2020 State and County Ballot Questions

Montgomery County Democratic Party Recommendations to Voters

Six questions will be put before Montgomery County voters in the 2020 General Election. Two questions (1 & 2) pertain to statewide matters and will appear on the ballots of all Maryland voters. Four questions (A – D) pertain to County matters and will appear on the ballots of Montgomery County voters only. Maryland voters also will decide whether to retain three state appellate court judges. The language of each ballot question is shown below, in the order in which they will appear on the ballot, followed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s recommendation to voters on that question, and a summary explanation of the recommendation.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party has a formal process for determining the Party’s recommendations to voters on ballot questions. A summary description of the 2020 process can be found below the ballot questions.

JUDGE, COURT OF APPEALS, CIRCUIT 7: Mary Ellen Barbera

JUDGE, COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS AT-LARGE: E. Gregory Wells

JUDGE, COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS, CIRCUIT 7: Steven B. Gould

Vote YES For Continuance in Office for all three judges.

QUESTION 1: CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
Balancing the State Budget
Chapter 645 of 2020 (Senate Bill 1028)

The proposed amendment authorizes the General Assembly, in enacting a balanced budget bill for fiscal year 2024 and each fiscal year thereafter, to increase, diminish, or add items, provided that the General Assembly may not exceed the total proposed budget as submitted by the Governor. (Amending Article II, Section 17, and Article III, Sections 14 and 52 of the Maryland Constitution.)

Vote FOR the Constitutional Amendment.

Maryland vests too much budgetary control in the office of the Governor. This constitutional amendment would provide a more balanced process for deciding how Maryland allocates its spending, strengthen the role of the General Assembly in the budget process, and allow for more meaningful budget negotiations between the branches of government. It will allow Maryland legislators to be responsive to public demands and to fund key public priorities, even if the Governor does not share those priorities. Currently, the General Assembly can only reduce spending within the Governor’s proposed budget.

Most state legislatures have the authority to increase or add an appropriation to their governors’ budgets. This amendment will alter Maryland’s budget process to reflect the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches that is more common in other states.  The amendment would become effective in the 2023 legislative session for the fiscal year 2024 budget, after the next gubernatorial and legislative elections in 2022. It would not apply to the incumbent Governor or the current General Assembly. It maintains the current requirement that the budget be balanced and does not allow the General Assembly to increase total spending beyond that proposed by the Governor.

QUESTION 2: REFERENDUM BY LEGISLATIVE ACTION
Expansion of Commercial Gaming – Sports and Event Wagering Referendum and Minority Business Enterprise Disparity Study
Chapter 492 of 2020 (Senate Bill 4)

Do you approve the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland to authorize sports and events betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education?

Vote FOR the Referred Law.

If voters statewide approve this referendum, Chapter 492 of the Acts of the General Assembly of 2020 will authorize the General Assembly to pass a law allowing the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission to issue licenses to offer betting in the State on sports and other competitive events. Chapter 492 also provides that State revenues generated by sports and event betting must be used primarily for funding public education.

Sports and event betting is a gambling activity in which an individual places a bet on the results of a sporting event or a particular play or action during a sporting event. Sports and event betting can also extend to non–athletic events, such as reality television competitions or entertainment awards shows. The referred law provides additional tax revenue to fund education at a time when it is urgently needed. D.C. and all neighboring states have already legalized sports betting. Unless sports betting is approved in Maryland, revenue from Maryland bettors will flow to offshore sportsbooks or to neighboring jurisdictions.

Question A.
Charter Amendment by Act of County Council
Property Tax Limit – Limit Tax Rate Increases

Amend Section 305 of the County Charter to prohibit the County Council from adopting a tax rate on real property that exceeds the tax rate on real property approved for the previous year, unless all current Councilmembers vote affirmatively for the increase.

Vote FOR the Charter Amendment.

This charter amendment establishes a cap on the property tax rate instead of the total tax revenue the County can receive. It would replace the current property tax revenue limit. The current revenue cap arbitrarily constricts revenue needed by our growing population, which has increased by 50% since 1990, while our school population has increased by 65%. A limit on tax rates is simple, straight forward, easy to administer, and better than a limit on total revenue.

Currently, the County cannot increase revenue by growing the tax base. This amendment would allow revenue to grow as the County grows, so that County services can keep pace with increased population and needs. Revenues would grow based on growth in the assessable tax base, allowing the County to improve infrastructure and provide the services that our communities need to thrive. It would allow the County to benefit from increased economic growth.

Property tax rates would remain the same as this year. Any future increase in tax rates would require an affirmative vote by all Councilmembers, as is currently required to raise the revenue limit. The County Executive and all nine members of the County Council support Question A.

Question B.
Charter Amendment by Petition
Property Tax Limit – Prohibit Override

Amend Section 305 of the County Charter to prohibit the County Council from levying an ad valorem tax on real property that would produce total revenue (not including property tax revenue from certain enumerated sources) that exceeds the total revenue produced by the tax on real property in the preceding fiscal year plus a percentage of the previous year’s real property tax revenues that equals any increase in the Consumer Price Index. Section 305 currently permits the County Council to exceed the limit on real property tax revenue only upon the affirmative vote of all current Councilmembers.

Vote AGAINST the Charter Amendment.

This Charter Amendment, proposed by longtime Republican activist Robin Ficker, would prohibit the County Council from increasing total revenue received from the property tax beyond the rate of inflation under any circumstances, including emergencies. Capping tax revenue in this manner could limit the ability of the Council to carry out its mandate to maintain public services.

If passed, the amendment would lead to a reduction in the size and scope of all services provided by the County government, such as education, health, libraries, parks and recreation, public safety, and transportation that enhance the quality of life and attract businesses and people to the County. Economic growth in the County would not add additional revenue for the County to keep up with the costs of that growth. The County’s AAA bond rating,which enables the County to borrow at the lowest interest rate for school construction, roads, and other capital expenditures, would be in jeopardy. A jurisdiction which cannot meet its financial obligations will not be looked upon favorably by the bond rating agencies.

The County Executive and all nine members of the County Council oppose Question B.

Question C.
Charter Amendment by Act of County Council
County Council – Increase to 11 Councilmembers

Amend the County Charter to expand the County Council to consist of 11, rather than the current 9, Councilmembers; increase from 5 to 7 the number of Council districts; and elect 7 Councilmembers by district and 4 Councilmembers at large.

Vote FOR the Charter Amendment.

This charter amendment would reduce the number of residents represented by each District Councilmember, thus increasing representation, while maintaining the ability of every Montgomery County voter to vote for five members of the Council: one District Councilmember and four At-Large Councilmembers.

At-large Councilmembers are more likely to consider the needs of the entire County while district Councilmembers are more likely to consider the interests of their District constituents. If the Council were to be comprised of only District seats, as proposed by Question D, Councilmembers may be less likely to compromise for the common good.

The population of Montgomery County has increased by 50% since the current system was adopted 30 years ago. This amendment would result in Council districts with a population of approximately 150,000 residents each, essentially the same as the districts in 1990. The cost of adding two Councilmembers is not significant given the County’s $5.8 billion operating budget. It is an investment in our democracy comparable to the cost of adding public campaign financing, early voting sites, voting by mail, and drop boxes for ballots.

The current system has already produced the most diverse Council in our history, with two Black and two Latino members and one LGBTQ member—three of whom are At-Large members. Adding two Councilmembers will increase the number of voices and help increase the diversity of views represented on the Council.

The County Executive supports Question C and the County Council voted 8-1 to place Question C on the ballot.

Question D.
Charter Amendment by Petition
County Council – Alter Council Composition to 9 Districts

Amend Sections 102 and 103 of the County Charter to divide the County into 9, rather than the current 5, Council districts; elect all Councilmembers by district, rather than the current 5 by district and 4 at large; and reduce from 5 to 1 the number of Councilmembers each voter can vote for.

Vote AGAINST the Charter Amendment.

This charter amendment would significantly reduce County residents’ representation on the Council. Under the current structure, a voter is represented by five Councilmembers who may be petitioned on legislation and for constituent services. If the amendment passes, every voter would be directly represented by only one District Councilmember. At-large Councilmembers are more likely to consider the needs of the entire County while district Councilmembers are more likely to consider the interests of their District constituents. At-Large seats are impossible to gerrymander whereas Districts can be gerrymandered.

The 2020 Charter Review Commission gave consideration to but did not support the nine districts proposal. The County Executive and all nine Councilmembers oppose Question D.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party 2020 Ballot Question Voter Recommendation Process

In accordance with its By-laws, The Montgomery County Democratic Party completed the following formal process for determining the Party’s recommendations to voters on the 2020 ballot questions:

  1. The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) appointed a Ballot Question Advisory Committee (BQAC; see below) on August 11, 2020.
  2. The MCDCC held a public hearing for registered Montgomery County Democrats at 7 pm, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, to solicit the opinions of Montgomery County Democrats with respect to each ballot question.
  3. The BQAC prepared a report articulating arguments FOR and AGAINST or why the Party should make NO RECOMMENDATION with respect to each ballot question.
  4. The BQAC distributed its report to the members of the Precinct Organization, which consists of the appointed Area Coordinators and the Chair and Vice Chair of each precinct.
  5. The Precinct Organization met on Wednesday, September 16, to vote on the Party’s position on each question.
  6. The MCDCC met immediately following the Precinct Organization meeting and affirmed the positions taken by the Precinct Organization on each question.

2020 Ballot Question Advisory Committee Members

The Montgomery County Democratic Party gratefully acknowledges the service of the 2020 Ballot Question Advisory Committee members:

Erwin Rose, Chair
Teresa Baker
Linda Burgin
Sharon Cranford
Harold N. Diamond
Scott Farnin
Sheldon Fishman
Eliot Greenwald
Korey Hartwich
Daniel Koroma
Jim Michaels
Lauri Rodich