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County finds a way to let beer pour freely

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ROCKVILLE — The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a zoning text amendment to clarify an ambiguous regulation governing the operation of breweries in the County.

Zoning Text Amendment 17-07 changes County zoning laws to allow licensed brewers to make manufacturing beer their primary business in urban districts as opposed to the way current law required brewing beer to be an accessory business for a restaurant. 

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Local politicians arrested as county backs immigrants

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ROCKVILLE — U.S. Capitol Police arrested two local politicians last week in act of civil disobedience as the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved a resolution expressing support for the continuation of two federal immigration policies – Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

"We don't often do this, but I think under the Trump administration we wind up doing it more than customary," said Council member Marc Elrich (D-At-large).

Last Wednesday, Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large) and Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) participated in the act of civil disobedience outside the U.S. Capitol. Capitol police arrested Riemer and Gutierrez after a staged act of civil disobedience to raise awareness for DACA and TPS.

"These are civil disobedience actions that are planned very carefully," said Sol Gutierrez, who said she'd been arrested four or five times in civil disobedience protests.

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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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Candidates test new campaign finance system

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MoCo LogoMore than a year from the 2018 primary election, candidates for County offices are heading in to a new territory of publicly-financed campaigns,

In 2014, the County Council passed a law to publicly finance County elections in hopes to counter the impact of campaign donations from large businesses and political action committees.

Montgomery County is the first county in the state to have publicly-financed elections, meaning the new funding system for candidates is untested.

“It leads some people running for office to look more to grassroots and small donations,” said Ed Amatetti, a Republican candidate for County Council District-2 on the new campaign finance system.

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Takoma Park seals its reputation as a political nesting ground

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The center of power in the county, state and even at times the federal government is not Washington D.C., but a cozy city nestled just north of it.

During the last few decades, Takoma Park has transformed from a small town home to minority religious community to a progressive political haven and the crucible where political careers begin.

For a small city of 17,000 people, it is home to a long list of political players, such as Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8), newly elected Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and three members of the County Council George Leventhal (D-at large), Marc Elrich (D-at large) and Hans Riemer (D-at large).

“When you have a political belief, be absolutely fearless in promoting it,” said political activist Robin Ficker, who was born in Takoma Park. “Speak your mind and speak your mind until the heavens fall and don't let anyone intimidate you. It's a belief that springs from Takoma Park.”

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County Raises Minimum Wage

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Council passes minimum wage raise, now awaits Leggett's signature

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ROCKVILLE – After many debates, protests and public hearings, the County Council voted Tuesday to increase the County’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.

Now Bill 12-16 awaits County Executive Ike Leggett’s signature before it can become law. Patrick Lacefield, a spokesperson for the County, said Leggett has not decided whether he plans to sign the minimum wage increase in to law.

“We're still reviewing it; we haven't made a decision,” Lacefield said.

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Council will take up minimum wage, budget following break

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Just six days after their counterparts in Annapolis begin the legislative session for the state General Assembly, the Council returns to tackle priority issues for the County, including transportation, education and the economy.

On the agenda for the Council will be the County Budget, minimum wage and sector plans for Bethesda.

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“It’s Not Working”

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At least one county council member thinks controversial bag tax should end

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At least one county council member says it may be time to bag the county’s controversial bag tax.

More than five years since the County’s 5-cent tax on plastic and paper bags passed, bag use in the County has gone up not down, contrary to politicians’ promises.

Despite the effort to reduce the number of plastic bags that end up littering the County’s streets and streams, County data shows a significant increase.

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Flower Branch still faces multiple safety problems

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While Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett (D) signed a bill to protect tenants’ rights into law Monday, housing code violations still plague some of the County’s lower end housing.

The County Council passed Bill 19-15 unanimously on Nov. 29 and is requiring the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) to conduct annual inspections of rental properties in the County.

But as the Leggett signed Bill 19-15 into law, conditions for many in the County have not improved.

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