Death with Dignity, Youth Smoking Ban Pass After Powerful Debate

Legislation is not just about public policy. It is also informed by history, economics, geography, emotion, and philosophy. The latter two marked the Thirty-Fifth Legislative Meeting in a way that few Council regulars could recall.

Predictably, debate on the Death with Dignity bill resonated both emotionally and intellectually with Councilmembers and advocates on both sides of the debate. Questions about when life ends, how, and who if anyone can make such decisions set the broad philosophical context for the discussion, but the very real details of personal life and death experiences provided the essence of the day. Deep and authentic individual experience reigned in a way that reinforced the personal, family-oriented aspect of the subject matter. In the end, technical changes suggested both the by Executive and the insurance industry were incorporated in the legislation, and the bill passed its first of two required votes by an 11 to 2 count.

A second debate that equally evoked a political philosophy class centered around a proposal to increase the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. What might seem at face value to be primarily a health measure instead triggered discussions of government responsibility, legislated morality, what constitutes adulthood, who should go to war for the nation (and when), and what kind and quantity of youth rule violations can trigger a school-to-prison pipeline. After a debate far broader than the purview of the actual legislation, this measure passed 10 to 3 for its required second vote.

In other action, the Council also approved:

  • A tightening of distracted driving laws
  • The transfer of four derelict District-owned properties in Ward 8 to a nonprofit tasked with redeveloping them as workforce housing
  • Elimination of sales tax on feminine hygiene, youth diapers, and adult diapers
  • Rental protections for the elderly and disabled
  • Comprehensive youth detention reforms
  • Continuation of the current school nurse system, and level of service provision at a minimum, through the end of the 2016-2017 school year
  • Reform of medical marijuana laws

Consideration of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission Reform measure anticipated at this meeting was postponed until the Council’s next Legislative Meeting, which will be on November 15.

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