What concerns Montgomery Co. Council ahead of Md. General Assembly session in January?

Inflation affects more than just grocery prices; lawmakers in Montgomery County said they are keeping the increased costs of projects in mind when supporting bills for passage in Annapolis when the Maryland General Assembly returns in January.

When asked about some of the legislative priorities that Montgomery County Council members have, Council President Gabe Albornoz said concerns about adequate funding for things, such as school construction, will factor into requests.

“Construction costs are coming in much higher than we anticipated,” Albornoz said.

Albornoz also said pedestrian and bike safety will be priorities, as well, “because as we know, there have been too many tragedies here locally in Montgomery County and across the region,” referring to fatalities in the past year.

Another piece of legislation would direct money from fines collected when drivers pass stopped school buses to the state, which would then put the funds toward addressing safety concerns at the location where the traffic violation occurred.

During a Monday afternoon session, in which the county council members were briefed on proposed legislation, the topic of who should be calling the shots on land use decisions in Montgomery County came up.

One bill would create a task force to study shifting some of the authority on land use decisions away from the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission to the county.

That proposal brought a strong objection from Council member Andrew Friedson, whose district includes Bethesda and Potomac.

“That is not an evenhanded, thoughtful public policy discussion over governance. That’s a power grab,” he said, suggesting the council’s authority would be diminished under the proposed legislation.

Kathleen Boucher with the county’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations told Friedson that the legislation does not do what he indicated, but “it creates a task force to study the feasibility and the issues surrounding that kind of change.”

Meanwhile, Council Vice President Evan Glass referenced the crisis that resulted in the resignation of all five members of the county’s planning board last month.

The board was mired in controversy after then Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson was reprimanded for conduct involving keeping alcohol in his office. Two other staff members also faced discipline before the county council declared it had “lost confidence” in the board and accepted the resignations of all five members.

“This legislation should be used as an opportunity for us to talk about what we need to do moving forward to ensure that what happened this year doesn’t happen again,” Glass said.

Five new acting Planning Board members were appointed by the council on Oct. 27.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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