ROCKVILLE—The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed three bills aimed at pay equity, clean water and energy efficiency.
During a regular session on May 7, the full council approved legislation by Councilmembers Evan Glass and Tom Hucker.
The council session was interrupted briefly by a woman who said she was unhappy with Councilmember Will Jawando’s Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency (LETT) Act.
The three bills by Glass and Hucker were introduced earlier this year.
Hucker introduced his legislation on March 5; The bill is meant to expand the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program, or C-PACE, which passed the council in 2015.
C-PACE allows jurisdictions to link private capital to commercial property owners for green improvement projects and to college repayment on an annual or semiannual schedule. It also allows for a much-longer repayment horizon.
Hucker’s office explained that if the owner of a building does not pay the surcharge, then the normal procedure of nonpayment of property taxes kicks in and could lead to foreclosure. But that means that the program cost the county almost nothing.
The program makes adding green technologies — like solar panels, for instance — to commercial buildings more affordable. Green-energy technologies like low-use water faucets and solar panels help bring down utility costs but can be very expensive up front. Making green technologies more affordable through C-PACE programs means the likelihood increases of them being installed.
“This bill will help us meet our ambitious, but crucial, goal of zero carbon emissions by 2035,” Hucker said.
Before Hucker’s legislation, C-PACE applied only to existing buildings in need of retrofitting. Hucker’s bill, Environmental Sustainability-Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program-New Construction, expands C-PACE to new buildings.
“I know of at least one new building project in the county that’s stalled because our current C-PACE doesn’t apply to new construction,” he said. “That means that extending C-PACE to new buildings is good for not only our environment, but for our economic development, too.”
According to Hucker’s office, there are 12 C-PACE projects currently in the county, totaling about $8.5 million.
Glass’ legislation focuses on closing the pay gap, beginning with Montgomery County employees.
He introduced his Pay Equity Act as his first piece of legislation, on March 5. Under this new law, Montgomery County will no longer request a salary history when determining an employee’s pay.
“Being raised by a single mom who worked multiple jobs, this legislation is very personal to me,” he said. “By eliminating the county’s use of pay history to set future salaries, employees will get paid according to their expected responsibilities and the experience they bring to the table, rather than their ability to successfully negotiate based on past wages.”
Glass’ office explained that the gender pay gap begins early for female job applicants. This is especially true for women of color, who are less likely to be able to negotiate a higher salary and tend to carry lower earnings from one job to another.
According to his office, in the state of Maryland, for every dollar a man makes, a black woman earns 69 cents, and an Hispanic or Latina woman earns 47 cents.
“A fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay, regardless of race or gender identity,” Glass said.
Once the legislation is signed into law by the county executive, it will go into effect 90 days thereafter.
Hucker’s second piece of legislation that passed the full council was introduced on Feb. 5. It will reduce the levels of lead in Montgomery County Public Schools,’ (MCPS) drinking water.
According to Hucker’s office, MCPS currently follows the state guideline of 20 parts per billion (ppb). Hucker’s legislation lowers that to five ppb.
“Scientists agree there is no safe level of lead – a neurotoxin that permanently damages our children’s developing brains and bodies,” he said. “Now that we have recent testing results from MCPS, we must take action. We owe it to our children to do all we can to protect their health.”
According to research cited by Hucker’s office, lead accumulates in teeth and bones. It can also cause behavioral and learning problems, along with lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia.
Health groups like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics all state that there is no safe level of lead exposure.
“Keeping our kids healthy must be one of our schools’ top priorities, especially when it involves their brains and ability to learn,” Hucker said. “Anything less is simply unacceptable.”