Second-to-last meeting of 2014 yields progress on numerous long-standing issues

In a legislative system where all permanent legislation requires two votes within a single two-year Council period in order to become law, the most recent Council session marked two critical milestones. It represented one of the final opportunities for councilmembers to introduce new legislation, and the second-to-last chance for a bill proposing a permanent change in law to receive the necessary second reading (vote).

Noteworthy among the legislation approved at the most recent meeting were three prominent redevelopment deals which have generated significant public discussion. Foremost among these was legislation regarding the new soccer stadium for DC United. A recent Council-funded economic study showed that a proposed land trade deal involving the municipal office building at the Reeves Center might not deliver top dollar to the District, and that a proposed sales tax abatement provided to team owners was not financially necessary to make the deal a success. Guided by these results, the Council removed both items from the legislation, choosing instead to fund the project differently. The bill was approved on first reading, but may include additional changes prior to the Council's final session of the year on December 16.

Similarly receiving initial approval at this meeting were measures approving the redevelopment of the McMillan Reservoir site, as well as the former Stevens School. The McMillan site will be redeveloped into a mixed use site featuring recreational space, medical offices, residential space, and commercial development, while the Stevens School and an adjacent site will be redeveloped into a school for children with learning differences, and a commercial office building, respectively.

Another long-active issue making progress towards closure at the most recent meeting was legislation designed to update the District's gun laws in response to a recent critical court opinion. The bill passed by voice vote and will face a second and final vote on December 16.

Bringing to a close an active political year for the District, the Council also passed on first reading an effort to return the District's primary elections to fill local offices to September instead of April. Prior to Congress' passage of legislation requiring states to hold earlier primary elections so that members of the military stationed overseas would have ample time to see their vote counted, the District had long held its mayoral and Council primaries in September. After a contentious debate, the Council had earlier moved the primary election to April, but this date proved unpopular with voters and candidates alike. Under the new legislation, slated to receive a second vote on December 16, local primaries would be held in September but federal primary votes, such as Presidential primary votes, would be held in June.

Other measures passed at the recent meeting include:

  • a bill creating a “state rock” for DC (thanks to the students of Eaton Elementary for getting this stone rolling!)
  • a bill allowing small and certified business enterprises to be certified less often and changing some regulatory requirements for District agencies
  • a bill banning employers from preventing their employees from discussing their wages
  • a bill banning child sex trafficking
  • a bill limiting the use of restraints on incarcerated pregnant women
  • a bill strengthening public rights in cases of civil asset forfeiture
  • a bill banning the testing of potential new employees for marijuana use until a conditional offer of employment has been made, and
  • a bill requiring administrative judges and others to provide annual proof that their bar certifications and other credentials remain in good standing.

Finally, the Council also voted to override a mayoral veto of legislation that would require the Mayor to devise a plan to provide lower-income kids with the free meals that they are accustomed to receiving at school, on those days when school is snowed out.

For a complete listing of all votes and actions from this most recent meeting, please click here.