As the County Council will soon grow from nine to 11 members next month, its returning and incoming members will make changes that will fundamentally change the power and legislative structure of the body: how committees will be organized.
A restructuring of the committees could mean legislation is reviewed more thoroughly, but it could also potentially make it more difficult for bills to make it through the full council.
Currently, there are six council committees that workshop legislation before bills reach the full council for a vote:
- Education and Culture
- Government Operations and Fiscal Policy
- Health and Human Services
- Planning, Housing and Economic Development
- Public Safety
- Transportation and Environment
Council Vice President Evan Glass (D-At-large) is likely to be Council President once the new council is seated, as council tradition dictates that the council vice president ascends to president the following year. Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large) is the current council president.
Glass said that he and other returning and incoming council members are still discussing how committees might be tweaked or changed, and which ones might grow in membership. The six current committees all have three members each, with a chair leading each body’s work.
Specifics won’t be finalized until the new council is sworn in, Glass said. But he added that council members are considering whether to grow the membership of current committees — “subcommittees,” Glass called them — or to add more committees.
In one example of the latter, an Economic Development committee could be a separate committee, Glass said. It currently is under the current Planning, Housing and Economic Development committee.
If the new council decides to either increase the number of committees or size of existing committees, any potential restraints placed upon council members must be considered, Glass added. That could include less time to consider multiple bills or policies, he said.
Along with the change in overall structure, committee leadership will significantly change in the coming weeks. Council Members Craig Rice (D-District 2), Nancy Navarro (D-District 4), Hans Riemer (D-At-large), and Tom Hucker (D-District 5) are all leaving office.
Rice is chair of Education and Culture, Navarro is chair of Government Operations and Fiscal Policy, Riemer is chair of Planning, Housing and Economic Development and Hucker is chair of Transportation and Environment.
“With more members serving on the council, there will be a greater need for conversation and support, legislation will have to receive six votes instead of the current five, which will require more dialogue within the body and with community members,” Glass said. “How the changes will affect policymaking will be determined, but there will certainly need to be more support and buy-in for policies.”
The new council is scheduled to be sworn in with County Executive Marc Elrich at 11 a.m. on Dec. 5 at a public ceremony at The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.