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Elrich proposes a minimum wage raise

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Going into their month-long August break, County Council members will have one main issue on their minds – whether to increase the County’s minimum wage.

With the Council waiting for a County-commissioned study to be released within about a week, Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large), introduced another bill, Bill 28-17, Tuesday to increase the County minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“Poverty is expensive and taxpayers often wind up footing the bill, and it’s not fair to ask Montgomery County taxpayers to pays subside to Wal-Mart workers,” Elrich said.

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"We Are Still In"

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County defies the President and vows to adhere to Paris Climate Accords

 

ROCKVILLE - “We are still in” the Paris Climate Accord despite the president’s decision to withdraw, declared County Executive Leggett, along with more than 1,000 local, state-level and business leaders around the country this week.

The officials and business leaders released the statement June 5 after President Donald J. Trump announced that the United States would leave the greenhouse gas reduction effort four days earlier.

Leggett cited the county’s Fiscal Year 2016 sustainability report, showing that it is well ahead of its own goals for “reducing greenhouse gas emissions from government operations” and installing solar energy atop government buildings. The county recently bought more electric vehicles for its fleets and has seed-funded a new Green Bank helping to finance energy-efficient retrofits in private buildings.

Area businesses and consumers appeared to remain on track for planned energy improvements. Joe Inglisa, who heads sales for Bowie-based SemaConnect, a manufacturer and seller of electric vehicle charging stations, said Trump’s announcement had “no impact” and that the “Trump announcement might even motivate buyers to do their own thing.”

Charging stations are usually installed in office and apartment buildings and parking lots.

Inglisa said, “Our momentum is picking up for several reasons. Many states and cities have their own environmental standards, and there is no sign they are changing anything. Maryland still has strong incentives, and I do not see this changing.”

In fact, unless tax laws are changed, there remain substantial federal tax benefits for both electric vehicles and solar installations.

Inglisa added that electric vehicles’ reputation among consumers “is getting stronger as time goes on, and prices are coming down.” Inglisa’s market area includes Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio.

“Consumers, especially in our area of higher-educated people, are motivated to do their part in contributing to a cleaner environment,” he noted.

Amelia Chasse, deputy communications director in Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) office, noted that Hogan “signed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act into law in 2016, adopting some of the most aggressive air quality goals in the country — significantly more aggressive than those in the Paris accord.”

Hogan’s 2017 legislative program included programs to “encourage the use of EVs [and added] incentives for renewable energy,” Chasse said. He “remains committed to preserving Maryland’s natural resources for future generations, and Maryland will continue to lead by example,” she added.

Kaymie Owen, communications manager for the Maryland Energy Administration, said that statewide in 2016, the solar industry employed 5,429. As of the end of May, the state had 9,300 electric vehicles, or EVs.

Maryland has 1,260 energy and sustainability businesses, she said. It ranked seventh among the states last year in the square footage per capita of LEED-certified commercial and institutional green buildings. LEED certification is the nation’s primary designation for energy-efficient buildings.

Mark Bryan, communications director for D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council, the main advocate for LEED standards, told the Sentinel, “We do not expect that the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords will have any immediate effect on LEED or green construction in the D.C. metro area, as local standards and regulations are strongly supportive of building and operating sustainably. Building owners and developers in Montgomery County and other partners in Maryland have been working with local lawmakers to ensure that new construction meets or exceeds some of the strongest standards in the country, and investors are increasingly demanding green building practices before they commit to financing. None of the administration's recent decisions are going to change that.”

One potential cause of a future slowdown in the building efficiency realm, Bryan said, would be action taken by the Trump administration to have the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency cease developing new standards, benchmarking and research. Bryan concluded: “While we're all disappointed by the administration's decisions, the momentum toward building sustainably is unlikely to slow for one simple reason: It's good for business.”

Maryland ranked near the top among states in a scorecard compiled last year by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy for “combined heat and power policy,” Owen added. The scorecard includes requirements that electric companies give solar consumers credit for power they put back into the electric power “grid.”

Practically all the Maryland delegation in Congress responded to Trump’s June 1 decision immediately after his announcement. The response was along party lines, with the lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris (R-1), saying that former President Barack Obama “made a bad deal” for the U.S. in the Paris accords. He said any new agreement should be run through the Senate as a formal treaty.

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County settles on Silver Spring Transit Center

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County Executive Ike Leggett praised a $25 million settlement between the County and developers of the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center last week.

Months after the County sued the transit center’s contractor Foulger-Pratt, its designer Parsons Brinckerhoff and the construction inspector Robert Balter, they settled May 30. The County claimed the developers and designers of the Silver Spring Transit Center were negligent and breached the contractor when they designed, built and inspected the transit center, but settled before the matter was decided by a jury.

"I am pleased that the County has settled the lawsuit we brought to recover taxpayer costs associated with the repair and remediation of the Silver Spring Transit Center,” Leggett said in statement after the settlement. “This is very much in the public interest. The $25 million payment to the County will cover 90 percent of the hard costs we incurred to deliver a safe and durable Silver Spring Transit Center.”

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State transportation secretary suspends part of Purple Line contract

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The Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary said he wants to put the brakes on spending for multiple parts of the light-rail Purple Line contract on May 31, according to a news release.

Secretary Pete Rahn had said he would alter the project, a public-private partnership, if District of Columbia District Court Judge Richard Leon failed to make a final decision on a lawsuit by June 1.

Leon made a final ruling, but then State Attorney General Brian Frosh appealed it. Rahn said Wednesday he wanted to be cautious about how the state and how Purple Line Transit Partners spent money for delays in the project, given the uncertainty of when the U.S. Court of Appeals would process Frosh’s appeal.

“With a legal path forward, MDOT’s and the Purple Line’s situation has changed from the unknown circumstances of just two weeks ago,” said Rahn. “With an unknown timeline for an appeal and dwindling available cash to carry the federal reimbursable costs being expended by MDOT; and to protect the taxpayers of Maryland, I am ordering that action be taken immediately.”

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Local leaders react to federal budget

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ROCKVILLE – Local leaders said they are relieved after Congress passed its budget last week, avoiding the massive cuts that President Donald J. Trump proposed to federal agencies located in the County.

When Trump proposed significant cuts to federal agencies located in the County – such as the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – the almost exclusively Democratic-elected politicians on the local, state and federal levels objected.

“In this deal, Democrats stood strong against terrible proposals advanced by President Trump and secured significant victories for American families, the U.S. economy, and our shared values. I’m proud of the unity and focus in the Democratic Caucus,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8).

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Rockville considers relocating KID Museum

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ROCKVILLE – The Rockville City Council held a budget work session during its meeting Monday night, focusing mostly on proposed funds directed toward the KID Museum.

On Monday, the Rockville City Council discussed dedicating funds in the FY18 budget to possibly relocate the KID Museum, an interactive children’s museum currently located at the Davis Library in Bethesda.

The proposed plan would move the KID Museum to 255 Rockville Pike, near Rockville Town Square, where the County has several offices.

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Council gets its turn to comment on budget

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ROCKVILLE – Last week the County Council heard from the residents. Now it has its chance to craft a budget.

After County Executive Ike Leggett released his $5.4 billion proposed budget in March, the Council took comments from the community in a series of public hearings before it deliberates during the next month or so to craft a budget.

Unlike last year in Leggett’s proposed budget, this fiscal year’s does not contain any considerable tax increase, and Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) said a tax increase over the County charter limit is not on the table this year.

Many of the people who showed up last week to testify asked the County to fund their particular interests, whether they are Montgomery College or one of the County’s nonprofit partners such as Manna Food Center.

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Federal cuts run county deep

DHR Home SlideAs it turns out the Attorney General of the United States of America doesn’t have to do a thing to Montgomery County – Mick Mulvaney already took care of that.
Sessions, speaking Monday at a White House briefing urged “Sanctuary” communities to follow the law or face the loss of DOJ. grants – and hinted at other possible retributions.
County Executive Ike Leggett says Montgomery County doesn’t fall under “Sanctuary” status, but he is aware the DOJ isn’t fond of the county because leaders here do not necessarily cooperate with Homeland Security and ICE when it comes to illegal immigrants. The county will honor detainers and turn over criminal illegal immigrants, but otherwise leaves the immigrant community alone.
When a rape allegedly involving two illegal immigrants occurred recently at Rockville High School, more than 100 people came out to protest the county and the City of Rockville’s stance on illegal immigrants. Never mind the protesters didn’t exactly understand the issue, perpetual Republican gadfly Robin Ficker - fresh from his success in forcing term limits on the county and flush with the puffed up pride of a man who promised not to run for county office but had a change of heart – jumped into politicize the tragedy with his two bits.

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