March 1, 2019
The Legislative Session has passed the halfway mark, and the four Senate Committees are working very very late, hearing testimony about proposed legislation. After we vote, bills head out of committee and onto the Senate Floor. I thought I’d offer a glimpse of my activities the other day.
A Walk in My Shoes
Our 90-day legislative sessions are always tremendously busy, stressful, and exciting for anyone interested in politics and policy. I am proud to represent District 17 in the Maryland State Senate and love the chance to learn about and work on literally hundreds of issues each year.
I love welcoming constituents visiting from Gaithersburg or Rockville to Annapolis. While my staff is always happy to greet you and hear your concerns, it’s disappointing when I’m not around when you stop by my office. Perhaps you wonder what I’m doing instead?
Earlier this week, I was shadowed by author and Rockville resident Sharon Freeman, who wanted to know if this was a normal day. Coincidentally, a few nights ago, after a tremendously successful day, I posted this on Facebook. This will offer you a snapshot of the rhythm of my days when the Senate is in session.
Spotlight: Defending the Polystyrene Ban on the Senate Floor
SB285, my bill to ban expanded polystyrene foam (“Styrofoam”) food service products, was on the Senate Floor yesterday. As the primary sponsor and the floor leader for the bill, I appreciated the chance to educate my colleagues about the dangers that expanded polystyrene foam presents to our environment. I defended against five weakening amendments, and the vote on final passage will take place on Monday or Tuesday.
Why should we do this? A Baltimore study found that 42% of all debris picked up in Baltimore City was foam or foam pieces. Foam doesn’t biodegrade, can’t be recycled, and breaks into small pieces. These get eaten by mammals and fish… and then ingested by us!
Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, Baltimore City, and recently Anne Arundel County have already enacted bans for sales and use in food service. Both Gaithersburg and Rockville have also passed foam bans. In total, over 52% of Maryland residents currently live in a jurisdiction covered by a ban.
This bill would make Maryland the first state in the country to ban Styrofoam food containers. I am grateful to Del. Brooke Lierman, the primary House sponsor, and advocacy organizations including Trash-Free Maryland, the Sierra Club, and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. Each has dedicated hundreds of hours to enact this legislation.
Advancing Towards Next Generation 9-1-1
After months of research and preparation, hearings on my 9-1-1 legislation were held in both the Senate and the House on Tuesday. Our consensus bill was based on the 65-page report and 23 recommendations passed unanimously by the Commission I chair. Joining my Republican colleague and me were County Executives, countless emergency personnel, cybersecurity and telecommunications experts, and First Responders.
The legislators were interested and eager to engage. They understood the importance of upgrading to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) and what was needed to make it happen. And it was clear to them that every 9-1-1 request for help is the most important phone call that an individual will ever make.
A 2014 FCC study concluded that a one-minute decrease in 9-1-1 response time could save over 10,000 lives. This legislation, if passed, will save lives. After this week’s hearing, I believe we are well on the way to working to a transition to NG911.
Breaking News: The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously for Carl Henn’s Law, the centerpiece of the Commission’s package of bills! I am immensely proud of our work and look forward to continuing to shepherd this legislation through the process. The bill will be presented to the full Senate this morning!
Protecting Communities from Impaired Driving
I was one of the earliest co-sponsors of medical marijuana when it was first introduced. I am proud of the progress our State has made. However, any drug that helps people can also be abused. Whether it’s the opioid crisis or medical marijuana, we need to be aware of the rising crisis of impaired driving. In partnership with the Montgomery County Police, I am working to ensure that we add warning labels to the product and allow officers to obtain medical cannabis for training purposes.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
(Gaithersburg & Rockville)
P.S.: I recently flagged for you disturbing issues with the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, or TEDCO. As I reported then, audits found that their investments are not supporting Maryland companies as their mission requires. I introduced a bill to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure that taxpayer money is invested in companies with a majority of their employees working and/or living in Maryland. The House and Governor’s office share my concern.