $1.2 billion, and new Republican Governor-Elect Larry Hogan was elected on a platform that promised to curb state spending. In December, Governor-Elect Hogan released a statement cautioning “that Marylanders understand that these latest downward numbers mean the upcoming budget choices will be even harder and more difficult than expected.” Read more…


Montgomery Gazette January 13, 2014

Kagan: Hogan not showing ‘his love’ for Montgomery

Cheryl Kagan

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan must understand Montgomery County’s needs and the role it plays in Maryland’s success, incoming District 17 Sen.-elect Cheryl Kagan told Rockville’s mayor and City Council on Monday.

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan must understand Montgomery County’s needs and the role it plays in Maryland’s success, incoming District 17 Sen.-elect Cheryl Kagan told Rockville’s mayor and City Council on Monday.

In the days before taking office, Hogan (R) — an Annapolis businessman — is “not expressing his love for Montgomery County,” said Kagan (D) of Rockville. Read more…

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