Montgomery County Council approves minimum wage increase to $15 per hour

Approval of Bill 12-16 makes Montgomery one of the

first jurisdictions in the nation with $15 minimum wage

 

ROCKVILLE, Md., January 17, 2017—The Montgomery County Council today approved Bill 12-16 that will gradually increase the County minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020. Five amendments to the original bill were approved before the Council voted 5-4 to approve the amended bill, making Montgomery one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to approve a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Councilmember Marc Elrich was the lead sponsor of Bill 12-16 to increase the County minimum wage incrementally beyond the $11.50 per hour minimum, effective July 1, 2017, that is provided for under current law. Councilmembers Tom Hucker, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer were co-sponsors. Those five voted to approve the amended bill. Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, Sidney Katz and Craig Rice voted against the amended bill.

The bill now goes to County Executive Ike Leggett for his signature.

More information about Bill 12-16 and its amendments can be found at:

http://tinyurl.com/zk7no4n .

Prior to the vote on the amended bill, the Council considered a proposal to conduct a study of the impact of increasing the minimum wage and delay voting on a Bill 12-16 until after the study was completed. The proposal to conduct the study was defeated by a 5-4 vote with Councilmembers Elrich, Hucker, Leventhal, Navarro and Riemer voting against conducting the study. Councilmembers Berliner, Floreen, Katz and Rice supported conducting a study.

As enacted, Bill 12-16 will:

  • Extend the incremental increases set in County law to go up to $15 per hour effective July 1, 2020 for employers with 26 or more employees. Under the bill’s transition provisions, the County minimum wage for these employers would increase to $12.50 in 2018, $13.75 in 2019 and $15.00 in 2020.
  • Require, beginning in 20212023, annual adjustments to the minimum wage by the annual average increase, if any, in the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers for the previous calendar year.

Among the amendments approved was one proposed by Councilmembers Elrich and Leventhal that changes the minimum wage schedule for businesses employers with 25 or fewer employees so that they reach $15 per hour two years later than larger employers. The phase in schedule for those the smaller businesses employers will be $12 per hour effective July 1, 2018; $12.75 per hour on July 1, 2019; $13.50 per hour on July 1, 2020; $14.25 per hour on July 1, 2021; and $15 per hour on July 1, 2022.

Another amendment proposed by Councilmembers Elrich and Leventhal and approved would give the County Executive the ability to stop pause implementation of a scheduled increase if economic conditions worsen. The conditions that could trigger a pause are: if total private employment for Montgomery County decreases decreased by 1.5 percent over the period from April 1 to June 30 of the previous year; total private employment for Montgomery County decreased by 2.0 percent over the period from Jan. 1 to June 30 of the previous year; the Gross Domestic Product of the United States experiences negative growth for the preceding two quarters: or the National Bureau of Economic Research determines that the United States economy is in recession.

An amendment proposed by Councilmember Riemer and approved will require the County’s Office of Legislative Oversight to monitor the impact of increases in the County minimum wage and provide annual reports to the Council on the impacts.

“I can’t look at this issue any other way than from the bottom up,” said Councilmember Elrich. “With this increase, we make it clear that we believe that an honest day’s work should result in an honest day’s pay and not leave a working person mired in poverty. Helping people lift themselves out of poverty benefits all of us.

“Raising the minimum wage means that the tens of thousands of families that will be affected. They will now be more likely to meet their basic needs, and enjoy greater stability. And local businesses will benefit when more of our residents have more money to spend in the local economy. I understand the concerns of some business owners, and we have extended the phase in period for small businesses until 2022, and we have provided provisions for a pause in the increases when economic conditions warrant it. But I do not think that those concerns should trump what is a fundamental social justice issue: people who work should be able to make a living, put a roof over their heads and feed and clothes their families.

“When FDR put forward the original minimum wage, it was explicitly to insure a wage that meets basic needs. Sadly, that link between the minimum wage and meeting basic needs has been shattered and it is time to recouple wages to the original purpose of the minimum wage.  I thank my colleagues and all the many people who worked for and supported this bill.”

Councilmember Leventhal said: “I am proud to vote for Bill 12-16 this morning. Today’s vote sends the message that I stand with hard working families struggling to get by on poverty wages.”

Councilmember Navarro said: “I was proud to co-sponsor and cast my vote to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. As we celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., yesterday, I was reminded of his quote: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ While increasing the minimum wage will not solve the vexing issue of poverty, it is an important step forward in alleviating income inequality of our County.”

Council Vice President Riemer said: “I was very proud to cosponsor and cast my vote for a $15 minimum wage in Montgomery County. This is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. A higher minimum wage will help the poorest among us make ends meet, and when workers have more money in their pockets the local economy has stronger consumers—which is good for everyone. I am also grateful to my colleagues for supporting my amendment calling for the Council to receive an annual report on the local economy so that we can carefully track the impact of our minimum wage. No policy is without tradeoffs, but there are also great costs if we fail to act, including children living in poverty, economic insecurity and growing inequality. These are the problems that I am most compelled to address.”

Councilmember Floreen said: “I certainly support increasing the minimum wage to $15 nationally or even regionally. However, for Montgomery County to raise our minimum wage when surrounding jurisdictions do not raise theirs risks putting us at a competitive disadvantage for job creation. What people want most is a job, and we need to make sure we have an environment that supports job growth.”

Councilmember Katz said: “My vote against this bill was a reflection of my concern that we do not have enough information to pass the best legislation possible. I sincerely believe that the best path forward for this complex discussion would have been to get more information based on Montgomery County’s unique situation. I am very concerned that we do not know the full scope of the impact on the County budget and I am worried that there will be some businesses that will close and others will be forced to decrease the hours of some employees. I think the best way to have avoided this would have been to base our decision on more information—this would not have delayed implementation at all.”

In 2013, the Council enacted Bill 27-13 that established a County minimum wage for County employees and private sector employees working in the County, unless the state or federal minimum wage is higher. Bill 24-15 modified the method for calculating the “tip credit” allowed to employers of tipped employees.

The County minimum wage established under Bill 27-13 is being phased in over several years. The rate was set at $8.40 per hour effective Oct. 1, 2014, and increased to $9.55 per hour on Oct.1, 2015. It increased to $10.75 on July 1, 2016, and will go to $11.50 per hour on July 1, 2017.

The County minimum wage does not apply to a worker who is exempt from the state or federal minimum wage, is under the age of 19 years and is employed no more than 20 hours per week or subject to an “opportunity wage” under the state or federal law. Employers of tipped employees may include in the computation of their wage amount a “tip credit” not exceeding the County minimum wage less $4.00 per hour.

The District of Columbia enacted a law in June 2016 increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. California and New York have enacted statewide laws that will increase the minimum wage for at least some workers to $15 per hour over a period of years. In the November 2016 election, voters in Maine, Arizona and Colorado all voted to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, and Washington State voters approved a raise to $13.50 an hour by that year. In Arizona, voters in the City of Flagstaff approved an additional minimum wage initiative to increase the minimum wage in Flagstaff to $15 an hour in 2021.

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County’s Arts and Humanities Council-Sponsored Group Beautifies Wheaton Clock

Apprentice artists with Arts on the Block’s (AOB) Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County-sponsored program, “Pour Your ART Out” (PYAO), spent more than 200 hours designing, refining, presenting and cutting tile for a 7-foot diameter vertical sundial and 34, 16-inch medallions all made out of glass mosaic tiles. The tiles adorn the Wheaton Clock in downtown Wheaton, at the cross section of Grandview and Ennals Avenues. There will be a dedication ceremony for the Wheaton Clock installation on Saturday, December 17, at 3 p.m. at the clock’s site for anyone who wishes to attend.

“The beautification of the Wheaton Clock Tower is another example of the outstanding work sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County,” said County Councilmember Nancy Navarro (‎@nancy_navarro). “Young people in Wheaton have so much to contribute to their community, and this project demonstrates their limitless creativity. I am excited about the nearly $150 million redevelopment program that is set to begin next year, enhancing what is already an outstanding place to live and do business.”
Wheaton residents made design contributions by drawing what they felt best represented their community on paper plates during the April 2015 Taste of Wheaton event. Local student apprentices were inspired by the recurring themes that make Wheaton special, such as its diversity in people, culture and food.

“The Wheaton Clock Tower has been a fixture in downtown Wheaton since 1988 when it was installed as part of the re-development of the corner shopping plaza,” explains Director of the Mid-County Regional Service Office Luisa Montero (@WheatonMD). “With the anticipation of the Wheaton Town Plaza and its public art and performance stage, the newly adorned clock tower will serve as another example of the wonderful art and artists that exist in the Wheaton Arts and Entertainment District.”

PYAO provides high school students the opportunity to become apprentice artists to learn about and develop workforce skills that can be used in any career.

Funding for this project was made possible by two Wheaton Cultural Grants in FY15 and 16 from the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County. In-kind support was provided by the Wheaton Urban District and Mid-County Regional Service Center.

AOB is entering the 14th year of empowering Maryland and DC youth with a unique cross section of art and design, job readiness and youth development programming.

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Montgomery Councilmember Nancy Navarro celebrates the grand opening of ALDI grocery store in Silver Spring

Zoning changes spearheaded by Councilmember Navarro

helped enable revitalization of Plaza del Mercado

and attract international grocery chain


ROCKVILLE, Md., Dec. 1, 2016—Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro was a special guest at today’s grand opening of a new ALDI Supermarket located in the Plaza del Mercado at 2223 Bel Pre Rd. in Silver Spring. Councilmember Navarro collaborated with area residents and Federal Realty to determine what would be needed to revitalize Plaza del Mercado, which is a hub for community shopping in the area. This collaboration led to Councilmember Navarro spearheading the zoning changes needed to help attract ALDI to the area.

When Giant Food closed its Bel Pre Road location, residents from Aspen Hill and Silver Spring lacked convenient and affordable grocery options. Federal Realty, which owns Plaza del Mercado, went to work to secure key anchor tenants for the shopping center, but its options were limited by the County’s existing zoning laws.

Councilmember Navarro took action by introducing a Zoning Text Amendment, which was enacted by the Council in 2014, that helped clear the way for Plaza del Mercado, and other similarly situated shopping centers in convenience commercial (C-1) zones, to redevelop. These zoning changes enabled Federal Realty to attract a wider pool of retail tenants and helped secure ALDI and LA Fitness as two essential anchors for the shopping center.

In addition to the new grocery store and fitness center, Federal Realty is making investments at Plaza del Mercado that will create a town square, outdoor seating and green space that will help revitalize the area.

“I have spoken out consistently about possible ‘retail redlining’, where retailers choose not to enter certain neighborhoods even when the economic demographics of the area could easily support quality retail,” said Councilmember Navarro, who chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee. “For too long, many neighborhoods in District 4 have lacked the amenities they deserve. Federal Realty should be commended for not giving up and successfully finding a grocery store to locate at Plaza del Mercado. All neighborhoods throughout Montgomery County should have quality, affordable and convenient amenities to serve the needs of our residents.”

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Montgomery County Council approves bill to improve landlord-tenant issues

Councilmember Elrich was the lead sponsor and

Councilmembers Navarro and Hucker were co-sponsors

of Bill 19-15 that will impact leases,

landlord-tenant obligations,

licensing and rent adjustments

 

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 29, 2016—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved amended Bill 19-15 that addresses issues with landlord-tenant relations. Councilmember Marc Elrich was the lead sponsor of the bill and Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Tom Hucker were co-sponsors.

The Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Nancy Floreen and includes Councilmembers George Leventhal and Hans Riemer, held five worksessions on the bill that would make several changes to the landlord-tenant law principally aimed at enhancing the existing rights of tenants and improving the quality of rental housing through increased inspections. The PHED Committee heard from panels of stakeholders during three of the worksessions.

The Council staff report on the bill can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/z9mo2o4 .

“Passage of this bill is an important step towards enacting common sense reforms for tenants, who make up about one-third of our County’s residents,” said Councilmember Elrich. “This bill will help bring transparency to the leasing process, give tenants some additional information and rights and increase inspections of rental units. Recent events have demonstrated the importance of more frequent and thorough inspections. Too many tenants refrain from asking for repairs to their units, fearing retaliation from landlords. They deserve better—and this bill offers some help and fairness.”

Councilmember Navarro said: “Today, the Council has taken an important step to protect renters in Montgomery County. Bill 19-15 provides much-needed transparency in the leasing process and increased enforcement to ensure our residents live in safe, sanitary conditions. This bill increases stability for renters and implements important safeguards against landlords who choose to cut corners in maintaining their property. I am proud to have been an original cosponsor of this legislation and look forward to funding these new initiatives through our budget process.”

Said Councilmember Hucker: “This bill is a victory for the hundreds of thousands of residents who live in rental housing. Every Montgomery County tenant deserves a safe and healthy home, and today we are taking steps—by beefing up inspections and increasing transparency and accountability—to ensure irresponsible landlords cannot force any family to live in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. I am proud to have strongly supported this bill for the last year and to have worked with a broad coalition of housing advocates and community organizations to get it across the finish line. I am also grateful that the Council supported my amendments to create a vigorous inspection regime focused on the worst health and safety problems, as well as promoting transparency so that violations can be tracked.”

The major provisions of approved Bill 19-15 will:

  • Provide tenants with greater transparency about their rights and obligations under a lease.
  • Require the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) to inspect a sample of every multi-family rental property over the next two years to establish baseline information about the condition of the County’s rental housing stock.
  • Focus ongoing enforcement resources on properties with significant health and safety issues and properties with numerous code violations.
  • Provide clearer information about the state of rental units in the County via improved data collection and publication.
  • Provide many benefits to tenants that should improve the stability and quality of their living arrangements.

Other provisions in the bill will:

  • Require each lease to include a plain language summary of a tenant’s rights and responsibilities.
  • Require DHCA to conduct a two-year intensive inspection schedule (twice the current number of inspections, prioritized by need).
  • Require DHCA to provide annual reports to Council and County Executive about past and upcoming year inspections.
  • Require certain properties to be inspected more frequently than the current triennial schedule (based on type and severity of violations).
  • Require landlords to pay the cost of subsequent inspections, if a property needs multiple inspections for uncorrected violations.
  • Require that tenants can make certain repairs when authorized by the DHCA director or his designee, if DHCA orders a repair and the landlord fails to correct the issue in the allotted time.
  • Requires lease renewal terms of two years, if the landlord is offering renewal.

Approved Bill 19-15 also provides tenants with greater access to information including:

  • Improvement of the availability of landlord-tenant handbooks.
  • Requiring landlords to provide tenants with more information about utility bills in older buildings.
  • Requiring landlords to give 60 days’ notice if the landlord intends to terminate the tenancy at the end of a lease term, and 90 days’ notice for all rent increases.
  • Requiring DHCA to publish certain data from the annual rental housing survey on its web site.
  • Requiring that tenant organizations be allowed to use available meeting space for free once per month.

 

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Montgomery County Retains Triple-A 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 2016 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.”

“This is welcome, although expected, news,” said Council President Nancy Floreen. “It is a testament to our balanced six-year fiscal plan that ensures a long-term strategic approach to budgeting, earning us the highest rating year after year and saving us millions of dollars over the life of our bonds.”

“Once again, Montgomery County has retained its AAA Bond Rating from all three major rating agencies,” said Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee Chair Nancy Navarro. “The Council and County Executive working in collaboration during the most difficult economic circumstances during the Great Recession is what made this possible. While not always popular, the tough decisions to rebase the school system budget, find new sources of revenue, and restructure employee benefits is what has allowed us to maintain the highest possible credit rating. As a result of these hard choices, we will be able to make unprecedented investments in our schools, libraries, public safety facilities, and transportation infrastructure.”

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Remaining an Inclusive Community: Councilmember Navarro’s Statement on the 2016 General Election

“I have taken the past week to process what occurred on Tuesday, with the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

Montgomery County voters overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Trump, with Secretary Clinton earning nearly 75% of the vote and Mr. Trump finishing with less than 20%. Montgomery County voters made their voices heard — we continue to believe in an inclusive, pluralistic society where all people should be treated equally. We are not alone. Nearly a million more voters nationwide stood with Secretary Clinton than Mr. Trump. However, under our Constitution, Mr. Trump won the Electoral College, and the presidency.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump made clear his disdain for immigrants, women, Muslims, people with disabilities, and others who do not share his worldview. He vowed to establish a “deportation force” to forcibly remove the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. It has yet to be seen if President Trump will take the same hard-line view as Candidate Trump on this issue, but we have no real reason to believe he will not.

Montgomery County has always prided itself on being a welcoming community that is strong because of our diversity.
 Many of our neighbors are living in fear. Immigrant families with mixed status are afraid they will be torn apart. Women are afraid of losing essential health care services. Muslims are afraid of being persecuted based on their religion. The LGBT community is afraid of their right to marry being rolled back, and discriminatory laws going unchallenged. African-Americans are afraid justice reform will no longer be a priority. We have already seen an increase in racist and hateful messages targeting communities of color, even here in Montgomery County.

We cannot be intimidated by these cowardly acts. We need to recommit ourselves to fighting bigotry in all forms through positive action. We need to organize, volunteer, advocate, and vote. In Montgomery County, I will work to ensure we remain a welcoming community for all of our residents. Today, I will introduce a resolution with my Council colleagues encouraging Montgomery County to adopt a similar posture as the City of Chicago when it comes to protecting our immigrant communities. The resolution includes a request to the County Executive to provide special instructions for MC311 operators to help direct residents to legal resources and other supportive services.

Make no mistake — the election of Donald Trump was an enormous setback for the United States. His election strikes at the heart of what we stand for in Montgomery County. Last week was a time for sadness and personal reflection. Starting today, we need to get off the mat, brush ourselves off, and gear up for the fight ahead. The Federal Government can change laws, regulations, and policies, but they cannot change who we are as a people. It is up to us to stand up for each other and work harder than ever before to move our county and our nation forward.”

Clean Elections in 2018

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Progressive Policies Enacted by the Montgomery County Council

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Making Our Children & Youth A Top Priority

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Hispanic Heritage Month Program (Spanish)