Howard County Council Listens to Voters, Establishes Citizens’ Election Fund Program

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After public authorization and Council vote, Howard County becomes 2nd county in Maryland to enact reform

 

Ellicott City, MD  – The Howard County Council voted 4-1 on Monday night to pass Council Bill 30 (CB30) to establish the Howard County Citizens’ Election Fund. Howard County is the 2nd county in the state, after Montgomery, to establish a voluntary program for small donor financing of County Council and County Executive races.

 

The move comes after voters approved a Charter Amendment, Question A, on November’s ballot. The Charter Amendment authorized the Fund and directed the County Council to finalize the program. County Executive Allan Kittleman campaigned against Question A in the fall. He has not said if he intends to veto the bill, but with 4 votes, the Council has the supermajority needed to override a veto.

 

The new small donor system will be in effect for the 2022 election cycle. Candidates for County Council and County Executive who turn down contributions over $250 and all contributions from corporations, unions and PACs, can receive limited matching funds for small contributions from Howard County residents. The matching funds are tiered to incentivize the smallest donations most. Candidates must qualify to participate by reaching thresholds for small donations raised to show viability and support from the community.
An independent commission will make funding recommendations to the County Executive and County Council for annual funding appropriations. In Montgomery County, where their program is in effect, 17 candidates have already filed intent to use the program for the 2018 election.
Congressman John Sarbanes, who represents much of Howard County, has introduced the Government by the People Act to establish a similar program for congressional races.
Statement from the Fair Elections Howard Coalition:
“With the public and Council passing Question A and CB30, respectively, Howard County has struck a double punch against big-money politics. We applaud Councilmembers Jon Weinstein and Jen Terrasa for their leadership in sponsoring CB30 and thank Councilmembers Jon Weinstein, Jen Terrasa, Calvin Ball, and Mary Kay Sigaty for voting for the bill. The program will elevate the voices of every-day voters in a political process too often dominated by large and corporate contributors and expand opportunities to run for office.
Fair elections programs, like the Citizens Election Fund, strengthen our democracy by keeping corporations, developers, unions and PACs out of elections and encouraging more participation from the public. We are thrilled to see Howard County join Montgomery County and other communities across the country in taking steps to limit the influence of big money politics.  
The new program will enable candidates from all backgrounds to run for office based on the strength of their ideas and support from the community, not access to wealth or donors. It will help build a local government that is more representative of the community and ensure elected officials are accountable to the people of Howard County, not special interests.
The citizens of Howard County and Montgomery County are joining communities across the country working to fix America’s broken campaign finance system. We’re so proud to be part of this movement and look forward to winning reforms in more communities, statewide, and ultimately at the federal level – let’s keep fighting, and winning, for our democracy.”
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The Fair Election Howard campaign has been endorsed by over 30 local and national organizations and small businesses, including 90+ Cycling, Advertising Media Plus, African American Community Roundtable of Howard County, African Gallery Imports, Artists & Framers, Bearing Gifts, Caplan’s Auction Company, Citizens’ Climate Lobby of Howard County, Clean Water Action, Clipper’s Canine Cafe, Common Cause Maryland, Communication Workers of America (CWA), Democracy Initiative, Every Voice, Finish Werks, Food and Water Action Fund, Free Speech for People, Greenpeace, Howard County Citizens Association, League of Women Voters of Howard County, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Maryland Music Academy, Maryland PIRG, Murillos’ Jewelry, NAACP, Progressive Maryland, Represent US, Sierra Club, Sinex Design Architects, Soft Stuff Ice Cream, Terrapin Adventures, The People’s Voice, TLV Tree Farm, Twenty Cycling Company, and U.S. PIRG.