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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 at odds with Executive Ike Leggett over Hispanic Gala

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Members of a County Council joint committee accused county departments of misusing public funds during a meeting last week.

In aggregate, four County departments donated the maximum amount of money allotted to sponsor events by the County Council – $9,999 – to the County Executive’s Hispanic Gala, which raises money for scholarships for Hispanic students.

Under a new County law, County departments must spend under $10,000 on sponsorships for nonprofit events. If a County department spends $ 10,000 or more, it has to be approved by the Council.

“I’m amazed, really just flabbergasted that we ended up with expenditures of $9, 999,” County Council member George Leventhal (D at-large) said. “I mean that is laughable …that was so clearly an end-run around the council’s intent that it creates friction and tension between the two branches of government that should not exist.”

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Council considers divesting fossil fuel money

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ROCKVILLE – Environmental activists pushed the County Council Tuesday to pass a bill to divest the County’s pension fund from fossil fuel companies while union representatives and others opposed it.

Proponents of the bill said the County’s investment in fossil fuel companies as part of its workers’ pensions is immoral because of the threat of man-made climate change.

“Imagine telling your kids one day, we really wanted to stave off climate calamity, but the routine transaction fees of selling and reinvesting in greener companies were too much to bare, so we just kept on investing in climate calamity,” said Mike Tidwell, from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who testified in favor of the bill.

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HHS committee split on minimum wage bill

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ROCKVILLE – The County Council continued their debate over raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour during a Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee meeting Wednesday.

The committee discussed Bill 12-16, which would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.

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County will ignore the Fed

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ROCKVILLE – Joining cities such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, County Executive Ike Leggett (D) said Montgomery County will not participate in enforcing immigration laws even if it means losing funding from the federal government.

Leggett spoke at a press conference at the County Council Building Tuesday where he and all nine members of the council condemned recent acts of vandalism including “TRUMP NATION, WHITES ONLY,” being written on the side of the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Silver Spring.

About a week after the election of Donald Trump, there has been debate about what Trump will do about illegal immigration and undocumented workers in the country.

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Term limits adopted in Montgomery County

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Term limits sign 11-8-16PHOTO BY DANICA ROEM 

Montgomery County voters approved term limits for the County Council and County Executive by a two-to-one margin Tuesday, meaning there will be at least four open seats on the nine-member council in 2018 and an open race for County Executive.

Question B passed by a 68.9 percent to 31.1 percent margin, limiting County Council members and the County Executive to serving three consecutive terms in one office before sitting out for one term in order to run again for the same office.

"Well, this is really what I love about America, where you can bring about peaceful change through the legal and electoral process," said former state Del. Robin Ficker (R), who led the collection for ballot signatures to put the question to referendum. "And this is an example for that."

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Council considers divesting from fossil fuels

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Calling climate change “truly an existential threat to the entire planet,” Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) introduced a bill last week to divest County worker’s pension funds from fossil fuel companies.

Bill 44-16, also sponsored by Nancy Navarro (D-4) and co-sponsored by Marc Elrich (D-At large), would require the County Board of Investment Trustees (BIT) and the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefits Trust (CHRBT) to gradually divest from coal, oil and gas companies during a five-year period.

According to Berliner, the County has $65 million invested into coal, oil and gas stocks.

“So to have oil, gas and coal stocks which literally are the basis on which we are struggling with climate change as part of our portfolio, in my judgment, is hypocritical, if you will. It is contrary to the values and goals and objectives that we’ve set forth,” said Berliner.

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County hears of problems and triumphs of local Hispanic community

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WAMU reporter Armando Trull told County Council members last week that local Latino children are more likely to graduate school and less likely to live in poverty than their counterparts throughout the United States.

However, Trull said during a panel discussion last week in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month that Latino students in Maryland and  “are not doing as well most of the time” as their white counterparts, “so there is a lot of work to be done.”

Trull also noted Montgomery County is expected to become home to more and more Hispanics.

“They are coming. They are on their way,” he said.

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County takes on term limits

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ROCKVILLE -- County residents expressed support and opposition for the upcoming term limit referendum at Wednesday’s Charter Review Commission meeting, a day after the Montgomery County Board of Elections approved a term limit referendum for the November ballot.
The County Charter Review Commission, which was asked to give a response to the proposed referendum, listened as members of the public spoke on the matter.

“Public service ceases to be such when the service’s primary focus is not on the service to the citizens but rather doing anything he or she deems necessary to stay in office,” said Hessie Harris, a resident who spoke in favor of term limits at the meeting.

“In such case, instead of serving the public, the legislative body serves the political and special interest as necessary for re-election. Hence in this regard, the so-called public servants are always campaigning and the decisions made and actions taken reflect that fact.”

Local resident Paul Geller said term limits are a bad idea because they limit voters’ choices,

“What if I told you I agree in this room and we should have term limits in a way,” Geller said. “We already do, it's called elections, it's called voting. Every four years we are given the opportunity to vote people out of office or vote people in office whether they are incumbents or whether they are people who have been around a good long time. I find legislation like this to be absolutely dangerous.”

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