On Monday evening, I attended the Howard County Council’s Legislative Session, where the Council voted 4-1 to override the County Executive’s veto of Council Bill 30-2017 (CB30). CB30 (also known as the “Small Donor Campaign Finance Bill”) establishes a voluntary Citizens’ Election Fund system for County Executive and Council candidates.
Councilman Jon Weinstein, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, voted in support of the override after reminding everyone that “In November there was a vote by the citizens of our county,” that approved the idea of a system. “I’m proud and pleased to vote ‘yes.’” he said. Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, the other co-sponsor, noted that “The people have spoken.” before voting to override the veto. All four Democrats on the Council voted in favor of the override, while Greg Fox, the sole Council Republican, voted in opposition, repeating his concern about the potential cost of the program.
The bill is now law, meaning that, starting with 2022 election, candidates for County Executive and Council will have the option of participating in the small donor program. Details can be found here, but the program places a cap on individual donation to a candidate at $250, with the county matching the first $150 in varying proportions. It also prohibits acceptance of contributions from corporations and PACs, and puts an upper limit on total campaign spending. To ensure that funding is available, Howard County must begin allocating monies to build the fund up enough to support the candidate match.
While I have concerns about some elements of the new law, and would encourage all to monitor the situation in Montgomery County (where their version of the system is being implemented for the 2018 elections), I fully support the Council majority’s decision both in passing CB30, as well as their override of the County Executive’s veto. As noted by Councilmembers Weinstein and Terrasa, a majority of Howard County voters expressed their support for the idea of having such a system in place. The people have, in fact, spoken, and their will should be respected.
My thought on CB30 is this: let’s give the law a chance to see if it results in bringing forth a more diverse collection of candidates in future elections. If it does, CB30 could by the type of forward-thinking measure that Howard County has become known for, a true model for our State and Nation. If, however, the goals of CB30 are not achieved, or if the financial impact to the County is too great, a future County Council can make the necessary changes.
As always, please feel free to contact me with your thoughts, questions or concerns. Thanks.