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Council committee recommends circus animal ban bill

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While the venerable Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus lowered the curtain its last show earlier this year following years of protests by animal rights groups, a proposed County bill could prevent any remaining traditional circus from operating in Montgomery County.

On Nov. 9, the Montgomery County Council Public Safety Committee recommended adoption of Bill 23-17, which would prohibit circuses and other traveling shows from using many species of animals as performers in Montgomery County.

Leventhal said the bill is meant to prohibit traveling circus animals and exempts animals that are used as livestock or for agricultural purposes.

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“Fight for $15”

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Leggett signs county's new minimum wage law

4K5A4484County Executive Ike Leggett signs the new minimum wage law, flanked by Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner, CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres and County Council member Marc Elrich with fellow County Council members and other supporters. PHOTO BY GLYNIS KAZANJIAN  The lengthy debate and amendment process leading to passage of Montgomery County’s new minimum wage ordinance should be an example for other Maryland jurisdictions looking to increase their own minimum wage rates, County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett said during a bill-signing ceremony on Monday.

“It establishes a foundation for the rest of Maryland and how we go forward,” he said during the ceremony, which was hosted by CASA de Maryland, an advocacy group that supports immigrants in job training and other services.

Leggett signed the bill while surrounded by supporters of the “Fight for $15” movement, representatives from labor unions, and various progressive groups as well as eight of the nine council members who passed the legislation.

Leggett’s spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, said that laborers and restaurant workers will benefit most from the new law because they lack collective bargaining representation.

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Elrich spearheads County’s minimum wage increase

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20171107 121455Marc Elrich stands with fellow Council members and community leaders in announcing the passing of the minimum wage increase legislation. PHOTO BY NEAL EARLEY  ROCKVILLE – The minimum wage in Montgomery County Council will soon begin a slow rise from its current level of $11.50 per hour to an eventual $15 an hour, ending a year filled with debate, endless amendments and compromise upon compromise among members of the Montgomery County Council, which voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Bill 18-27.

The bill now heads to the desk of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who in January vetoed a prior attempt by the Council to pass a minimum wage bill, but said in a statement Tuesday that he plans on signing the revised legislation.

“Based on the changes from the original bill, what the County Council approved today is close enough to the conditions I laid down for my support that I will sign the measure into law,” Leggett said.

Incremental change is the centerpiece of the bill, which will require employers to incrementally increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour over the course of the next six years.

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People are “Upset!”

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County examines council representation to add diversity

MoCo LogoA County commission chairperson has tasked the Montgomery County Charter Review Commission with changing the composition of the County’s nine Council districts after residents said they believe they are under-represented by At-Large Council members.

Montgomery County Charter Review Commission chairperson Paul Bessel said reducing or eliminating the at-large Council seats is among the options the commission is considering.

The chief complaint is that too many At-Large Council members live in one area, the City of Takoma Park, which is located in the south-eastern region of the County. Takoma Park borders Washington, D.C. and Prince George's County.

Bessel said people who primarily live in Gaithersburg, Germantown and Clarksburg - the fastest growing area in Montgomery County – said they believe their region of the County is not represented by at-large members.

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County passes bill to keep track of burial sites

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The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that will create a catalogue of burial sites in the County.

The bill specifically requires the County Planning Board to create and update a list of burial sites within the County.

“It’s part of our heritage and our history here in Montgomery County, to try and make sure we can identify as many of these sites as possible and ensure that they’re there for people to appreciate,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-2).

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County Council says no hotel lifeguards needed until the weekend

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The Montgomery County Council approved a bill Tuesday that will remove the requirement that hotels keep a paid lifeguard on duty as long as their pool is open to guests.

The legislation is a victory for managements of hotels in the County, who complained about having to pay lifeguards during slow pool hours or not hire a lifeguard and be forced to close the pool angering hotel guests.

The bill mandates that hotels will not require a lifeguard to watch over a pool while it is open, but will require at least one paid hotel employee trained in CPR working while their pool is open. The bill also necessitates that pools post warning signs and have an emergency alert system.

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New Approaches

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County leaders gather to deal with rising local gang violence

MoCo LogoROCKVILLE – State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy said the County’s gang problem is on the rise.

“When you see the recent rise in crime at the level and the extent to which you see it, new strategies are called for, new approaches are called for when you see this,” McCarthy said.

On Tuesday, four police chiefs, the County’s Sheriff and the Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools signed a memorandum of understanding to help facilitate cooperation in combating the County’s rising gang problem.

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County Executive candidates debate issues in Sentinel forum

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County Exec Candidate DebateFrom left to right: Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Executive Editor Brian Karem, George Levanthal and Bill Frick joined the Sentinel-hosted candidate forum to debate issues this week.     PHOTO BY MARK POETKERROCKVILLE — The four Democratic candidates running for Montgomery County Executive squared off in a debate Monday night to make their cases to County residents.

The debate, hosted by the Sentinel Newspapers, was an opportunity for the four men vying for the Democratic nomination for County Executive – Council members Marc Elrich (D-at large), George Leventhal (D-large), Roger Berliner (D-1) and Del. Bill Frick (D-16) – to separate themselves from one another.

New in this year’s election, is a campaign finance system. For those participating in it, the program limits donations to county executive candidates to $150 and matches a portion of donations with public money.

Debate moderator and Sentinel Newspapers Executive Editor Brian Karem asked the candidates if they took campaign contributions from developers.

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Council legalizes and regulates Airbnb

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The Montgomery County Council passed a bill and zoning text amendment Tuesday to legalize and regulate short-term rentals done through websites such as Airbnb.

The council voted unanimously to pass Bill 2-16 and Zoning Text Amendment 17-03 which allows residents who want to rent out their homes or condos through hospitality services such as Airbnb to register with the County Department of Health and Human Services.

Airbnb is a popular hospitality site that allows homeowners to advertise their homes or rooms for short-term vacation rentals. Council member Hans Riemer (D-at large), the lead sponsor of Bill 2-16, said he worried that investors would buy houses with the intention of advertising rooms in the house on Airbnb full-time making it a de-facto hotel.

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County’s HHS amends minimum wage proposal to $15 an hour

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MoCo LogoThe County Council Health and Human Services Committee voted to make two amendments to the current proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The HHS committee voted 2-1 to extend the implementation period by two years and change the definition of a small business from one of 25 employees or less to 50 employees or less.

“It’s very difficult to project what can to happen in the future. We have a madman in the White House,” said Council member and HHS Committee Chairperson George Leventhal (D-at large). “We don’t know where the economy is going to go. Currently the economy remains strong despite the uncertainty of our federal leadership.”

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