Council Begins Sprint to the Finish for Council Period 21

In its first meeting since returning from summer recess, the Council laid out a roadmap for the remainder of Council Period 21, and partially foreshadowed the early days of upcoming Council Period 22. With the former came urgency, and with the latter came transition.

Council Periods, Explained

The work of the Council occurs in two-year chunks knows as Council Periods, each of which begins in January of an odd-numbered year. Those more familiar with the federal system (despite our exclusion from it) will recognize this as the equivalent of a numbered Congress (e.g. the current 114th Congress).

Council Periods matter for two primary reasons. First, a new Council Period sees the swearing-in of the councilmembers elected the prior November, as well as the announcement of the quantity, jurisdiction, and membership of new Council committees. Second, at the end of a Council Period, all legislation introduced but not passed in the previous two years completely expires, and must be reintroduced in the following Council Period if it is to have another shot at becoming law.

A Glimpse of the Future

Because of the summer resignation of former Councilmember Vincent Orange, this most recent Legislative Meeting largely mirrored the first meeting of a new Council Period. The Council welcomed Councilmember Robert White to the fold, given his selection the previous week by the Democratic State Committee.

Similarly, the Council voted to update its rules and modify its committee structure in response to the recent turnover in representation. The jurisdiction of Orange’s former committee was transferred to the Committee of the Whole, and simultaneously, four new subcommittees were created to oversee legislation that had been in the purview of the former Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs. The new subcommittees are:

  • Subcommittee on Boards and Commissions, chaired by Councilmember Brandon Todd
  • Subcommittee on Local Business Development and Utilities, chaired by Councilmember Charles Allen
  • Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, chaired by Councilmember Brianne Nadeau
  • Subcommittee on Workforce, chaired by Councilmember Elissa Silverman

Councilmember White was assigned Councilmember Orange’s former committee assignments, as well membership in all four of the new subcommittees.

Race to the Finish

With the January 2, 2017 expiration date built into all bills introduced but not passed since January of 2015, the clock is ticking on all pending legislation. Compounding that urgency is the Council’s legislative process: in virtually all cases, a bill must be introduced, a hearing on the legislation must be held, and the bill must be approved twice by the full Council. That process can take months, and fewer than three months remain in this Council Period.

A handful of bills emerged from the long legislative process at this Legislative Meeting, receiving their second and final vote by the full Council. These included:

  • A bill to limit the late fees a landlord can charge a tenant
  • A bill altering rules of negligence involved in crashes between cars and bicyclists/pedestrians to increase the rights of the latter
  • A bill to encourage renovations intended to increase home accessibility for the elderly and those with disabilities through the use of grants and tax credits

Conversely, several measures began their procedural journey at this Legislative Meeting. Among the measures introduced were bills to:

  • Declare the Sense of the Council opposing anti-Muslim discrimination
  • Define what constitutes a youth services provider, in light of the closure of the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation
  • Create an ombudsman office to respond to concerns related to student debt
  • Ban the asking of questions regarding past pay and benefits during the hiring process, prior to an offer being made, in an effort to eliminate the gender pay gap
  • Provide publicly funded legal counsel to low-income individuals in civil cases involving basic rights such as shelter
  • Eliminate the use of so-called rent concessions as a means to evade rent control legislation
  • Create a healthy public building designation process, the results of which would then be displayed in each public building
  • Designate yards maintained using positive environmental practices as“green yards”
  • Allow public and private facilities to have epinephrine pens available if needed by those experiencing allergy attacks
  • Reduce allowed increases to rent under rent control to include CPI increases only
  • Regulate stun gun use
  • Modify the Department of General Service’s procurement process
  • Modify the DC Public Schools and Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s procurement process

Lastly, a “fair scheduling” measure introduced earlier in the Council Period was tabled at this Legislative Meeting so that it can be reworked and reintroduced in Council Period 22.

For a full list of votes taken at this Legislative Meeting, click here.

The next scheduled Legislative Meeting will be held on October 11.