Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews at a news conference at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, will detail his proposal to allow candidates for County Council and County Executive to use public financing for their campaigns. Councilmember Andrews will introduce Bill 16-14—the first of its type for County elections in Maryland—before the Council on Feb. 4.
Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer have agreed to co-sponsor the bill. If approved, it would take effect starting with the cycle leading to the 2018 County elections.
The news conference will be held in the Sixth Floor Conference Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. Among the groups expected to attend and show their support for the plan are Common Cause, the Montgomery County League of Women Voters and Progressive Maryland.
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 adopted a bill that enables counties to provide for the option of public financing for county elections beginning with the 2015-18 election cycle. Participation by candidates would be voluntary.
“The goals of this plan are to reduce the influence of big money in County elections, encourage more voters to participate in County elections and to expand opportunities for more candidates to run for County office who do not have access to big contributions from interest groups or individuals,” said Councilmember Andrews, who is in his fourth term (16th year) serving on the Council. “The bill provides strong incentives for candidates to seek small, individual contributions from County voters.”
The bill would establish a Public Election Fund. To qualify for public financing, a candidate would have to:
· File a Notice of Intent prior to collecting qualifying money
· Establish a publicly funded campaign account
· Limit qualifying contributions to a maximum of $150 from registered voters in Montgomery County
· Collect a qualifying number of contributions: 500 for County Executive candidates; 250 for Council at-large candidates; and 125 for Council district candidates
· Collect qualifying dollar thresholds of $40,000 for County Executive; $20,000 for Council at-large; and $10,000 for Council district
· Adhere to the qualifying timing, beginning 365 days before the primary election and ending 45 days before the primary election
The plan provides strong incentives for candidates to seek out many small, individual donors. Matching dollars for County Executive candidates would be $6 for each dollar of a qualifying contribution received for the first $50; $4 for each dollar for the second $50; and $2 for each dollar for the third $50. Matching dollars for County Council candidates would be $4 for each dollar for the first $50; $3 for each dollar for the second $50; and $2 for each dollar for the third $50
The maximum limit on public funds per candidate would be $750,000 for a County Executive candidate; $250,000 for a Council at-Large candidate and $125,000 for a Council district candidate. Matching dollars would not be distributed for self/spouse contributions.
“The General Assembly has provided counties the opportunity to do something significant to make county elections better for candidates and voters,” said Councilmember Andrews. “This measure will revolutionize elections in Montgomery County. Having county officials who are independent of special interests will make government more responsive to the people.”
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