Council Addresses Initiative 77, Passes Short-term Rental Regulations


As predicted last month, the pace of action here at the Council is continuing to ramp up. All pending legislation is on a tight timetable, because legislation introduced in 2017 or 2018 that is not passed by January 2 of 2019 must begin the entire legislative process all over again in 2019.

Compounding this deadline was the very specific timetable surrounding Initiative 77- regarding reform of the tipped minimum wage. This measure was set to take effect on October 9, and apply retroactively to July. This issue of timing went unaddressed in the media discussion of the Initiative 77 debate. Whether councilmembers supported or opposed the repeal of the measure, there was concern that instant (and retroactively effective) implementation of Initiative 77 would have been hugely disruptive of the effected tipped industries.

In the end, the Council voted in support of a modified repeal of Initiative 77. In response to powerful testimony at the 16-hour hearing on the topic, the repeal measure passed by the Council included elements designed to address wage theft and sexual harassment through improved training and reporting tools. Further finessing of these elements, as well as a potential proposal to transfer enforcement of wage theft from the Department of Employment Services to the Office of the Attorney General, will continue prior to the Council’s required second and final vote on the measure.

Driven more so by the end-of-year timeframe was the Short-term Rental Regulation and Housing Protection Amendment Act, known colloquially as the AirBnB bill. A bill on this topic was first introduced in September of 2015, but it lapsed at the end of the prior (2015-2016) Council Period.  The measure, which was reintroduced in January of 2017, early during the current (2017-2018) Council Period, and brought to a vote at the most recent meeting, included limits on rental days (90) that were more extensive than what the most stringent critics of AirBnB and its competitors had hoped for, though less generous than what some on the Council had requested via amendment. In the end, the measure that passed by unanimous voice vote included compromise numbers that place the District in line with other larger cities that have regulated this burgeoning new business in an effort to balance its positive tourism-oriented benefits with the drain on housing stock that it can occasion. Prior to the second and final needed vote on this measure, those interested in a less restrictive bill will seek to expand the number of allowable rental days, as well as potentially extending allowable rentals to a second residence for resident Washingtonians.

Another measure that has reached a “speak now, or forever hold your peace” moment regards expanded foreign language access to government services. Also introduced in the early days of this Council Period, the language access measure was on the agenda for a first reading at the most recent meeting. However, its consideration was postponed until the next legislative meeting, so it must wait just a bit longer for its long-awaited moment in the sun.

Regarding the legislative calendar for the remainder of the year, a Legislative Meeting may be scheduled for October 16. The traditional first-Tuesday-of-the-month local scheduling for Legislative Meetings will be overridden by the even more traditional first-Tuesday-of-November national scheduling of Election Day. Therefore, one Legislative Meeting will be held on November 13, with a possible second meeting on a subsequent November Tuesday. The final pre-scheduled Legislative Meeting of the year is on December 4, though another meeting will likely be added on December 18.

At the most recent Legislative Meeting, Ceremonial Resolutions were presented, recognizing:

  • Acclaimed journalist Andrea Roane’s retirement, and community service regarding breast cancer detection, after decades of exemplary work
  • The excellent play and success of the Mamie Johnson Little League DC State Little League Championship Team
  • Zahir Muhammad’s chess mastery and success in competitive games against higher ranked opponents
  • October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • The 30th anniversary and ongoing success of the Eastern High School Choir
  • The 25th anniversary of beloved, ahead-of-its-time local music venue, the Black Cat

Though the time remaining for newly-introduced bills to make their way fully through the legislative process prior to the end of the year deadline is short, a few measures were introduced at the most recent Legislative Meeting. If passed prior to the end of the year, they would:

Address the disconnect between rent ceilings, rent concessions, and rent increases

  • Recognize the Sense of the Council regarding Indigenous Peoples’ Day (previously Columbus Day)
  • Excuse victims of domestic abuse from paying alimony to their former abusers
  • Recognize the Sense of the Council in support for the Congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act
  • Require that short-term, limited-duration health plans (exempted from Obamacare requirements) meet the requirements of the local DC insurance marketplace
  • Ensure that special events occurring in the District are properly licensed, and that equipment is properly maintained

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