Gambling, “Going Green,” and Gurneys Gain; Guns and Garnishment Guarded

The final meeting of the twenty-second two-year Council Period since the District of Columbia was granted Home Rule has now wrapped up. Much like at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where the 115th Congress since the Constitution went into effect will yield to the 116th on January 3, our 22nd Council Period will transition to the 23rd at noon on January 2. But prior to that transition taking place, the Council had a final packed agenda to tackle.

One critical topic that will straddle Council Periods is the issue of a new hospital in the east end. Having received the first of two necessary votes two meetings ago, then postponed at the subsequent meeting, the hospital bill received its second of two votes at the most recent meeting. Planning for the hospital in the east end, as well as a companion hospital in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, will continue (though outside the normally required Certificate of Need process), greatly expanding the number of hospital beds citywide. Also, the final version of the bill included some labor protections earlier not thought possible. In Council Period 23, a final agreement regarding the two hospitals will need to return to the Council for final approval. If that agreement does not include an academic affiliation for Howard University College of Medicine, the hospital deal as a whole will not be allowed to advance.

Also receiving the second of two votes at the most recent meeting was an omnibus green energy measure that will move DC to a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio by 2032. (As recently as 2007, DC’s renewable energy portfolio goal had been to hit 11 percent by 2022.) The bill also mandates zero-emissions public transportation by 2045. This bill’s approach led to its passage as a consensus measure, whereas an earlier carbon tax proposal had met with more debate. Relatedly, two Public Service Commission nominees who will be tasked with considering matters related to utilities were also approved on divided votes by the Council after discussion of their qualifications and environmental bona fides.

Approved on the second of two necessary votes was a sports gambling measure. This measure largely tracked the version approved at an earlier meeting, with the exception of language added to assist minority business owners.  Sports gambling will be allowed in three different situations: in large stadiums/arenas, in bars with special licenses, and via a DC Lottery-run app on mobile devices.

Regarding guns, the measure that received its second vote at the most recent meeting includes a “red flag” or “extreme risk” protective order provision that allows for guns to be removed from those proven to be an extreme risk to themselves or others. The amendment limited immunity language to ensure that those from whom guns were taken could still be prosecuted for other crimes beyond gun possession.  “Bump stocks” (which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like automatic weapons) and large-capacity magazines would see tighter penalties, if not outright bans under the new measure.

Finally, in regards to wage garnishment, a measure modifying for the first time since 1968 the earnings level below which a person’s wages could not be garnished received its second of two necessary votes. Based originally on a multiple of the federal minimum wage, which is currently well below that of the District, the garnishment limit will now be restricted based on a multiple of the District minimum wage, and there will be a mandatory notification prior to any garnishment being implemented.

Earlier in the day, two Ceremonial Resolutions were awarded. The first recognized Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis for excellence in community-focused broadcasting, and the second was in recognition of the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

For a full list of all the votes taken at the meeting, please click here.

The next meeting of the Council will be an organizational meeting held on January 2. The next Legislative Meeting of the Council will be held on January 8. Happy holidays to you and your family!!!!