GAITHERSBURG—Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council were briefed Monday night about several issues of concern to the city in the current state legislative session. Monica Marquina, the city’s legislative affairs director, and Rob Garagiola, of the lobbying firm Alexander and Cleaver, which represents Gaithersburg, discussed their efforts working with the legislature thus far and their goals for the remaining third of the session where, Garagiola said, “90 percent of the work is still ahead.”
Garagiola said the issue of storm water management fees had proven contentious, as Montgomery County and other municipalities have differing agendas, but that he hoped that Delegate Kumar Barve (D-17), a Gaithersburg resident who chairs the Environment and Transportation Committee, would be able to devise an equitable solution.
“We are working with him to see if he can use his legislative influence to try to bring the parties together to get a compromise on the issue and get something passed this year,” Garagiola said.
Last year, Gaithersburg identified establishing municipal authority over WSSC construction projects in the city as a legislative priority for this year’s session. Garagiola said that the Montgomery County delegation had advanced legislation sponsored by Delegate Jim Gilchrist to codify that goal and was working with the Prince George’s delegation to pass it.
“Assuming the Prince George’s delegation does advance this bill, I understand there’s some debate over which Committee it would fall under in the House, whether it would be Environment and Transportation or Economic Matters, which may change our calculus,” said Council member Ryan Spiegel. “Do you have any insight as to how that gets chosen?”
“Being that it’s a public utility, a lot of these issues do go under Economic Matters,” Garagiola replied. Garagiola also noted that other utility providers, such as BGE and Pepco were monitoring the process and encouraging the members of the Economic Matters Committee to keep the issue in their purview.
“Obviously, we’d like to keep it under Environment and Transportation,” Garagiola said.
Marquina referred to the WSSC legislation as “The little bill that could,” noting that it had received a broad range of support.
Marquina also discussed the “Forgiveness Bill,” sponsored by Senator Richard Madaleno (D-18), which would cancel the debt of municipalities which received excess funds from the state over the course of many years. In the case of Gaithersburg, this would exempt the city from repaying $2 million in excess funds. City Council member Michael Sesma was scheduled to testify in support of the House version of the bills this week.
The Council also took up the allocation of $15,000 which was approved in the budget for Fiscal Year 2017 to support innovative non-profit programs in the city. The Council unanimously voted to approve an opportunity grant of $2,500 to Hospice Caring to support the creation of Spanish language support groups for families who have lost loved ones and $3,700 to the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless to purchase musical instruments for students at its Seneca Heights permanent housing facility. The council tabled a vote on the third proposed grant, $5,100 to Nourish Now for the purchase of a new laptop and portable generator, saying that they needed more information on the organization’s activities in the city and why the new equipment was necessary.