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County holds public hearing on pool law

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ROCKVILLE – On Tuesday the Montgomery County Council held a public hearing on a bill that would allow for hotel pools to remain open without a lifeguard.

If passed, Expedited Bill 16-17 would require hotel pools to have an emergency alert system next to the pool.

The bill, introduced by Council member Sidney Katz (D-3) and cosponsored by Council members Nancy Floreen (D-at large), Marc Elrich (d-at large) and Roger Berliner (D- 1), would repeal what hotel mangers call a costly bill. Montgomery County is one of only two jurisdictions in the state – along with Baltimore County– to require hotels to have a lifeguard on duty while the pool is open.

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Race for county executive, county council touched by public financing law

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Robin Ficker remembers raising $200,000 for his unsuccessful 2014 run for State Senate.

Now, public contributions to his 2018 campaign for County Executive can be matched up to $750,000 by the County Public Financing Fund, a potential fundraising boon to his campaign. Even more importantly, his campaign could change the political landscape of Montgomery County. Public financing itself could create a more democratic election and encourage voter participation in 2018.

According to Ficker, a former member of the House of Delegates, the County Public Financing Fund “gets the big moneyed interests out of [the race] and gives power to the average person in Montgomery County.” Ficker notes that the fund’s ability to match citizens’ donations “gives the average person some clout” especially since the first $50 donation to a campaign is matched six-to-one and adds $300 to the campaign, something that Ficker considers unique, saying “There is no jurisdiction in the United States that has anything close to this.”

Although Ficker says he has never taken contributions from PACs, unions, or other groups, this law forbids participating candidates from taking such contributions, another attempt by the Montgomery County Council to expand the impact of private citizens and limit the influence of large organizations. Furthermore, officials say that the Public Campaign Financing law requires candidates to accept only donations from Montgomery County residents and only donations between $5 and $150.

However, there is some debate as to the effectiveness of the program’s limits on donations from large organizations. According to George Leventhal, the program is “an experiment in democracy which is intended to reduce the influence of big money in local politics.”

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Council closer to funding bus rapid transit in eastern county

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If everything goes as planned, the East County will be one step closer to having a new alternative for commuters.

Last week, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transit Administration released a study on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit for U.S. Route 29.

Representatives from MCDOT and MTA spoke to the County Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee last week. The T & E committee did not vote on the proposal during its meeting last week.

The proposed BRT for Route 29 is part of a series of BRT lines the County is proposing – along with one on MD-355 and MD-586 – that it hopes will cut down on heavy traffic congestion in the County. The BRT would operate partially along the shoulder lanes as a quicker alternative to buses.

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Candidate filing opens to a flurry of activity

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It was an unusually busy day at the Montgomery County Board of Elections as two people decided to file their paperwork to run for County offices on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the first day candidates could file their paperwork to run for any of the offices in the 2018 gubernatorial election. BOE Operations Manager Christine Rzeszut said it was an unusually busy filing day with two people deciding to file and total of five scheduled appointments to file.

“We’re going to have more of an active interest because we have open seats, especially in Montgomery County,” Rzeszut said.

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County Executive race is now ON!

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About four months after the presidential election and just days before the start of filing for candidates, the race for County Executive is starting to heat up.

For the first time since 2006 there will be an open seat in the County Executive Office building in 2018 leading to an array of contenders to replace the outgoing County Executive Ike Leggett. The candidate filing period begins Feb. 28 and the primary election is June 26.

Leggett, who has said his current term will be his last, cannot run for re-election after voters in November passed a referendum on term limits, limiting members of the County Council and the County Executive to three consecutive, four-year terms.

The chief proponent of the term limit referendum is also one of the first people to enter the County Executive Race – Robin Ficker.

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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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Higher fines coming if snow isn't removed

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Higher fines may be coming for business owners who do not remove snow or ice from sidewalks next to commercial properties.

After a public hearing Thursday, the Montgomery County Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee (T&E) amended and approved a bill to increase those fines from $50 to $250.

However, the County Council as a whole will have to pass the bill in order for it to take effect.

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