2020 General Election: A Breakdown of MoCo’s Ballot Measures

2020 General Election: A Breakdown of MoCo’s Ballot Measures

The Montgomery County Board of Elections has stated that official mail-in ballots started arriving in voters’ mailboxes this past weekend – as with other elections in the past, this cycle’s ballot consists of several ballot measures that voters can weigh in on this election.

This election, there are six measures that MoCo voters will be able to voice their opinion on; two of them are statewide in Maryland, and four of them are local and exclusive to Montgomery County.

1) 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.

This ballot measure gives the MD General Assembly (the main state legislative body) the ability to alter the state’s budgetary process, provided any additions or removal of items do not exceed the original total budget amount that is proposed by the Governor – this would kick in in 2024. Currently, the Governor of Maryland holds much of the budgetary control, as the General Assembly is not permitted to add appropriations to the Governor’s proposed budget.
Voters will be able to vote “For” Question 1 or “Against” it.

2) 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?

This ballot question is basically asking if voters support the authorization of sports and event betting in Maryland – revenue raised would go towards supporting public education in MD. Unlike D.C. and Virginia, Maryland currently does not allow sports and event betting operations within its borders. In 2019, MD lawmakers proposed a bill that would legalize these operations, but it ultimately did not pass. Voters may either vote “Yes” or “No” on Question 2.

A) 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. This amendment would replace the current property tax limit, which requires an affirmative vote of all current Councilmembers to levy a tax on real property that would produce total revenue that exceeds the total revenue produced by the tax on real property in the preceding fiscal year plus any increase in the Consumer Price Index. The current property tax limit exempts real property tax revenue derived from: (1) newly constructed property; (2) newly rezoned property; (3) certain property assessed differently under State law; (4) property that has undergone a change in use; and (5) property in a development tax district to provide funding for capital improvements.

The first local ballot measure, Question A is one of two proposed & competing amendments to the County Charter, which is Montgomery County’s constitutional framework for the county government.  The first two local questions on the ballot deal with property tax. Property tax revenue is primarily used to fund local public schools. Question A would alter how property tax rate and revenue limits are established. Currently, property tax revenue is limited to an inflation-linked cap on the revenue – however, this amendment would change this cap from a property tax revenue-linked cap to a property tax rate-linked one; this cap would be calculated according to inflation. Voters may vote “For” or “Against” Question A.

B) 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.

Question B is linked directly to Question A – this Charter amendment would keep the property tax cap calculation method the same, but it would also stop the County Council from being able to raise the cap of total revenue from property tax. Currently, the County Council may increase the property tax revenue cap with a unanimous affirmative vote of the Council. Voters may vote “For” or “Against” this Charter amendment.

C) 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.

Question C proposes an increase of the number of members on the County Council from nine to 11, in addition to an increase of the number of Council districts from five to seven. Currently, the County Council is made up of five district-specific members (one for each district) and four at-large members. At-large Council members represent the entire county, as opposed to only a specific district. This means that Montgomery County residents are represented by five councilmembers: one district-specific member and four at-large members. Question C would increase the number of districts and district representatives while keeping the number of at-large councilmembers at four.

D) 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.

Question D is the final local ballot measure; it also deals specifically with the makeup of the County Council. This ballot measure would amend the Charter to divide the County into nine different districts, as opposed to the current five districts. Under this amendment, the at-large council seats would be no more, and voters would select one council member based on their home district. The number of members on the Council would still be nine, but voters would only vote for one councilmember to represent their district.

MD’s General Election is on November 3rd – voters may also request mail-in ballots if requests are received by Tuesday, October 20th. For more information on the general election, please visit MD’s Board of Elections website at https://elections.maryland.gov/voting/index.html or Montgomery County’s at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/elections/index2.html.

Featured image courtesy of the Montgomery County Board of Elections website.

By Daniel Garay

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