Montgomery Council’s Government Operations Committee Recommends Funding for New County Public Campaign Finance System

Committee Recommended Today That Up to $2 Million Be Available for Landmark Program

ROCKVILLE, Md., April 16, 2015—The Montgomery County Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee today unanimously recommended that the full Council consider adding up to $2 million to begin funding a new Public Election Fund that will allow candidates for County Council and County Executive to qualify for partial public financing for their campaigns.

 When the Council approved Bill 16-14 in September, it was the first measure of its type for County elective offices in the Washington Region and in the State of Maryland. The plan was to have partial funding added each year to the campaign fund to prepare for the next County election, which will be in 2018. However, County Executive Isiah Leggett, who signed the bill, did not include any money for the election fund in the Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget that he presented to the Council on March 16.

The Council is now reviewing all aspects of the recommended budget and is scheduled to approve the FY16 operating budget in late May. Today, the GO Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Navarro and includes Councilmembers Sidney Katz and Hans Riemer, in its review of the Public Election Fund, recommended that up to $2 million (in four increments of $500,000 each) be placed on the “reconciliation list” of items that the Council will consider for funding as part of its budget discussions.

“Public financing is proven to get people involved in elections who otherwise would not participate,” said Committee Chair Navarro. “With the dismal voter turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial election, it is critical that we do whatever we can to increase civic participation, voter turnout and fair elections.”

Since 2001, members of the Montgomery County Council have urged the Maryland General Assembly to provide the County with the authority to adopt campaign finance reforms. In 2013, the General Assembly enacted a bill that enables counties to provide for the option of public financing for county elective offices beginning with the 2015-18 election cycle. Participation by candidates would be voluntary.

“I think it is crucial that we make a down payment to the Public Financing Fund this year to prove that we are serious about making public financing work in Montgomery County and getting big money out of our politics,” said Councilmember Riemer.

Councilmember Katz said: “I believe that it was necessary to take the initial step of placing funds on the reconciliation list in order to ensure funding for this important endeavor.”

Bill 16-14 established a Public Election Fund. To qualify for public financing, a candidate would have to:

  • File a Notice of Intent prior to collecting qualifying contributions
  • Establish a publicly funded campaign account
  • Only accept contributions from an individual of between $5 and $150
  • Refuse to accept a contribution from any group or organization, including a political action committee, a corporation, a labor organization or a State or local central action committee of a political party
  • Collect a qualifying number of contributions from County residents: 500 for County Executive candidates, 250 for at-large Council candidates and 125 for district Council candidates
  • Meet qualifying dollar thresholds of $40,000 for County Executive, $20,000 for at-large Councilmember and $10,000 for district Councilmember
  • Limits are indexed to inflation
  • Only contributions from County residents are eligible for matching funds.

The plan provides strong incentives for candidates to seek out many small individual contributors. Matching public dollars for County Executive candidates would be $6 for each dollar of the first $50 of a qualifying contribution received from a County resident, $4 for each dollar for the second $50 and $2 for each remaining dollar received up to the maximum contribution. Matching dollars for County Council candidates would be $4 for each dollar of the first $50 received from a County resident, $3 for each dollar for the second $50 and $2 for each remaining dollar received up to the maximum contribution.

The maximum limit on public funds per candidate for either the primary election or the general election will be $750,000 for a County Executive candidate, $250,000 for a Council at-large candidate and $125,000 for a district Council candidate. Matching dollars would not be distributed for self/spouse contributions or to candidates running unopposed.

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Montgomery Council Approves Bill to Increase Access to Health Insurance for Employees of Contractors

Nancy with workers

ROCKVILLE, Md., April 14, 2015—The Montgomery County Council today approved amended Bill 14-14 that will require the County’s Department of Health and Human Services to assist employees of County contractors and subcontractors who do not have employer-sponsored health insurance to apply for insurance on the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. The bill also will require contractors and subcontractors to permit employees to meet with HHS representatives for this purpose on company time.

The chief sponsor of the bill is Councilmember Nancy Navarro. The bill was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, Hans Riemer and former Councilmember Cherri Branson. The bill was approved today by a vote of 9-0.

The amended bill also will require contractors to report to the County’s Office of Procurement on the number of its employees who have health insurance. Procurement will be required to report to the Council and the County Executive on the number of County contractor and subcontractor employees without health insurance. Additionally, the bill strengthens the existing Living Wage Law by requiring the County to retain quarterly payroll reports submitted by contractors. The law would sunset after two years unless the Council decides to extend it.

“Employees of County contractors deserve access to affordable health insurance,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Bill 14-14 is an important step toward ensuring that the County Government assists low-income employees, such as sanitation workers, in obtaining health insurance and receiving federal subsidies for which they are eligible. This bill will allow the County to collect and retain data, for the first time, to better understand how many of these employees do not have access to health insurance.”

The provisions of Bill 14-14 apply to contractors who are covered under Bill 5-02—the Living Wage Law—that was enacted by the Council on June 11 2002. The Living Wage Law requires certain businesses that provide services (but not goods) to the County to pay employees working on a County contract a minimum living wage effective July 1, 2003. The current living wage has been adjusted to $14.15 per hour.

Bill 14-14 takes another step toward making sure employees of contractors are aware that they could be eligible for federal health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will assist them in applying.

Wheaton Library & Recreation Center

 

Click here for the latest information on the Wheaton Library & Recreation Center Project.

Kemp Mill Civic Association

Last night, I had the pleasure of speaking with residents at the monthly meeting of the Kemp Mill Civic Association. WeSpeaking at Kemp Mill  had a great conversation about some of my top priorities for the area, including: the Wheaton Library and Recreation Center, Wheaton Redevelopment, and the renovation of Kemp Mill Urban Park. We also discussed a number of other important issues, including deer management, resurfacing of roads, and WSSC billing issues.

Download my complete presentation to the Kemp Mill Civic Association:

 

Councilmember Nancy Navarro Pushes to Expand Licensed Child Care and Provide Affordable Community Use Space for Programs Serving Vulnerable Youth

News Conference on Tuesday, March 17, Will Precede Montgomery Hearings on 2 Bills Addressing Child Care Needs

ROCKVILLE, Md., March 16, 2015—Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro will be joined by childcare providers, nonprofit leaders and community advocates at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, to explain how her two newly-introduced bills will help expand and enhance the provision of child care in Montgomery County. One of the bills would help provide public space at an affordable rate for organizations serving low-income families and vulnerable youth—including those that provide childcare services. The other bill would help expand licensed child care opportunities.  

 The news conference starting at 7 p.m. will be held in the Third Floor Conference Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. At 7:30 p.m. in the Third Floor Hearing Room, the Council will hold public hearings on Bills 11-15 and 12-15. The public hearings will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery (Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and will be streamed live via the Council web site at: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council .

 Councilmember Navarro’s child care bill (Bill 11-15)—which is cosponsored by Council Vice President Nancy Floreen—would create a Child Care Expansion and Quality Enhancement Initiative in the County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The bill would require DHHS to hold informational sessions for prospective family child care providers about how to become state-licensed providers. The bill also requires DHHS to hold informational sessions for current child care providers, including information on how to obtain additional licenses and accreditation.

 For both current licensed family child care providers and prospective child care providers, the bill requires DHHS to provide technical assistance and business training, site-visits (if requested) and services in Spanish and other languages. This bill also requires an annual report to the Council by Feb. 1 about the activities, accomplishments and DHHS plans related to the initiative and an assessment of the County’s child care needs.

 “When it comes to parents’ decisions about child care arrangements, many low-income and immigrant communities rely on relatives and/or home-based care—often unregulated care settings,” said Councilmember Navarro. “It is imperative to continue placing emphasis on family childcare providers as one component of the early care and education continuum of service to raise the quality, affordability and accessibility of child care.”

 The Maryland Child Care Resource Network estimates that in Montgomery County, the number of children under age 11 with mothers in the workforce is 138,292. There are currently 933 family childcare providers with the capacity to serve 7,012 children, and roughly 64 percent of these providers speak a language other than English. The goals of Bill 11-15 are to assist, in a culturally and linguistically competent manner, potential providers in navigating the procedures required for licensing, increase the number of children being served and ensure quality childcare programs.

 “The need for affordable, quality child care continues to increase in Montgomery County, but the availability of child care slots is failing to keep pace, especially in the category of family child care providers,” said Councilmember Floreen. “Obviously, this is unsustainable, and we must take action sooner rather than later to make quality child care more available to our working families. It benefits not only our children and families, but the County’s economic vitality as well.”

 Bill 12-15, also sponsored by Councilmember Navarro, would increase the affordability and use of public facilities by organizations serving vulnerable youth and low-income families. The bill would create a program that provides fee waivers or reductions for eligible organizations in need of public use space. It requires the Director of Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance to help encourage the use of public facilities by organizations that serve some of the County’s most vulnerable residents. It also would require a biennial report from CUPF, which would highlight the successes and challenges pertaining to the implementation of this program.

In the past, non-profit organizations and community-based groups have identified the need for more affordable community use space in the County. In Fiscal Year 2013, the Council funded a Community Access Pilot Program to provide financial assistance and increased opportunities for groups, organizations and community members to receive financial assistance from the County to secure space in the Silver Spring Civic Building. The pilot program is open to various community groups and civic organizations. Bill 12-15 expands on the practice by providing financial assistance to groups serving vulnerable youth and low-income families across all public space managed by the County.

 “I am proud to sponsor these bills. Before holding elected office, I trained hundreds of providers and watched informal babysitting arrangements transform into successful, legitimate businesses,” said Councilmember Navarro. “The national trends show that the academic achievement gap is present before children enter kindergarten. As a member of the Early Childhood Committee of the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, I know that providing a high-quality education for all children is critical to America’s socio-economic success.”

 

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Our Children, Our Future

Dear Friends,

For me, access to quality and affordable child care is personal.

About 20 years ago, my husband and I were raising our first daughter at our home in Wheaton. While he was starting his business, I was working full-time. Spending more time with my daughter was a priority, but financially there was no way I could quit my job and stay at home. One day, I decided to open a family child care business at my home. I prepared my home, took the required training, applied for and received the required state license, and started seeking clients. This allowed me to have an income, but more importantly it allowed me to prepare my daughter and the children in my care, to enter kindergarten “ready to learn.” Some of them even decided to acquire a second language and today are fully bilingual.
As I talked to more people about my new 

business, I realized there were many women in the community starting to care for children out of their homes. Many would care for several children without a license, compromising safety and quality. For some, the language barrier and confusing state bureaucracy in applying for a license was a hurdle that was difficult to overcome.

A few years after starting my business, I founded a nonprofit called Centro Familia to help train other family child care providers about the right way to start their business. We developed a state certified curriculum, provided the necessary technical assistance and mentoring necessary to pass the state licensing requirements. Once licensed, the participants would continue to receive support that ensured quality and best business practices. The most important outcome was school readiness for the children in their programs. I left Centro Familia in 2004 to join the Board of Education.During my tenure at the Board of Education, and since being elected to the County Council in 2009, I have made early childhood education and access to quality, affordable child care a priority. During every budget, I have fought to increase funding for child care subsidies for low-income families and have been a leader in working to expand pre-kindergarten opportunities for every Montgomery County family.In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed me to serve on the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. I serve on the Early Childhood Education Subcommittee on the Commission, where I work with Latino education leaders from around the nation.

The only way we can meet demands of the 21st century job market is by investing in quality early childhood education. Research shows that for every dollar invested in early childhood education, there is a return of $2.50 to $17Not building this critical infrastructure of opportunity jeopardizes our nation’s ability to thrive in a global economy and maintain our competitive edge. The U.S. is already falling behind–ranking 25th in the world in early learning enrollment of 4-year-olds. By investing in the future of all our children we are making a commitment to the success of our country.

nancy in classroom

Next Steps

Long Term: Establishing a Children’s Trust Fund

During difficult economic times, early childhood education programs are often the first on the chopping block. While cutting programs may ease budget challenges in the near-term, these are short-sighted decisions that will have negative consequences on our future success and competitiveness.
Several jurisdictions, including Miami-DadeSan Francisco, and Los Angeles have a “Children’s Trust Fund” that provides resources for children and youth programming. While there are a variety of “Children’s Trust” models, the most successful programs dedicate a portion of tax revenue for children ages 0-17. I believe that it is important to explore the establishment of a Children’s Trust in Montgomery County. I plan to work with stakeholders in order to propose a Charter Amendment that would establish a Children’s Trust for Montgomery County. For example, this Trust could set aside a portion of the County General Fund Property Tax revenue each year. Establishing a trust ensures that even during the most challenging economic times, Montgomery County is committed to funding the most essential services to give our children a great start.

Short Term: Reforming Child Care Services

Before we can establish a dedicated funding source for programs serving youth, we need to establish an infrastructure that will help make sure those funds go where they are needed most. That’s why during this year’s budget, I plan to work collaboratively with the County Executive to establish a Children’s Opportunity Fund. This Fund, in partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and the County Government, will be used to hire a Fund Coordinator and a researcher that will study the outcomes of youth programs. The Fund will also help us pay for new initiatives targeted at supporting services for children and teenagers.

nancy with girlsTomorrow, the Council is scheduled to discuss Executive Regulation 15-14AM–Childcare Regulations for Before and After School Childcare Programs in Public Schools. These regulations set the guidelines for how child care providers are selected to operate in MCPS facilities. For many years, this process was run by the Office of Community Use of

Public Facilities (CUPF) in partnership with MCPS. The regulations proposed by the Executive were inadequate because they did not include any reference to collaboration with MCPS or the quality of the child care that would be provided in the school. I called on the joint HHS/ED Committee to reject these regulations and send them back for the Executive to make these changes. I’m pleased to say the regulations that will come before the Council tomorrow

include these essential elements.

However, these regulations are only a temporary solution. We need wholesale reform of how Montgomery County ensures that every family has access to high-quality, affordable child care. I am working with my colleagues on legislation creating a Division of Child Care within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

I am also introducing legislation that will create a Child Care Expansion and Quality Enhancement Initiative. This Initiative would require County Government to do much of the work I did while at Centro Familia. HHS staff would be responsible for:

  • Educating prospective family child care providers on steps necessary to become licensed by the State;
  • Providing technical assistance and business training to family child care providers;
  • If requested, conducting a site-visit for potential family child care providers to provide feedback and assistance to obtain state licensing;
  • Providing services in languages other than English, in a culturally competent manner; and
  • Conducting an annual assessment of child care needs in the County and preparing an annual report.

Closing the academic achievement gap and making sure every student is prepared to learn on their first day of school is the socioeconomic imperative of our time. Every child deserves a chance to succeed and that cannot happen without access to quality, affordable child care for all. It won’t be easy to accomplish this goal, but with your help and support we will ensure every child can have a strong and bright future.

Sincerely,

Nancy Navarro
Councilmember, District 4

Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro to Receive ‘Outstanding Elected Official Award’ from Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs

She Will Receive Award on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at
Reception at Governor’s Home in Annapolis

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 8, 2014—Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 15, will receive the “Outstanding Elected Official Award” from the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs. The award will be presented during a reception at the Governor’s home in Annapolis in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

“Under the administration of Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, our Hispanic community has flourished,” Y. Maria Martinez, chair of the commission, wrote to Councilmember Navarro. “We’ve grown rapidly, not only in numbers, but in our daily contributions to this great State we call home. We’ve advanced policies that affect our community such as the Maryland Dream Act, licenses for undocumented immigrants, limiting the State’s cooperation in the federal Secure Communities program, supporting children seeking refuge from violence in Central American countries and so many more.

“Our community’s achievements have been made possible because of this administration’s commitment to diversity and the belief in the dignity and respect of every individual. However, we also acknowledge that we could not have done this without the individuals like you who are committed to working on behalf of the Hispanic community to make this State a great place.”

Councilmember Navarro, who chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee and previously served as Council President, said she was honored to be selected to receive the award.

“It is a privilege to represent the good people of District 4—working on their behalf to bring increased economic opportunities, build a stronger culture of civic participation and ensure that all children receive a quality education,” said Councilmember Navarro. “In my capacity as chair of the Council’s Government Operations Committee, I have worked to close budget gaps, strengthen our County’s fiscal position and bring unprecedented transparency to our local government. It is an honor to be recognized for my service by our outstanding Governor.”

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The Imperative of Early Education & Eliminating the Achievement Gap

I’ve spent the past two days in San Antonio, Texas participating in a meeting of the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. As a member of the Early Education Subcommittee, I have spent a lot of time talking to my fellow commissioners about models and best practices to ensure all young people–regardless of race or socioeconomic status–receive high-quality early education.

My view from the Commission meeting in San Antonio, TX.

My view from the Commission meeting in San Antonio, TX.

Too often, the debate about closing the achievement gap and increasing access to quality early childhood programs is framed in moralistic terms. It becomes a debate about “haves” and “have-nots,” as opposed to focusing on the broader social implications of not addressing the fundamental inequality found in our early childhood education system. The consequences of not addressing these issues go far beyond the civil rights or social ramifications that are regularly the focus of these discussions.

One of my goals as a Commissioner (focusing on national Education Policy) and a Councilmember (focusing on a broad range of local public policy issues) is changing the narrative about how we talk about certain issues. I encourage an “opportunity model” where we focus on young peoples’ strengthens, as opposed to the more common “deficit” model that focuses on the “challenges” of educating a more diverse student population. Similarly, eliminating the achievement gap and preparing the workforce of the future is more than just an “equity” issue. It is the key economic issue of our time. Here’s why:

1) Eliminating the Achievement Gap is a socioeconomic imperative. Of all the developed countries in the world, the United States is the only one with a growing aging population and a growing young population. All other developed countries have the aging population, but not the young population growth. The reason for the young population growth is the birthrate of Latino Americans. If Latino children are not prepared to enter the workforce, who will be there to pay into Social Security for older Americans? We need to make sure all children have the skills they need to find good paying jobs that will contribute to all of our economic well-being.

2) Eliminating the Academic Achievement Gap is the only way to maintain our global competitive edge. We should not submit to the notion that our workforce will be imported. India and China are basically our global competitors and we have lost our innovative edge, due to our complacency regarding the Achievement Gap. Importing talent is not a solution for increasing economic productivity and is certainly not a way to promote economic opportunity for children growing up in the United States. We live in a different world than our parents did, but our education system and workforce development pipeline continues to lag behind the times. Children growing up in Los Angeles, Montgomery County and anywhere in between deserve the same educational and workforce training opportunities their peers around the world are receiving. That is the only way the United States can remain the dominant economic super power.

3) Eliminating the Academic Achievement Gap is vital to our National Security. While education policy and national security don’t at first glace seem connected, their interconnectedness can’t be overstated. If our military can’t recruit qualified individuals, they can’t execute their mission to keep our country safe. If young people don’t have the educational tools to even pass the entrance exams, how can we have a strong national defense? With people of color now making up the majority of the population in our schools, it is more important than ever to make sure all students–regardless of race or socioeconomic status–have the opportunity to be successful.

With Congressman Joaquin Castro

With Congressman Joaquin Castro

This narrative shows that investing in Early Education is the best approach for a stronger return on investment. Waiting until a student is in middle school or even kindergarten is already too late. Quality early childhood education for all is essential to our nation’s economic and national security. Making these necessary investments should be bipartisan because both Democrats and Republicans agree on wanting a prosperous nation. We should stop referring to this issue as a matter of “Civil Rights” or a moral imperative. It’s not a “nice to have for some,” but a “must have for all.”

Marijuana Paraphernalia Decriminalization

Government Operations Committee Recommends Approval of FY 2015-2020 County Fiscal Plan

Tough Decisions by the County Council Have Strengthened Recovery Effort

Tough decisions by the 17th Montgomery County Council at the height of the Great Recession are paying dividends, according to the County’s FY15-20 Fiscal Plan, approved by the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee this morning. While some other jurisdictions in the Washington Metropolitan Region continue struggling to balance their budgets – raising taxes, reducing services, and cutting teaching positions – Montgomery County is moving in the opposite direction.

The six-year fiscal plan is based on the FY 2015 budget approved by the Council May 22.  The budget fully funds the Board of Education’s request for Montgomery County Public Schools, increases the number of police officers, and provides additional support for safety net and other critical services that were cut during the recession, including libraries, parks, and transportation.  The average County homeowner will see an $18 reduction in their property tax bill. The Council also reduced the 2010 energy tax increase by 7 percent, bringing the total reduction over the last three years to 27 percent. Overall, Montgomery County’s tax burden on residents has decreased in each of the last three years.

At the same time, the budget includes reserves at historic levels – $379 million, or 8.4 percent of adjusted governmental revenues – to guard against a future downturn. The fiscal plan shows that the County is ahead of schedule in reaching its policy goal of 10 percent reserves by 2020.

“This strong fiscal plan reflects the hard decisions the Council made over the last four years to deal with the Great Recession,” said Government Operations Committee Chair Nancy Navarro.  “Those decisions have enabled the County to weather the worst fiscal conditions since the Great Depression, preserve our AAA bond rating, and slowly restore the services that mean so much to our residents.”

The Council is scheduled to vote on the plan on June 17.

For details on the fiscal plan, see http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/Resources/Files/agenda/cm/2014/140612/20140612_GO3.pdf.