With the Budget Vote Behind it, Council Hits Full Legislative Stride

The Council never stops legislating. During the months of performance oversight and budget hearings that lead up to the annual passage of the District’s financial plan, however, much of the organization’s capacity is absorbed by that meaty task.

This week’s Legislative Meeting marks the pivot point in the Council’s year. With the budget vote behind it, the Council and its committees can now focus their full attention and energy on tackling the problems facing District residents, and improving their quality of life, through legislation.

At the meeting, every single councilmember introduced between one and three pieces of legislation. Those bills included everything from support for an increase in DC Tuition Assistance Grants to a proposed million-signature petition in support of DC statehood, from tighter rules regarding college sexual assault to preventing falling injuries through home repair assistance, from a study of the impact of parental incarceration on children’s academic results to a settlement between janitorial workers and their employers ensuring longer work weeks and the job benefits that will follow. Also introduced was a measure to tighten regulation of, and enhance enforcement against, the all-terrain vehicles and dirtbikes tied to recent violent crimes.

Among the legislation receiving its second and final reading was a bill tightening reporting and compliance requirements related to Title IX, which requires gender equity in school athletic programs.

Bills receiving their first reading included one requiring the District government to produce a detailed annual profile of the District’s unemployed population, so that job training and employer recruitment efforts can more effectively target this population. Another ensures that worker’s compensation recipients receive raises when their former colleagues do, and a third allows the District to transfer the caregiver subsidy formerly provided to a grandparent to another relative if the grandparent becomes incapacitated.

Among the more attention-getting matters on the agenda ironically involved a measure that was subsequently withdrawn by its sponsor. An effort to disapprove a public schools food service contract with Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality was ultimately withdrawn. The issue was further complicated by a letter received from Chartwells that very morning, indicating they would not provide school food for the 2015-16 school year.

Multiple nominations were approved, including several Cabinet-level appointments, as well as numerous board and commission members.  Also approved was the final measure the Council needed to act on in order to allow the construction of a planned soccer stadium at Buzzard Point to move forward.

Next up for the Council is its annual recess. While the pace at the Wilson Building does noticeably let up during the Council’s two-month recess, it is by no means a vacation for members or staff. Returning to our opening theme, while the Council is always legislating, it does shift from one main focus to another throughout the year. February through July is the Council’s primary agency performance oversight and budget review period. This week’s Legislative Meeting plus the time from September through February constitutes the Council’s main legislative push. The two-month recess period, then, is a time when Councilmembers can step back, provide a more intensive focus on constituent services, and take a more reflective look at issues while free from a multiple hearing-a-day pace.

For a full list of all measures considered, and votes taken, at today’s meeting, please click here.