Difficult Meeting Yields to Recess; Pace, not Intensity, To Slacken Slightly

Local legislatures take summer recesses. The DC Council does triple duty, with responsibilities of a state legislature, county council, and city council. But from an operational standpoint, it is a bit more like the latter two in that it runs year-round. While wags and cynics would have you believe that the Council’s summer recess is really a vacation, that is not the case. Work continues, just the pace is different. While the rest of the year is a series of interlinked sprints, the recess is more like a purposeful, scenic hike–with a known destination, but a bit of room for wandering. We should all strive for a fast, competitive pace most of the time, but stepping off the treadmill while keeping your eye on the prize once in a while can yield real benefits.

That is the context any other year. But coming out of the most recent Legislative Meeting, an additional element will be present this summer. At the meeting, the Council voted to remove Councilmember Jack Evans as Chair of the Finance and Revenue Committee, eliminate the committee, and distribute its oversight and legislative responsibilities to other existing committees. Additionally, the Council voted to hire a law firm to conduct an investigation into possible violations of the Council’s code of conduct by Councilmember Evans, and subsequently agreed to create an ad hoc Council committee to consider the Evans matter. The goal is to have the law firm’s investigation wrap up by the end of the recess, with the ad hoc committee coming into existence soon after the Council’s mid-September return.

In other action at the most recent meeting, the Council approved the sole-source contract tied to the sports gaming bill approved by the Council earlier this year. An effort to dedicate sports gaming revenue to violence prevention and birth-to-three services fell short of the supermajority vote needed to pass the bill on an emergency basis.

The Council also approved, in the first of two needed votes, the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act. This document addresses the “big picture” Framework Element of the Comprehensive Plan, and acts as a prelude to the Council’s subsequent consideration of theme-specific chapters of the Plan. The Council brought an intense affordable housing emphasis to the draft version of the Plan that had been absent in what it had originally been presented by the Administration.

Earlier in the day, the Council presented a Ceremonial Resolution to Lonnie Bunch, the newly-serving Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture. In addition to working in the District, he lives here, and did both his undergraduate and graduate university schooling in DC.

Bills introduced at the most recent Legislative Meeting, if eventually passed, would:

  • Change urban farming soil testing rules to specify they only apply if farming will apply in the ground itself, and not pots/hydroponics
  • Express the Sense of the Council in opposition to the Trump Administration’s inhumane treatment of migrant adults and children
  • Forbid subcontractors being held responsible for damages caused by contractors
  • Create a task force to oversee the recently planned and funded rehabilitation of public housing
  • Require and regulate home/hospital education plans for students by local education agencies during periods of extended leave due to physical or psychological conditions
  • Expand safe passage to school legislation
  • Provide an omnibus package of reforms to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, including creation of licensure standards, requiring tenants as well as owners be notified of violations, etc.
  • Create a points preference in the police and fire academies for the children of first responder parents who died in the line of duty
  • Further tighten lead-free and lead-safe restrictions from 2011 levels
  • Provide an omnibus package of waterways reform legislation
  • Require the creation of a master public safety facilities modernization plan
  • Create a tax liability reduction plan for seniors and the disabled
  • Clarify the law to state that small child-run businesses, such as the sale of lemonade or water, are legal and do not require a Basic Business License
  • Support and reinforce the O Street Wall in Ward 7
  • Allow participants in the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program to count their time in the program towards government retirement creditable service numbers
  • Create a “Clean Slate Act” in the District that would eliminate barriers to expungement of criminal records for returning citizens

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

The Council’s next Legislative Meeting will be held after the recess, on September 17.