After Summer Recess, Council’s Legislative Activity Picks Up Where It Left Off

Back when you went to elementary school, you looked forward to recess. You didn’t think of it this way back then, but you appreciated the change of pace from academic to physical activity, and you likely returned to class after recess reinvigorated.

The Council’s summer recess is actually quite similar. Just like recess at school is not a time of inactivity, just a different kind of activity, so it is for the Council. Before and after recess, the Council is consumed with the business of legislation, performance oversight, and the budget. The pace of hearings, roundtables, markups, and Legislative Meetings is constant. The preparations for such events, the events themselves, and the follow-up to each monopolizes much of the councilmembers’ days. This is as it should be. But it can keep the councilmembers at the Wilson Building more than they would like, when they would prefer to be out in the communities they serve.

The summer recess provides councilmembers an opportunity for more extensive time in the community, a chance for a deep dive into legislative research, and an increased ability to hear about and study up on new legislative ideas. The legislation introduced at the Council’s most recent Legislative Meeting reflects the benefits of those opportunities. The bills introduced at this meeting are listed below.

In other business at the latest meeting, the Council approved, on an emergency basis, a bill to allow non-smokable medical marijuana to be administered to qualified students who have received certification from an authorized practitioner if non-use of the medication “would disrupt the student’s ability to participate in school instruction.” Accounts from councilmembers and in the media document the near-total elimination of seizures in epileptic children who use non-smokable medical marijuana.

In regards to the ongoing investigation of Councilmember Jack Evans, the Council voted at its most recent meeting to authorize the enforcement of subpoenas issued by the investigators. The legislation authorizes the Council’s General Counsel to file a petition in DC Superior Court to compel witnesses who did not obey the investigators’ subpoenas, or who have not cooperated in other ways, to appear, or otherwise face contempt charges.

Legislation that would have allowed for the removal of large trees on the site of a planned Sursum Corda redevelopment was withdrawn from consideration at this Legislative Meeting.

In terms of new legislation, one bill introduced would prevent DC’s rent control sunsetting on December 31, 2020 by extending the program for ten years.

In addition, four legislative goals saw parallel legislative introductions.

  • In regards to compliance issues with Certified Business Enterprise and First Source contracts, one bill would establish an independent Office of Compliance to oversee such contracts, while another bill would improve communication and reporting regarding the current First Source program.
  • Two bills seek to protect and provide targeted assistance to long-time, or “legacy” local businesses.
  • On the topic of e-cigarettes, one proposed bill would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette materials, while the other would require a prescription for any e-cigarette usage.
  • Two different introductions also sought to limit or eliminate the so-called “gay panic” defense—cases in which those accused of homicide claim temporary insanity, provocation, or self-defense due to the discovery of their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Other introductions included bills that, if passed, would:

  • Eliminate the “surprise billing” that occurs when insurance will not cover an out-of-network doctor who works at an in-network hospital
  • Allow pharmacists to substitute “bio-similar” medications to be prescribed instead of brand name medicines known as “biologics,” much as generics can be substituted for name brand medications currently
  • Create a $500 tax credit for teachers to buy supplies for their students
  • Strengthen reproductive health by including the right to contraceptives and abortion in the Human Rights Act
  • Create an ombudsperson to focus exclusively on the safety and well-being of children in the District
  • Regulate licensing boards’ ability to deny licensing based exclusively on the applicant’s past criminal record
  • Accelerate reading equity via a focus on an early literacy assessment and intervention program
  • Extend employment and Human Rights Act protections to domestic workers
  • Transfers the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs from the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice
  • Improve data collection and reporting in regards to sexual harassment within District government agencies
  • Require registration of appraisal management companies in the District, establishment of minimum standards for such companies, and penalties for their violation

Earlier in the meeting, a Ceremonial Resolution was passed recognizing Trinette Chase for being named Ms. Senior DC for 2019.

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

The Council’s next scheduled Legislative Meeting will be held on October 8, not October 1, to honor the observance of Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur begins at sunset on October 8, with pre-fasting preparations taking place before that, so every effort will be made for a timely and expeditious meeting on the 8th.