Frequently Asked Questions
Please find answers to some of the frequently asked questions by clicking the questions below.
- Basic Facts
- Council History
- About Councilmembers
- How the Council Works
- Council Legislation
- The Council & the County Charter
- County information
- Glossary of Common Initials
How do I contact the Council?
Mail: 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850
How do I get to the County Council Office Building? What are parking arrangements for visitors?
The County Council Building is located at 100 Maryland Avenue, between Jefferson Street and Fleet Street in downtown Rockville. Paid parking is available in the Council garage during business hours and is free of charge after-hours. The visitors’ parking entrance is located on Monroe Street between Jefferson and Fleet Streets.
Is the County Council Building wheelchair-accessible?
Yes, wheelchair access is available to the first-floor level through a door just off the parking garage. Turn off Monroe Street as if to enter the public parking area of the garage. Instead of turning into the garage, go straight, past the gas pumps to the end of the road. There is the wheelchair-accessible entrance.
How often does the Council meet?
The Council generally meets every Tuesday in full session. Council committees generally meet on Mondays and Thursdays. Public hearings are often scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Does the Council hold meetings in the community?
Councilmembers are constantly out in the community at meetings. The whole Council holds quarterly “Town Hall” meetings at various locations around the County where residents can bring their concerns and ask questions.
Are Council meetings open to the public?
Yes. The only exceptions are when the Council votes to go into closed session to discuss issues such as personnel questions or litigation – exceptions allowed under the state Open Meetings Act.
How can I testify at public hearings on a particular bill?
Call 240-777-7803 to sign up to testify. Click on Public Hearing Procedures to find out more about Council public hearings.
If I have an issue with a County government department or service, can the Council help me get it resolved?
Yes, you can contact your District Councilmember and/or any of the at-large Councilmembers who represent the entire County. Call 240-777-7900.
How do I find out what Council district I live in?
Are there Councilmembers or Council staff who can speak with County residents in languages other than English?
Yes, languages spoken by Councilmembers and staff include: Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, German, and Korean. Additional language resources are available through services contracted for by the County.
How do I find out what’s on the Council agenda?
Posted on the Council website by Friday afternoon before a Tuesday session and 2 days before committee meetings. You can sign up to receive the agenda automatically by contacting Legislative Information Services at 240-777-7910
I want to listen to a Council session but can’t attend. What are my options?
Click on Alternate Ways of Attending a Council Session to find out how you can follow the Council – even if you can’t be there in person.
Are Council sessions televised?
How can I find out how a Councilmember voted on a particular issue?
Click on Bills since 2000 to find out how Councilmembers voted on significant issues from 2000 to the present. For votes before that, visit Legislative Information Services or the Council Clerk’s office at 100 Maryland Avenue, 5th Floor, in Rockville.
How do I get on a mailing list or email list to receive information on present and future Council goings-on?
Subscribe to the Council online newsletter or call Legislative Information Services at 240-777-7910.
How can I get copies of Council bills, minutes, resolutions, ZTAs, reports, etc.?
Check out the Council website for records dating back to 2001. The Legislative Information Services office has records on microfilm dating back to 1844, as well as hard copies of materials over the past half dozen years.
How is the Council staff structured?
Councilmembers each have their own personal staff, headed by a Confidential Aide or Chief of Staff. They are located on the 6th floor of the Council Office Building. Central Council staff include analysts who are experts in specific issue areas, their support staff, and communications and Legislative Information Services staff. Most of these staff are located on the 5th floor.
When was the County Council established?
In 1948, County voters approved a ballot measure that made Montgomery the first county in Maryland to adopt a home rule charter, changing a county commissioner system that kept most of the power in Annapolis. The new charter established a Council-Manager form of government and, in 1949, six men and one woman were elected to the first County Council. In 1968, voters amended the charter to create the post of County Executive. The first County Executive was elected in 1970. In November 1986, voters amended the charter to increase the number of Council seats from 7 to 9, starting in 1990, with four members elected by all the County’s voters and five elected by geographic district.
Who are the current Councilmembers and where do they live?
Phil Andrews (Gaithersburg), Roger Berliner (Potomac), Marc Elrich (Takoma Park), Cherri Branson (Silver Spring), Nancy Floreen (Garrett Park), George Leventhal (Takoma Park), Nancy Navarro (Calverton), Craig Rice (Germantown), Hans Riemer (Silver Spring).
Who is the Council President – and what are his or her powers?
The Council President and Vice President are elected by their fellow Councilmembers for a one-year term at the beginning of December. The Council President usually serves only one term. The Council Vice President usually is elected to succeed the President. The Council President runs the Council during his term, setting the agenda, working with his or her colleagues to set policy and approve a budget, and acting as leader of the Council both within the County government and in public.
How are Councilmembers elected?
Councilmembers are elected every 4 years and take office the first Monday in December. They must be qualified voters in Montgomery County. Five members are elected by geographic district and must reside in the district they represent. Four members are at-large and are elected by all County voters.
Can they be recalled after they are elected?
Councilmembers can be removed from office by an affirmative vote of no less than six Councilmembers after a public hearing on a finding that the Councilmember is unable by reason of physical or mental disability to perform the duties of the office. A Councilmember may also be suspended or removed from office if convicted of certain crimes, as provided in the state Constitution. Maryland law does not allow popular recall by petition.
Who draws the district lines for Councilmembers?
The boundaries of Council districts, under Section 104 of the Charter, must be reviewed every tenth year; the most recent review was in 2012. The Council appoints a redistricting commission composed of 4 members from each political party that polled at least 15 percent of the vote in the preceding regular Council election from a list of 8 persons submitted by each party’s central committee. Each list must include a person from each Council district. The Council appoints an additional member. The Commission presents a redistricting proposal to the Council and public hearings are held. Unless the Council passes a different plan, the plan submitted by the Commission becomes law. Click on Council Districts Map to see the most recent Council District map.
How much are Councilmembers paid? Who decides how much they are paid? Is serving on the Council a full-time job? Can Councilmembers have outside jobs?
The County Charter does not specify that Councilmembers are full-time. Some Councilmembers have other part-time employment. The annual salary of the Council President, as of December 4, 2012, is $114,425. Other Councilmembers earn $104,022. The salaries are set by a law which takes effect after the next Council election.
How the Council Works
What are the powers of the County Council?
The Council approves all laws and regulations and sets policy for the County. The Council has the final say over the capital and operating budgets – and must approve every dime. The Council has exclusive power over land use issues in the County. The Council exercises oversight over County departments and their programs. The Council also serves as the Board of Health for the County.
What is the Council’s process in approving the County budget?
On January 15 of even-numbered years, the County Executive submits a recommended capital budget and six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) to the Council. In the odd-numbered year, the County Executive submits a capital budget and CIP amendments.
On March 15 of every year, the County Executive submits a proposed operating budget.
Public hearings are held on both the capital and operating budgets, then the budgets go to the Council committees for work sessions, then the Committee recommendations go to Council work sessions. The Council gives final approval to the budgets before Memorial Day. Each new fiscal year begins July 1.
What’s the difference between a supplemental appropriation and a special appropriation?
A supplemental appropriation is recommended by the County Executive as an addition to the existing budget. It generally requires 6 votes to pass the Council if approved before January 1 of any fiscal year and 5 votes after that date. A special appropriation is an addition to the budget introduced by a Councilmember, requires 6 votes for passage, and is not subject to a veto by the County Executive.
How is the County Council different from the County Executive?
The County Executive heads up the executive branch and is responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the County government. The legislative branch is governed by the nine-member Council, which sets County policy, approves the budget, and has exclusive power over land-use decisions.
What are the Council committees – and who’s on what?
- Education (ED) - Craig Rice, Chair; Phil Andrews; Cherri Branson
- Government Operations & Fiscal Policy (GOFP) - Nancy Navarro, Chair; Hans Riemer; Cherri Branson
- Health & Human Services (HHS) - George Leventhal, Chair; Nancy Navarro; Craig Rice
- Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) - Nancy Floreen, Chair; Marc Elrich; George Leventhal
- Public Safety (PS) - Phil Andrews, Chair; Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Lead for Youth Programs
- Transportion, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) - Roger Berliner, Chair; Nancy Floreen; Hans Riemer
I see “District Council” as part of the Council agenda – what’s that?
The “District Council” portion of the Council meeting is where the Council deals with land use issues. Under state law (the Regional District Act) the Council sits as the District Council for planning and zoning.
What is the Office of Legislative Oversight?
The Office of Legislative Oversight is the Council’s investigative and analytical arm. They issue reports, at the request of the Council, on a range of issues before the Council and on the effectiveness of County programs and services.
What are the Council Rules of Procedure?
The Council adopts and amends rules to govern the conduct of its meetings. These rules cover such issues as closing meetings, roll call votes, process for appointments and confirmations, public hearings and hearing notice, agenda preparation and approval, introduction and consideration of legislation and resolutions, and procedure during Council debate. A copy of the current Rules is available from the Council office.
What is the difference between a bill and a zoning text amendment?
A zoning text amendment (ZTA) would change the Zoning Ordinance, found in Chapter 59 of the County Code. Similarly, a subdivision regulation amendment (SRA) would change the Subdivision Regulations, found in Chapter 50 of the County Code. The Council’s authority to pass ZTA’s and SRA’s comes from the Regional District Act, which is the state law that set up the land use regulation process in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. This is different from the Council’s home rule authority as a Charter County to pass other legislation. Bills and ZTA’s and SRA’s follow similar legislative procedures, but more notice is required for the ZTA’s and SRA’s.
What are “ex parte communications” – and why can’t a Councilmember see them?
County law requires decisions in certain proceedings to be based “on the record”. Councilmembers must not receive “ex parte” communications, meaning information that is not part of the hearing record of that particular case. This rule applies to zoning cases (local map amendments), sectional map amendments and most road abandonments. If ex parte evidence becomes the basis of a Council decision, that decision could be invalidated in court. More detailed information is available in the County Council’s brochure, “The Rules About Ex Parte Communication.”
How does a bill become a law?
Bills are first introduced by one or more Councilmembers during a regular Tuesday session. A public hearing is held on the measure and then it goes to the appropriate Council committee. That committee then reports the bill out to the Council with a recommendation. The Council discusses and votes on the bill, which requires 5 votes to be enacted. It would go into effect 91 days after it is signed into law, unless a different date is specified or unless it is expedited legislation, which requires 6 votes.
What is expedited legislation?
Legislation containing a section declaring that it is necessary for the immediate protection of the public safety, health, or interest can take effect immediately when it is signed into law. Expedited legislation requires 6 votes for passage.
Can the County Executive veto legislation?
Legislation passed by the Council must be delivered to the County Executive within 3 days after the Council passes it. The Executive has 10 days to either approve or disapprove the legislation. If the Executive disapproves it, he or she must return it to the Council within 3 days of disapproval with the reasons in writing. The Council then has 60 days to override the veto, which requires six votes. Legislation neither approved nor disapproved by the County Executive becomes law on the 14th day after Council enactment. The County Executive cannot veto zoning text amendments, Master Plans, or most resolutions enacted by the Council. The Executive can disapprove or reduce any item in the budgets approved by the Council, but the Council can reapprove those items with 6 votes, except for the budgets of the County Council, Fire & Rescue Commission, Housing Opportunities Commission, the Fire Departments and Rescue Squads, and Montgomery College – which require only 5 votes to reapprove.
What is the difference between a bill and a resolution?
A bill would amend the County Code or otherwise create a binding law. A resolution expresses the intent of the County Council but generally does not have the force and effect of law. Some resolutions, such as appropriation and tax resolutions and resolutions making or confirming an appointment, have binding effect, but most do not. The approval of the County Executive is not required for most resolutions, except where the law that authorizes the resolution specifically requires the Executive to approve it.
The Council & the County Charter
What’s the County Charter?
The Charter is the Constitution of the County. It spells out basic rules governing the legislative and executive branches, as well as finances and a number of other areas. Changes to the Charter must be approved by the voters. Charter amendments can be placed on the ballot either by vote of the Council or by petition with 10,000 voters’ signatures. See County Charter
Does the County Charter limit property taxes?
Yes. Under Section 305 of the Charter, the County cannot take in an amount of real property tax revenue for a given year that exceeds the rate of inflation plus the value of new construction unless 9 Councilmembers vote to exceed the Charter limit.
What is the County Code? Where can I read it? Is it on-line? If I have a question about some part of the County Code, who can I call?
The County Code is a compilation of laws and regulations passed by the County Council and Maryland state laws that specifically apply to Montgomery County. Click here to read the County Code on-line. Questions about the County Code should be addressed to the County Attorney’s office at 240-777-6700.
Does the County Charter limit property taxes?
Yes. Under Section 305 of the Charter, approved by the voters in 1990, the County cannot take in an amount of real property tax revenue for a given year that exceeds the rate of inflation plus the value of new construction unless 9 Councilmembers vote to exceed the Charter limit.
The Council & Other Agencies…
Does the Planning Board work for the Council? Who appoints the Planning Board? What does the Council look for in Planning Board members? What voice does the public have in those appointments?
The Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission is a bi-county agency serving Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Each county has its own Planning Board. The 5 members of the Montgomery Planning Board are appointed by the County Council with the Executive’s approval for terms of 4 years and can serve no more than 2 full terms. The chairman is a full-time position while the other 4 members are part-time. No more than 3 of the 5 can be members of the same political party. The Planning Board answers to the County Council and makes recommendations to the Council on transportation, development, zoning and land use, parks and recreation, and other issues. Montgomery Planning Board
What is the relationship between the Council and the Board of Education?
The Council approves the capital and operating budgets for the Montgomery County Public Schools. The school system is governed by its own elected Board of Education, which appoints a Superintendent and establishes school system policies. Board of Education
How can I learn more about the history of Montgomery County and Montgomery County government?
Click here for more information.
Where do I learn how to apply to serve on a County Board or Commission?
Check out news releases about board and commission openings on the County Executive or Council websites or call the County Executive’s office at 240-777-2500.
What are some useful telephone numbers for County government and related agencies?
Is County government the same thing as local government? What are the cities in Montgomery County? Is Bethesda a city? Silver Spring? Chevy Chase?
About one-third of Montgomery County residents live in 19 municipalities. Those municipalities are: Barnesville, Brookeville, Town of Chevy Chase, Chevy Chase View, Chevy Chase Village, Village of Chevy Chase Section 3, Village of Chevy Chase Section 5, Gaithersburg, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, Kensington, Laytonsville, Martin’s Additions, North Chevy Chase, Poolesville, Rockville, Somerset, Takoma Park, and Washington Grove. The rest of the County is not in a municipality.
Glossary of Common Initials
- CIP – Capital Improvements Program
- COG – Council of Governments (Washington area)
- DED – Department of Economic Development
- DPS – Department of Permitting Services
- DPWT – Department of Public Works & Transportation
- ED – Education Committee
- HHS – Health & Human Services Committee
- GOFP — Government Operations & Fiscal Policy Committee
- M-NCPPC – Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission
- OLO – Office of Legislative Oversight
- PHED – Planning, Housing & Economic Development Committee
- SRA—Subdivision Regulation Amendment
- T&E – Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee
- WSSC—Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission
- ZTA— Zoning Text Amendment