Universal Paid Leave Bill Passes First Vote by Wide Margin

In a legislative day that lasted as long as the sun was up, the Council tackled dozens of bills that face legislative sunset if they do not receive final Council passage by the end of 2016. While one bill, the Universal Paid Leave Act, attracted the most attention, many of the other bills have been wending their way through the legislative process for as much as two years.

Barring extremely unforeseen circumstances, the Council in its current configuration will meet just once more, on December 20. With two votes required on most bills, that meant that this most recent Legislative Meeting was the first of two final days of reckoning for all pending legislation that could still become law.

As indicated, the bill which drew the most focus from the Council, the public, and the media was the Universal Paid Leave Act. Throughout its fourteen-month history, critical figures in the bill have been modified in efforts to build consensus around the legislation. These included the number of weeks of each of three kinds of benefits (care for newborns/newly-adopted children, ill relatives, and self-care), the payroll tax rate on employers, the maximum weekly benefit, and the percentage of salary replacement.

When the bill emerged from its first Council vote by an 11-2 tally, here is where these numbers stood: eight weeks of care when a new child joins a household (through birth, adoption, foster care, or assumed legal guardianship), six weeks of care for sick relatives, and two weeks of self-care would be provided. A 0.62% tax rate would be applied to employer payrolls, generating a maximum $1,000 weekly benefit. Employees would receive a benefit equaling 90% of their salary, up to 1.5 times the minimum wage, then 50% of their wage, up to the previously stated maximum.

Much debate also surrounded who should pay the tax funding these benefits (employers vs. employees) and where potential benefit recipients reside. Councilmembers agreed that many potential funding options were off-limits due to the District’s unique and unfortunate financial and political status, particularly our inability to impose a commuter tax. In the bill as approved, as when introduced, an employer tax was selected.

Among other measures passed at the meeting were bills:

  • To allow limited electronic billboards at Nationals Park
  • To renovate and use as workforce housing four derelict Anacostia properties
  • To establish, and later enforce, a definition for flushable wipes
  • To create a consolidated DC State Athletics Association
  • To allow any DC resident to pay in-state tuition and receive local financial aid regardless of immigration status
  • To establish a Metrorail Safety Commission
  • To add the word “End” to DC’s “Taxation without Representation” license plates, and create a new one that says “We Demand Statehood”
  • To ban the use of credit checks during the employment process
  • To ban housing providers from asking about arrests that did not result in convictions
  • To create a first-time homebuyer tax benefit
  • To regulate the sale of stun guns
  • To make various changes to laws regarding wildlife and natural resources (but with references to feral cats removed)
  • To apply political action committee contribution limits during non-campaign years, and to enhance contribution reporting during these years

No bills were introduced at this Legislative Meeting, because this close to the end of the Council Period, there is insufficient time for them to become law prior to expiring.

For a full list of votes taken by the Council at this meeting, click here.