Council Strengthens Living Wage Law Enforcement

ROCKVILLE, Md., February 2, 2016—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved legislation to significantly strengthen the enforcement of the County’s Living Wage law. Montgomery County service contractors are required to pay their workers a living wage set annually based on the rate of inflation. Bill 43-15 addressed concerns that that some employers were making deductions to their workers’ paychecks without the consent of the worker.

Possible violations of the living wage law were first reported by The Washington Post in May 2015. In October, lead sponsors Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Marc Elrich introduced Bill 43-15. Councilmembers George Leventhal and Hans Riemer co-sponsored the bill.

The Post reported that approximately 140 governments nationwide have similar living wage laws to Montgomery County. That story can be found at http://tinyurl.com/gv765h3 .

The current living wage for employees working for contractors with Montgomery County is $14.35.

As approved, Bill 43-15 accomplishes the following:

  • Requires detailed payroll records to be submitted quarterly to the Office of Procurement and requires the County to retain those records for at least five years.
  • Establishes strong penalties, such as suspension and debarment, for a Living Wage law violation.
  • Requires the County to perform regular and random audits and allows the County to recover costs for performing an audit as a result of an enforcement action.
  • Prohibits an employer from making a deduction for any item necessary for an employee to perform the essential job function.
  • Allows the County to withhold payment to a contractor found in violation of the Living Wage law.
  • Removes the exemption in the Living Wage law for employees subject to collective bargaining agreements.

“I am pleased my colleagues unanimously supported this legislation to strengthen the County’s Living Wage law,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Montgomery County’s Living Wage law is designed to protect workers from abuses by employers and Bill 43-15 provides teeth to ensure the County can enforce it appropriately. Now, workers and the County will have recourse if an employer is not paying their employees fairly.”

Councilmember Elrich said: “In 2002, the Council passed a living wage bill with the clear intent to provide employees with a living wage. It is unfortunate that certain unscrupulous business owners managed to subvert the intent of the law, to the detriment of their employees. As amended today, the law now has clear reporting requirements and distinct penalties for not paying employees on County contracts a living wage. I am proud to stand with Councilmember Navarro and my colleagues in sending this clear message that the County will protect contractor employees’ right to earn a living wage.”

County Executive Ike Leggett will have 10 days to approve the bill after he receives it from the Council. The bill will take effect 91 days after it is signed by the County Executive.

 

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Montgomery County Council 2015 A Year in Review #GovtThatWorks

Verizon Foundation, Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro to Launch ‘Code as a Second Language’ Initiative

Program to Teach Computer Coding to Springbrook High School Students Will Be Detailed on Wednesday, Dec. 2

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, 2015—The Verizon Foundation, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, will launch the “Code as a Second Language” (CSL) program at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring. They will offer details of the program that will introduce and teach computer coding to high school students over an eight-week period. The program also will expose the students to tech professionals who will be able to serve as mentors. 

 

The program will be introduced in the media center of Springbrook High, which is located at 201 Valley Brook Dr. in Silver Spring.

 

The CSL initiative will also be executed by the Verizon Foundation and HHF at schools in Northern Virginia and in Washington, D.C., as part of Verizon’s commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. CSL instructors are young programmers who are in HHF’s LOFT (Latinos On Fast Track) Network. The initiative is currently in about 50 schools in more than 15 regions across the nation.  

“Driving the CSL effort is the belief that all youth deserve access to technology-based programs and have an opportunity to enter the workforce in a stronger position which will help America move forward,” said Antonio Tijerino. “The Verizon Foundation and Councilmember Navarro share that vision and we are grateful for their leadership preparing our youth to be innovators.”

 

Councilmember Navarro, who serves on the County Council’s Education Committee, said: “We are making investments in the retention and creation of jobs through the adoption of Master and Sector Plans that position Montgomery County as a global technology destination. I am thankful to HHF, Verizon, and Montgomery County Public Schools for engaging in initiatives like Coding as a second Language which will train our students, especially those from communities that are underrepresented in STEM fields, to become part of the creation of a qualified workforce pipeline.”

 

Although there will be a need to fill nearly two million tech jobs within the next five years, 90 percent of schools in the U.S. do not teach coding.  The CSL initiative is designed to fil that gap.

Mario Acosta-Velez, Verizon’s director of State Government Affairs, said: “Verizon is proud to partner with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation to implement the Code as a Second Language program.  Our goal is to help build the students’ coding skills and increase their interest and engagement in STEM-related fields and careers.  We want to help prepare our future leaders for the 21st Century by fostering collaboration among students, enhance their problem-solving skills and provide a solid introduction to STEM.”

The CSL initiative includes identification of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in collaboration with schools; baseline survey of students’ knowledge to test progress throughout CSL course; guest speakers from the technology industry; engagement of private and public sector volunteers; eight sessions; hands-on assistance for students working on course material outside of class time; soft skill development such as leadership and collaboration; work-based learning such as building actual products and presentation to peers; and certifications upon completion. 

 

The students also will be funneled to the award-winning LOFT Network for ongoing on-line instruction and will be connected to other students, mentors, networking, resources, STEM-related events, and later, internships and full-time positions with Fortune 500 companies.

About the Hispanic Heritage Foundation

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation inspires, prepares, positions and connects minority leaders in the classroom, community and workforce to meet America’s priorities. HHF also promotes cultural pride, accomplishment, and the great promise of the community through public awareness campaigns seen by millions.

HHF’s award-winning LOFT (Leaders On Fast Track) leadership and workforce development program is divided into 10 “tracks,” or fields including Innovation and Technology, Science, Healthcare, Engineering, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Education, Public Service, Media and Entertainment and Latinas. HHF is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has offices in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. The LOFT Institute is housed at Michigan State University (Visit www.HispanicHeritage.org.)

About Verizon

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to consumer, business, government and wholesale customers.

Verizon Wireless operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with 108.6 million retail connections nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers worldwide. A Dow 30 company with more than $127 billion in 2014 revenues, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of 176,200. For more information, visit www.verizon.com/news/.

 

For additional information, contact Alberto Avalos of the LOFT Institute at Alberto@LOFTinstitute.org or 323-397-9862.

 

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BELL Program Public-Private Partnership

Learn more about the Council’s action to bring the BELL Program to Montgomery County.

Small Business University: Nancy Navarro

Councilmember Navarro on County’s Partnership with the Rales Foundation

Montgomery County Council Forms New Public-Private Partnership Aimed at Closing the Achievement Gap

 

Councilmember Nancy Navarro Forms Partnership with Rales Foundation to Bring ‘Building Educated Leaders for Life’ Program to Montgomery County Public Schools

 ROCKVILLE, Md., Nov. 12, 2015—Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro at 2:10 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, will be joined at the Council Office Building in Rockville by Council President George Leventhal; Councilmember Craig Rice, who chairs the Council’s Education Committee; Joshua Rales, president and trustee of the Norman R. and Ruth Rales Foundation; Patricia O’Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education; and Lauren Gilbert, vice president of program impact and innovation of the Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) program, to announce a new public-private partnership to help close the achievement gap.

Councilmember Navarro will explain this exciting partnership that will bring the new, data-driven summer program for second and third graders to the County. BELL provides a proven program to address the knowledge gap that occurs among students during the summer months. The program has served more than 100,000 students since 1992 and receives financial support from the Rales Foundation.

“As a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and a former member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, I know that early interventions and programs that reach children during out-of-school time are required to close the achievement gap,” said Councilmember Navarro, who chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee and is a member of the Council’s Education Committee. “BELL provides students with a holistic program that not only spurs educational achievement, but also provides enrichment activities and emphasizes health and nutrition. This program has a proven track record and data-driven results. I can’t wait for our students to become BELL scholars.”

The BELL Program is a five-to-six week summer program with a staffing plan that includes Montgomery County Public Schools certified teachers and teaching assistants. The program focuses on literacy, science, math, technology, arts and health. BELL also provides breakfast and lunch to students daily and includes hands-on enrichment, field trips and community projects.

In Montgomery County, the BELL Program will focus on second and third grade students because, according to the organization, “reading proficiency by the end of the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career and life success.”

“The Rales Foundation is very excited about its new partnership with BELL and Montgomery County to bring a much needed, time tested summer program targeting ‘at risk’ second and third graders to improve their literacy and math skills,” said Mr. Rales. “Having been raised in Montgomery County by our parents, Norman and Ruth, my brothers Steven, Mitchell and I attended Montgomery County Public Schools. Therefore, we are thrilled to have the opportunity through the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation to be part of the solution to closing the achievement gap in our community.”

It is estimated that the BELL Program will serve 4,200 students during a four-year period. The educational component of the program costs approximately $1,430 per student. The Council’s special appropriation of $750,750, which was introduced by Councilmember Navarro and includes all Councilmembers as sponsors, will fund half of the program. Funding from the Rales Foundation and other financial contributions will complete the funding required for more than 1,000 MCPS students to begin the program during the summer of 2016. MCPS and stakeholders will work together on implementation details including which students are selected to participate in the program.

Councilmember Navarro also has requested that County Executive Ike Leggett include matching funds in the Children’s Opportunity Fund for Fiscal Year 2017 to support the second year of the program.

Councilmember Navarro proposed creating a mechanism to ensure a long-term strategic approach and dedicated funding source for early childhood education in 2014. The Council approved funding to begin the Children’s Opportunity Fund in Fiscal Year 2016.

“I am incredibly grateful to Councilmember Nancy Navarro, Josh Rales and the Rales Foundation for their leadership in helping to make this program a reality for our children,” said Board of Education President O’Neill. “This kind of partnership between our schools, the Rales Foundation and the County government will provide our children with support this summer to ensure that learning continues during the summer months.”

There are numerous studies throughout the nation showing the impact that early childhood education and wrap-around support services have on closing the achievement gap for students.

In March, the University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute’s released a report titled High-Quality Early Education: Age of Entry and Time in Care Differences in Student Outcomes for English-Only and Dual Language Learners. The report found that “high-quality early education is especially advantageous for children when they start younger and continue longer. Not only does more high-quality early education significantly boost the language skills of children from low-income families, children whose first language is not English benefit even more.”

“When schools and communities work together, we can create and sustain more and better learning opportunities for the children who need them most,” said Lauren Gilbert, vice president of impact and innovation for BELL. “We look forward to expanding access to summer learning in Montgomery County and enabling scholars to strengthen their academic, social, and emotional skills and enter the new school year ready to excel.”

The BELL Program is based on a small group model that uses certified teachers and trained tutors. BELL’s outcome measures have been rigorously tested by the Urban Institute and the program measures student progress utilizing STAR Assessment computer adaptive testing and conducts surveys of parents and teachers.

BELL has a proven track record in the Washington-Baltimore region. In 2006, BELL launched its Baltimore program with 416 students and has grown to serve 1,200. In 2014, BELL formed a partnership with YMCA in the District of Columbia and will serve 240 students this year.

The Nov. 17 press conference will be held in the Third Floor Conference Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The event will coincide with the Council’s vote, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, on the appropriation to fund the program. The Council’s action and the ensuing news event 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.

For more information on BELL, visit: http://www.experiencebell.org/.

 

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Montgomery County Retains AAA Bond Rating

County Among Best in Nation for Fiscal Responsibility

County Executive Ike Leggett today announced that Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2015 from three Wall Street bond rating agencies.

Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable — for the County. They all termed the outlook for Montgomery County as “stable.”

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring the lowest possible costs in those areas as well.

“What is remarkable about this is that Montgomery County has continued to receive a Triple-A bond rating from all three bond rating agencies even during these past few years when other jurisdictions – including the federal government – were seeing downgrades and despite federal shutdowns, budget sequestrations and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Leggett.

“Our ability to maintain our coveted Triple-A rating affirms my approach to putting the County’s fiscal house in order and reducing unsustainable increases in County spending, while investing in making government more effective and creating opportunities for the growth of good jobs in the future.

“We have significantly boosted our reserves, closed more than $3 billion in budget gaps, made tough choices on spending, and saved millions for taxpayers with changes in County health and retirement benefits. Our unemployment rate is the lowest in the state of Maryland and among the lowest in the nation. Montgomery County has weathered the downturn and the investments we made during the toughest of times are enabling us to create more jobs and opportunity.”

The bond rating agencies underlined the County’s successful approach.

“Montgomery County has a sophisticated management team that uses conservative budgeting and has established debt and reserve policies that have resulted in healthy reserve and liquidity levels,” wrote Fitch. “Montgomery County continues to exhibit a very impressive economic profile.”

“The AAA rating reflects the County’s sizable, strong and diverse tax base, affluent demographics, and manageable debt burden,” said Moody’s Investor’s Services. “The rating also incorporates the county’s healthy reserve position, which has grown in recent years as a result of the implementation of various new fiscal policies and a multi-year plan to restore the county’s financial flexibility.

“Several large projects are underway in the county and will add further to the tax and jobs base over the near and medium term, including a substantial $1.5 billion in building construction in Fiscal Year 2015 alone.”

“The stable outlook reflects our view of Montgomery County’s very strong local economy and its demonstrated resilience to economic pressure due, in large part, to its very strong management conditions,” said Standard & Poor’s.

“The reconfirmation of the County’s AAA rating reflects the strong commitment of the Council and Executive to sound financial management,” said Council President George Leventhal. “The County has held a AAA rating since 1973.  This is an outstanding achievement, but it is what we expect of Montgomery County.  It is further evidence that we have jointly created a government that works effectively for our one million residents.”

“I am pleased Montgomery County has retained its AAA Bond Rating. This accomplishment is due in large part to the County Council and County Executive working collaboratively to put in place responsible fiscal policies,” said Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee chair Nancy Navarro. “During the Great Recession, the Council established a six-year Fiscal Plan, restructured County employee benefits, developed a policy to increase our reserves to 10% by 2020, and took the unprecedented step of re-basing the school system budget. These actions, taken together with approving fiscally responsible budgets and land use plans that promote economic development throughout the County, have set the stage to retain our high credit rating. This bond rating allows us to borrow money at low costs so we can invest in essential infrastructure projects.”

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Councilmember Navarro at Early Voting Press Conference

Improving the Procurement Process

This morning, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee reviewed the recommendations of the  Procurement Policies and Regulations Task Force and the Minority Owned and Small Business Task Force. In October 2014, I proposed creating these task forces to review and evaluate Montgomery County’s procurement process. One of the complaints I hear from business owners of all sizes is that it is too difficult to do business with the County. People say the process takes too long, there is too much paperwork, and there isn’t enough communication with the Procurement staff.

The reason I supported creating two separate task forces is that the issues raised by business owners about procurement generally fall into two distinct categories. The first category focuses on process. The amount of time it takes to complete a request for proposals (RFP) or not having a formal debrief process after a contract is awarded were issues that could be solved by developing a new process for interacting with bidders. The charge of the Procurement Policies and Regulations Task Force was to holistically review the procurement process and recommend changes that would help businesses compete for contracts in Montgomery County.

The second category of concern raised by business owners was how small, minority, female and disabled-owned businesses can compete for County contracts. The County received a Disparity Study last year that showed minority, female and disabled-owned businesses were “underutilized” in County procurement. Small business owners have expressed a variety of concerns about the way the Local Small Business Reserve Program has been implemented. The Minority Owned and Small Business Task Force was responsible for reviewing programs specifically designed to help small, minority, female and disabled-owned businesses in qualifying for County contracts.

Although we are now receiving these reports, the Council did not wait to begin improving procurement. This past March, the Council unanimously approved Expedited Bill 7-15, which was proposed by the County Executive, to create a standalone Office of Procurement within the Executive Branch. In June, the Council appointed former Councilmember Cherri Branson to lead that new office. During the FY16 Budget process (and reaffirmed during the FY16 Budget Savings Plan), the Council added staff to the compliance section of the Office of Procurement.

You can find links to both Task Force reports here.