Frequently Asked Questions

Basic Facts

Council History

About Councilmembers

How the Council Works

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. View the Rules of Procedures.

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.

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.
Find out more about Ex Parte Communication.

Council Legislation

Bills, sponsored by one or more Councilmembers, are first introduced during a Legislative Session, which typically occurs 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. A bill goes into effect 91 days after it becomes law, unless a different date is specified or unless it is expedited legislation, which requires 6 votes. Read more on how a bill becomes a law.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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. Read the County Code. Questions about the County Code should be addressed to the County Attorney’s office at 240-777-6700.

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.

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

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

County information

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.

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)
  • DPS – Department of Permitting Services
  • DPWT – Department of Public Works & Transportation
  • EC – Education & Culture 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 & Environment Committee
  • WSSC—Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission
  • ZTA— Zoning Text Amendment