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Council approves additional funding to Leggett’s budget

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countysealThe Montgomery County Council unanimously approved an additional $14.8 million to the budget on its reconciliation list as the Council is set to give final approval to the budget Thursday.

The $14.8 million is a part of the Council reconciliation list, spending that was not originally included in the County Executive’s proposed budget and that the Council’s various committees voted to add through their weeks of meetings.

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Officials still struggling to see how federal tax cuts will affect Montgomery County

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ROCKVILLE — When County finance officials arrived Monday to a pre-scheduled briefing with the Montgomery County Council on the effects the recently-passed federal tax cuts will have on the County, the analysis they provided to the Council was sobering: they don’t know what the effects will be. 

Monday’s briefing, which brought together legislative staff, finance officials and economists to meet with the County Council, came on the heels of the release of a report by the state comptroller on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December. While the session was meant as a briefing to the Council on the potential impact of the tax cuts – which already have resulted in a $120 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year – after less than three months under the overhauled tax code, it is still too early to tell what the effect will be on the County and state.

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County to strengthen lobbyist bill

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countysealThe Montgomery County Council will consider a bill to implement recommendations by the Montgomery County Ethics Commission for strengthening the County’s laws on conflicts of interest, financial disclosure and lobbying by closing the so-called “revolving door” between the lobbying industry and the County government.

Introduced Tuesday by Council President Hans Riemer (D-At-Large), Bill 2-18 would subject anyone employed by the County Executive or the County Council to a one-year lobbying ban when they leave their public employment. The bill would also prohibit County employees who are former lobbyists from working in departments that overlapped with their lobbying activities.

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Ficker claims no one denied him access at public meetings in the past

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Robin FickerRobin Ficker FILE PHOTO  On Dec. 26 during an impromptu County Council meeting, Republican candidate for County Executive and political activist Robin Ficker was not given a spot to speak at the public hearing.

While Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large), did not allow Ficker to speak at the Dec. 26 public hearing, many residents who frequent Council meetings and testify – including Ficker – said they have never had trouble voicing their opposition at the Council building before.

“He's making the Council a political body instead of a public body,” said Ficker, who has told the Sentinel he has never had trouble testifying at the Council before.

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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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