The Howard County Council held a special legislative session on Wednesday night to introduce an emergency bill to make a technical correction in a section of the Citizens’ Election Fund law.
Introduced by all five council members and sponsored by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, CB11-2022, if approved on Feb. 7, will remove the original deadline of Aug. 3, 2021, for contested elections and immediately release matching funds to those candidates participating in the Citizens Election Fund.
The emergency bill is based on a bill Council member David Yungmann, a Republican who is running for re-election for his District 5 seat, introduced last month that included the same technical revision and was supported by many residents at a public hearing. Rather than vote to make that bill emergency legislation and risk failure, the council decided to create new emergency legislation to keep things “cleaner,” according to Yungmann.
“After overwhelming public testimony, I felt compelled to reintroduce my bill as emergency legislation to address the issue that has already taken too long to address. I am pleased that everyone ultimately agreed to support this as a group,” said Yungmann, in a statement.
To be eligible for up to $85,000 in matching county funds from the CEF, council candidates must collect at least $10,000 from at least 125 donations. Funds are only available to candidates in contested races, meaning at least two candidates must appear on the ballot. The original rules state that the determination date for when a race is “contested” is six months before the Feb. 22 state filing deadline. In other words, the deadline was Aug. 3, 2021.
The issue came to forefront when Council member Deb Jung, a Democrat who is running for re-election to her District 4 seat, was denied matching funds earlier this month after her race became contested in December, which was past the due date.
“I want to thank all of my fellow council members for co-sponsoring this bill. This is what should have happened in the first place,” Jung said, after the bill’s introduction. “I particularly want to thank Council member David Yungmann for his efforts in getting us to this point. I am a staunch Democrat and he is a staunch Republican. We disagree on many policy issues. But Council member Yungmann is a man of goodwill and his efforts are truly appreciated.”
A public hearing for the new bill is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 6 p.m., before the council’s regularly scheduled legislative session. The council will vote on the bill that evening and if approved, it will then go before Ball.
“If this bill passes quickly, and I am optimistic that it will, the real winners will be the residents of Howard County who will see now that campaign finance reform can work — and is possible — even in the midst of a pandemic,” Jung said.