Council Chronology: The Rule of Three
University calendars are broken into semesters, and the financial calendar is broken into quarters. Interestingly, it could be said that the Council’s legislative time is informally broken into uneven thirds that extend across not a single year, but a two-year Council Period. For the current Council Period, number 22, we have just concluded the second third, with only the home stretch remaining.
Councilmembers elected in every other November are sworn in and take office roughly two months later, on January 2. Absent something unexpected, the group of 13 councilmembers who are in office on January 2 will begin and end the two-year Council Period together. Any legislation they introduce must be passed by the Council within that time, or else it will expire.
The first third of the informal Council Period legislative chronology runs from January 2 of an odd-numbered year until July 15 of that same year, when the Council’s summer recess (a working recess to be sure, just minus the relentless calendar of hearings that occur the rest of the year) begins.
The second third of our legislative chronology runs from when recess ends on September 15, to the start of recess on July 15 of the following (even-numbered) year. Clearly, this long third of the schedule is the workhorse of the Council Period.
The final third of the Council Period begins on September 15 of an even-numbered year, and ends at noon on January 2. The pressure is on during this time, because bills that have not fully made their way through the legislative process prior to the end-of-year conclusion of the Council Period must start over in the subsequent two years.
Two-thirds Down, One to Go
With the most recent Legislative Meeting behind us, two of these three segments of Council Period 22 are now complete. And predictably—as the longest segment of the Council Period came to an end, there was a flurry of activity.
One topic that was addressed by the Council for a second Legislative Meeting in a row was eviction reform. In light of a recent change in policy by the United States Marshals (namely that the mechanism for evictions shifting to rekeying door locks, rather than ejecting the individual’s belongings to the curb), the Council needed to change DC law to react to the shift. When the mechanism approved at the last Legislative Meeting (requiring landlords to secure tenant belongings offsite for a month) was revealed to be problematic for smaller and nonprofit landlords, the tactic shifted to instead securing those goods onsite, with controlled tenant access, for seven days. As permanent legislation on this topic advances, the details will be revisited in light of the realities of how the new US Marshal system plays out locally.
Also dealing with issues surrounding housing and homelessness was a measure intended as a reaction to the planned closure of the DC General homeless shelter prior to ward-based family shelter construction being completed. Initially noticed and conceived of as a ban on DC General’s closure unless the ward shelters were completed, this element had to be removed because emergency legislation cannot incur a cost. Instead, the measure as passed attempts to motivate and require proper reporting and communication regarding shelter construction, occupancy, and health data from the Administration that some on the Council had previously found lacking.
Another measure which had drawn much advance attention was an effort to regulate excessively amplified sound in public places. Introduced as an emergency measure so as to become effective over the summer, it was withdrawn.
Other measures considered at the most recent meeting include one that requires that schools that currently have school nurse services in place for 20 or more hours a week maintain those services, despite pending reforms to the system that might look to modify the quantity and nature of that service. A further measure symbolically designated the 1200 block of U Street as “Ben’s Chili Bowl Way,” in time for the restaurant’s 60th anniversary in August.
Proving that even legislation introduced this late into the Council Period still stands a chance of completing the process prior to its potential expiration at year’s end, the following measures were introduced by councilmembers from the dais. If enacted in time, they would:
- Ban non-compostable plastic straws and stirrers
- Create a pilot program for self-operated food service in ten schools
- Implement an omnibus clean energy policy
- Provide for disclosure of all individuals who have a financial interest in any housing LLC
- Provide for fairness in government reimbursement of contracted nonprofit service providers, allowing for reimbursement of administrative and other expenses
- Regulating the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in employment, banning employer-required NDAs and limiting disclosure of employee details in some cases
- Reduce ridesharing taxes from a uniform 6% to a tiered system including a 6% tax on single riders, and a 1% tax on shared rides
- Increase the amount of the homestead tax deduction for single family homes and coops
- Improve notification of landlords by the government of pending “vacant building” placarding prior to such action
- Change procurement procedures related to public/private partnerships
- Require labor “peace agreements” for grocery stores being built with DC government financial support
For a full list of votes taken at the most recent Legislative Meeting, please click here. The next Legislative Meeting will be held on September 18.