2021 | Government

County Council supports state bills on ‘ghost’ guns, contested elections

Eviction Diversion Program proposed in another bill

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County officials on Monday unanimously voiced their support for four state bills that tackle “ghost” guns, contested elections and evictions.

The state bill regarding “ghost” guns is similar to a bill Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz has proposed at the county level to help restrict children’s access to the guns and limit the ability to bring guns into certain spaces. LINK

“Ghost” guns are homemade from component parts and do not have serial numbers. They are also undetectable by metal detectors or X-ray machines, since they are often made from plastic or another material other than metal.

The state bill would limit the sale, transfer and possession of the firearms.

Montgomery County Council members met virtually on Monday to go over state bills they want to support in the current General Assembly session.

Another state bill the council supported addresses campaign finance law by creating rules regarding the use of private and public funds in a recount. It also would establish a threshold for requesting a recount and change the automatic prompt for mandatory public funding of recounts.

Among the actions the bill would take are:
● Prohibit a candidate from petitioning for a recount if the margin of difference between the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for the office is greater than 5% of the total votes cast for those candidates
● Prohibit a registered voter from filing a petition for a recount of a ballot question if the margin of difference between the number of voters cast for and against the question is greater than 5%
● Require public funding of a recount if the margin of difference in the number of votes received by the apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is .25% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates. The current standard is .1% or less.
● Prohibit a person from accepting a donation or making a disbursement relating to a contested election unless the person first establishes a contested election committee and discloses the donations and disbursements to the State Board of Elections
● Establish comprehensive rules governing bank accounts, disbursements, donation limits, acceptance of loans, disposal of surplus funds, recordkeeping, reporting, and penalties for failure to comply with the requirements of the bill

The council agreed to support two bills that deal with evictions. One would create an Eviction Diversion Program and alter actions for repossession, while another would make changes to surcharges and lease provisions regarding evictions.

The program would be formed to reduce the repossession judgments of residential property to allow for more continuity of housing for residents. The program would be established in each county that processed 10,000 or more residential property repossession claims in fiscal year 2019.

According to a staff report, there were up to 50,000 landlord-tenant cases in Montgomery County filed annually in fiscal years 2010 to 2017. Most of which were because of a failure to pay rent.

The state legislation would require landlords to give tenants written notice of delinquency and legal rights that say it is not an eviction notice. As part of the notice, landlords must request that tenants apply for financial aid or negotiate a payment plan.

Landlords would have to demonstrate that they have made “good-faith” efforts to help the tenant, including facilitating the application for financial aid or negotiating a payment plan or an alternative dispute resolution.

Landlords could file for eviction if the tenant does not respond to the notice within 10 days.

Another state bill aims to increase protections for tenants by raising the surcharge for filing breach of lease actions, tenant holding over, or summary ejectment — failure to pay rent — against a tenant to at least $120. The current surcharges for those actions range from $15 to $46.

The surcharge could not be passed onto a tenant by a District Court or a lease.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.