ROCKVILLE — County Executive Marc Elrich signed three bills introduced by the county councilmembers.
On May 16, Elrich held a signing ceremony for the LETT Act, Pay Equity Act and Limitations on Lead in Drinking Water.
The LETT Act, also called the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act, was introduced by Councilmember Will Jawando as his first piece of legislation on January 15.
The LETT Act will require an independent investigation when the incident of an officer-involved death of a resident occurs. The act also requires a report of the investigation to be sent to the county’s state’s attorney and that report would need to be made public if no criminal charges are filed.
“This is my first piece of legislation; it addresses criminal justice reform, and I’ve been told that it’s the first piece of criminal justice reform legislation in over half a century,” Jawando said.
He explained that in the beginning of his work on the bill he received some pushback from people, saying that Montgomery County already handles incidents like these the right way.
“Let me make it clear: we have great men and women who protect and serve us every day,” Jawando said. “The breakdown of our justice system is a national problem, it’s a systemic problem, it’s a societal failure that reaches beyond any individual.”
He explained that no jurisdiction is immune to racial bias or the social injustice that disproportionately has an impact on minority populations.
“We have seen yet another incident this time very close to my home in White Oak, where several young African-American men were stopped, frisked and detained and issued trespass orders,” he said. “The incident has caused even more of an erosion of trust between the community that they are charged with protecting. “
Elrich noted that the police need to build trust and confidence in a community.
“I suggest creating a division within the state police that looks at all police-involved shootings around the state,” Elrich said.
He also announced a community forum on June 6, centered around what residents want to see in a new police chief. The event will be recorded, and will be available for all the candidates to watch.
Councilmember Evan Glass also proposed a piece of legislation that was signed by the county executive. His Pay Equity Act, which was introduced on March 5, will prohibit the county government from requesting pay stubs or a salary history to determine a perspective employee’s salary.
Glass explained that some of the inspiration for this bill came from hiring his own team when he was elected to the council.
“(I quickly recognized) that this is the wrong thing to do in the year 2019, because when we rely on pay history to set future pay we are perpetuating the income gap that exists, and we know here in the state of Maryland women already make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes,” Glass said. “Those numbers are worse for women of color: African American women make 69 cents for every dollar, and Latinas make 47 cents for every dollar a man makes.”
Patricia Maclay from the Montgomery County Commission for Women spoke at the ceremony with leaders from other women’s organizations.
“It is incredible that we are taking the lead at getting women’s equality,” Maclay said. “Having pay inequity is very negative for a woman… when you are not valued as a person, it’s very difficult to value yourself.”
Glass explained before the signing that a report will be compiled one year after the bill takes effect, which will note the landscape of pay equity and pay issues in the area. The following year a report will be issued that looks into how this legislation has had an impact on Montgomery County.
Finally, Councilmember Tom Hucker proposed legislation that was signed by the Elrich. His act, Bill 2-19, will restrict the allowable limit of lead in school drinking water.
Hucker introduced his legislation on Feb. 5. The bill lowers the acceptable level of lead from the state standard of 20 parts per billion (ppb) to five in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS).
“Children have a unique window of vulnerability, and we need to target our resources wiElle Elsely. Children’s cells are growing faster and subdividing more rapidly,” Elrich said. “So, the impact on the senses and on the mind is far greater for children than it is for adults.”
Hucker explained that when he proposed his idea to MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith he was very excited and eager to support the bill.
“He didn’t hesitate, he didn’t blink; he said right away he would be there to support it and he’s kept his word,” Hucker said.
He explained that lead can have a myriad of effects on young children, including lower IQ, hyperactivity and slow growth, among others.
Hucker said that there is more work to be done on this issue, such as lowering the lead levels in county recreation centers and preschools.
The three bills will go into effect in the next three months, according to the county council.