Single Tight Vote Provides Contrast with Otherwise Consensus-Driven Meeting

If the character of a meeting were to be judged by which issues elevate peoples' emotions, the quantity and fervor of those in attendance, or the clips that make the evening news, then the Fifth Legislative Meeting would be identified as one marked by high emotion.

Despite all that, in contrast, anyone who viewed the entire meeting would have seen a Council that, while not of a single mind, manages to operate with a great deal of collegiality and consensus.

The issue that raised the temperature in the room, and drew spectators in color-coded outfits emblematic of their stance on the topic, was the Council's vote on a proposed prison health care contract with for-profit corporation Corizon.  In a process that some consider controversial, but others view as a critical Council oversight responsibility, all government contracts of more than $1 million that have passed through the District's contracting process must be reviewed by the Council prior to them becoming effective.  While some see this role as an intrusion into a data-driven contracting process by the executive, in this case, even those opposing the Council role chose to vote on this divisive topic.

Council Members and Council staff at Fifth Legislative Meeting

In the end, after debate that evoked the support of some members of the business community, opposition by numerous advocacy groups, and the comparative quantity of lawsuits faced by the two contract contenders, six of eleven councilmembers voted to disapprove the contract.

Outside of that one eventful debate, the legislative meeting proceeded as most do—without significant controversy.  Nearly a dozen new bills were introduced by councilmembers from the dais, with relevant committees to make subsequent decisions on whether to hold hearings on each of them.  Two dozen ceremonial resolutions were passed, recognizing people, places, events, and even a ship.

The first piece of legislation introduced in the current Council Period also became the first piece of permanent legislation passed by the Council.  The legislation in question eliminates expulsion and suspensions for pre-kindergarten students at publicly funded schools.  Also passed was a bill providing a sustainable funding mechanism for the District’s Health Benefit Exchange Authority.  A number of the Administration’s agency director nominations were also approved.

As is frequently the case with measures that require action on a timeline shorter than what the traditional legislative process and Congressional review period would allow, a number of measures were considered on an emergency basis. One expanded the number of marijuana plants that could be cultivated for medical marijuana use. Another expressed the sense of the Council supporting a limitation on the number of pop-up developments. A third measure ensured that one specific residential building already slated to be redeveloped as affordable housing would not lose needed financing by undergoing a third iteration of the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.

For a full listing of action taken at the meeting, click here.