Montgomery County residents are very much a part of the Council's decision-making process. Whether the decision is a new law, a master plan, or the budget, Council rules and procedures provide for the consideration of views received at public hearings, by mail, e-mail, by telephone, or in person.
If you wish to testify in person at a public hearing, you must sign up in advance. You can sign up online at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/PHSignUp.html or call to 240-777-7803. Please click on the link below to expand and view each topics in detail.
Public Hearing Procedures - Revised August 2015
- Speakers must sign up in advance.
- To testify at a Council public hearing, please sign up online at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/PHSignUp.html or call 240-777-7803.
- Public hearing sign-ups begin on the date that the notice of the public hearing is first advertised in a local newspaper.
- Deadline to sign up to speak at a Council hearing:
Afternoon hearing - 5:00 pm on the day before the hearing
Evening hearing - 10:00 am on the day of the hearing
- Speakers are requested to bring 15 copies of their testimony to the hearing, and to provide a written copy 48 hours in advance of the hearing.
Email to: email@example.com
- Each speaker will be given 3 minutes. This applies to elected officials, government and organization representatives as well as individuals. Speakers will not be allowed to cede time to another speaker. Either a property owner or the owner’s attorney, but not both, may speak at a hearing. Only one person may represent an organization. An individual who wishes to speak at more than one public hearing in the same Council session will receive a total of 5 minutes to speak on all items scheduled at that session. Only the County Executive, appearing personally, is exempted from the time limit.
- If we have been unable to accommodate you on the speaker’s list, please provide testimony in writing so we can include your comments in the record and share them with all Councilmembers. Your written testimony will be given the same consideration as oral testimony.
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or
Mail to: Council President, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850.
- It has been customary to begin evening hearings at 7:30 pm and to limit the number of speakers to 30 for an evening public hearing and 5 for an afternoon public hearing. To accommodate more speakers for extraordinary hearings, the Council President has the discretion to adjust the start and end times of the hearing or to continue the hearing to an additional evening.
- Staff has been directed to assure that the Council hears all points of view. Staff asks speakers to indicate whether they are “pro” or “con” when appropriate, and to specify the issue they wish to address. Speakers are encouraged to consolidate testimony, and staff tries to accommodate special requests and needs. In conversations with the public, staff stresses that the hearing is not a plebiscite. The Council does not presume that the number of “pro” and “con” speakers at a public hearing reflects the distribution of public opinion on that issue.
- Speakers often are not told when they sign up that they have a place on the list. When the topic is complex or controversial, staff takes the names of all persons who wish to speak. Council staff, after consulting with the Council President, selects who is on the final list. In all cases, staff maintains a list of all persons who asked to speak; that list is available to the members of the Council.
- In the case of budget hearings, slots are reserved for each portion of the budget and allocated just before the date of the public hearing. Government department and agency representatives will not be selected to testify at the budget hearings.
- Speakers are brought to the witness table in groups of 5 or 6. While Council staff does accommodate some requests for speakers who wish to testify together, staff attempts to compose each panel of persons with different points of view. All members of each panel remain at the witness table until the entire panel has testified. Councilmembers reserve their questions until the entire panel has spoken.
- The Council's rules of procedure authorize the presiding officer to limit testimony to the subject of the public hearing.
How to Get Information About Issues Before the Council
The Council offers free subscriptions to the weekly mailing of the Council and committee agendas by regular mail or e-mail, and the cable television schedule of broadcasts of Council sessions. To get on the mailing list, call Legislative Information Services (LIS) at (240) 777-7910 or e-mail the Council at email@example.com.
The following documents are available for examination 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, in the LIS office, 5th floor, Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850. Copies are made for a charge of 10 cents a page. Copies of background papers for many of the items currently before the Council are available free of charge.
Minutes: LIS can provide access to minutes of all Council and Council Committee sessions from 1884 to the present. A computerized index makes it possible to access minutes since 1971 by subject.
Voting Records: For voting records from 2002 click on the Summary of Council Actions . For voting records before 2002, please visit our Legislative Information office at 100 Maryland Avenue, 5th Floor during regular business hours.
Council and Committee Packets:These are the staff papers and background material presented to the Council for each agenda item of Council and Committee sessions. Current packets are available on the website two business days before the meeting by clicking here. Also, current packets are available for examination and copies are made on request. Free copies are available on the day of the meeting. Packets for previous Council meetings are available on microfilm.
Legislative Bill and Public Hearing Files: For every action item for which there has been a public hearing, there is a file containing staff papers, drafts, correspondence received, amendments, etc. These are available for examination. Older public hearing files are available on microfilm.
Council Agendas and Committee Agendas: There are chronological files of agendas; older editions are available on microfilm.
Incoming Correspondence: With very rare exceptions, all correspondence addressed to the Council or to the Council President is available for public examination. (The law provides that certain documents regarding personnel, land acquisitions, or attorney/client advice may or must be kept confidential.) There is a daily mail log and correspondence may be retrieved by subject, date, or name of correspondent. There are also chronological reading files.
Outgoing Correspondence: Correspondence signed by the Council President is filed chronologically and can be retrieved by subject or correspondent name by using the computerized mail log. Older correspondence is stored on microfilm.
State Legislation:LIS can assist you in obtaining copies and information about State Legislation and General Assembly activities.
Guidelines for Speakers and Spectators
The Council's rules and the rules in the County Code and the Maryland Code protect your right to testify and be heard by the Council, even if others in the hearing room disagree with you. They ensure that those attending the hearing may signal their views to the Council as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others to see and hear the proceedings.
You may wear badges or armbands or other articles of clothing that signal your point of view or proclaim your identity as part of a group.
Some spectators place their group's message on standard 81/2 by 11-inch paper. These may be held up for the Council to see as long as you do not obstruct the vision of others. Larger placards are not permitted. Signs on sticks are banned. They create too much of a hazard of inadvertent injury to others, particularly when a hearing room is crowded.
A speaker representing your group may ask you all to stand for a moment at the end of the testimony so the Council will be aware of how many members attended the meeting. We ask, however, that you do not remain standing during the testimony or during the testimony of others since this is discourteous to those who remain seated and interferes with their ability to see what is going on.
The Council understands that you may want to applaud some speakers. To avoid delaying the testimony of others, we ask that you avoid prolonged applause or cheering. We also ask that you refrain from booing or otherwise interfering with the testimony of others.
Meeting Room Capacity Limitations
For the safety of all those attending, the Fire Marshal does not permit us to exceed the legal capacity of our hearing rooms. Corridors and exits must be kept clear. In the Council Office Building (COB) we provide television monitors in the 2nd floor cafeteria for the convenience of overflow crowds. (Because it is reserved as an emergency egress, we are not permitted to use the COB 3rd floor conference room for overflow seating.) For the safety of all those attending a hearing, whether it is held in the COB or some other location, we are required to defer to the authority of the Fire Marshal. This will mean that access to the hearing room or even the building itself will be closed off when the legal capacity has been reached and when public safety is compromised.
If the building or the hearing room has been closed because of overcrowding, speakers should identify themselves to the Fire Marshals or Council staff at the doors. We will make sure that you can give your testimony as scheduled.
Prohibitions In the Law
Excerpts from Sec. 2-80, Montgomery County Code:
"Public hearings on pending legislation or the budget are convened for the express purpose of obtaining public participation and comments . . . At all times, order and decorum shall be maintained in keeping with the dignity of the governmental process, and no person or groups shall interfere with this process, and the council shall take all necessary steps required to maintain order."
"No signs, placards, posters or attention devices of any kind or nature shall be carried or placed within the council offices, hearing or conference rooms, nor within any building in which is located the council office or in which the council is meeting or conducting a public hearing. This prohibition shall not apply to armbands, emblems, badges or other articles worn on the personal clothing of individuals; provided . . . [they] are of such a size and nature not to interfere with the vision or hearing of other persons at a meeting nor extend from the body as may cause injury to another. Any person who shall violate the provision above . . . or who shall willfully interrupt or disturb council proceedings, after a warning to desist, may be removed from premises and shall be subject to punishment for a class A violation as set forth in section 1-129 of chapter 1 of the County Code."
How to Testify Effectively
BE BRIEF. Three minutes is all you have. Organize yourthoughts; make sure you focus on your most important points. Ifyour testimony is longer than three minutes, hit the highlightsand leave the full written statement with Councilmembers.
BE UNIQUE.Tell how this issue affects you, your family, yourbusiness or your neighborhood. The more personal, the better.
BE RESPECTFUL.Remember that people of good will candisagree with your perspective. Disagree without beingdisagreeable. Personal attacks on other speakers or onCouncilmembers themselves tend to backfire.
BRING WRITTEN COPIES. If you have written testimony,please bring 15 copies to share with Councilmembers andenough extra copies for any news media who are there. Givethe 15 copies to the Hearing Clerk at the end of the dais beforethe hearing starts.
FOCUS ON THE ISSUE AT HAND. Remember, three minutesis all you have. The subject of the hearing may be related to alot of other issues, but Councilmembers want to hear about theissue before them right now.
RELAX. Not everyone is used to speaking in public. Be natural. Don't be nervous. We want to hear what you want to say.
The County Council is a public body, so its activities are governed by strict requirements of the State "sunshine law," which requires open sessions for all meetings with certain prescribed exceptions. The Council generally meets each Tuesday beginning at 9:00 a.m. and in committees on Mondays and Thursdays. Almost all Council sessions are open to the public and are broadcast live and repeated on the County Government cable channel, Montgomery Cable 6. Some committee sessions of special public interest are also broadcast.
The laws strictly define the circumstances when the Council is either required or permitted to go into a "closed session." These include, for example, the discussion of personnel issues such as performance or selection, to discuss the purchase of land by the government, or to receive advice from attorneys.
Major decisions of the Council are governed by the same procedures that apply to legislation: the measure is introduced in public session, a public hearing is advertised and held, there are public Committee and/or Council worksessions, and the final decision is made in a public session.
Attending/Speaking at Public Hearings
Persons wishing to speak at any advertised public hearing may sign up to testify by calling (240) 777-7803. Organization representatives and individuals receive three minutes. The Council also encourages written testimony and accepts petitions.
Speakers will not be allowed to cede time to other speakers.
Those wishing to submit written testimony for the record are asked to provide 15 copies. Speakers should use their allotted time to summarize more extensive written testimony which is submitted for the record.
The Council usually hears from about 30 speakers at an evening public hearing. If there are more speakers than the Council can hear, staff tries to ensure that the Council hears from all points of view. While in-person participation is encouraged, the Council does not make its decisions by counting the number of speakers for and against an issue or the number of people in the hearing room. Councilmembers carefully weigh the evidence that comes to them in person, in writing, and through their own research and the research done by staff. They often study the experience of other jurisdictions and consult with members of the community about the potential impact of a law.
The Council President will call speakers to come to the witness table in groups of five or six. Please remain seated until all the members of your panel have spoken. Councilmembers reserve their questions until all the members of the panel have given their testimony.
Alternatives to Testifying
Petitions or other written material may be presented to the Clerk of the Council at the time of the hearing or may be mailed or delivered to the Council's Office of Legislative Information Services, 5th Floor, Council Office Building, 100 Maryland in Rockville. All written material becomes a part of the public hearing record.
Ways to See and/or Hear the Council Sessions
- For the 7th floor hearing room call 240-773-3377
- For the 3rd floor hearing room call 240-773-3333
- For the 3rd floor conference room call 240-773-3300
- 24 phone lines are available for people to dial into. Once those lines are full, other callers will get a busy signal.
Live on County Cable 6
- All regular Tuesday Council Sessions are broadcast live and are rebroadcast on the following Friday evenings beginning at 9:00 p.m.
- All evening Council public hearings are broadcast live and are rebroadcast at a later date.
- We broadcast certain Council committee sessions which also are rebroadcast at a later date.
Any additional questions please contact Delphine Harriston at 240-777-7931.
Ex Parte Communications
Ex parte communications are communications made to influence a decision-making official off the record and out of the presence of other parties. Ex parte communications are restricted by State and local law. The restriction against an ex parte communication applies in local map amendments, sectional map amendments and similar proceedings where a decision must be made on a record. Any communication by telephone, email, letter, face-to-face conversation, or other off the record contact, is strictly prohibited. If a final decision by the Council is based on or significantly influenced by matters outside the record, the action may be invalidated.