Return from Recess Starts Countdown for Bill Passage by End of Council Period

The “tick tock” sound you heard coming from the Wilson Building this week was not (just) the 16-hour hearing on the possible repeal of Initiative 77 on the tipped minimum wage. It was also a reminder that any bills that do not become law in the soon-to-be dwindling days of 2018 will have to start the legislative process all over again.

The Council operates in two-year segments known as Council Periods. The current Council Period is 22, marking the 42nd and 43rd years since the first councilmembers took office in 1975 (following the actual establishment of Home Rule in 1974). Much like in the classic Schoolhouse Rock cartoon about lawmaking, any bill that is not passed by the Council prior to the end of the current Council Period at noon on January 2, 2019 will die. Any further efforts to implement these legislative efforts would have to start from scratch with the introduction of a new bill in Council Period 23.

This is not to say that it is too late for brand new legislation to make it all the way through the legislative process. Indeed, at the most recent Legislative Meeting, the first since the end of the Council’s recess, a number of measures were introduced (see list below).  Measures can and will continue to be introduced, but must be subject to hearings and two Council votes (known as “readings”) before the end of the year.

A second category of pending bills are those which have been introduced previously but regarding which no hearings have yet been held. A final category are those on which hearings have been held but which have not yet been put to a committee vote. Bills in these two categories may have been in a bit of legislative limbo, but can return to a fast track at any time.

The repeal of Initiative 77 (regarding the tipped minimum wage) was the focus of a just-completed marathon hearing. While the debate over the Initiative prior to the June 19 primary election focused on the merits of the measure, the debate at the recent hearing added a new element. Students of political science will recognize this new element as a classic delegate-versus-trustee struggle. “Team Delegate” sees elected officials as aggregators of public opinion. “Team Trustee” views elected officials as entrusted by voters to exercise their own judgment. What this new element brings to the debate will be evident when the Council votes on the measure later this year.

Between now and the end of the year, the Council will meet a minimum of once, and (likely) a maximum of twice a month. To receive final passage, a bill must appear on the agenda of two of these six meetings.  With each passing meeting that a bill is not agendized, the list of remaining meetings at which it can be dwindles.

The measures introduced at the most recent Legislative Meeting, if passed prior to the end of the year, would:

  • Legalize sports betting in the District
  • Better monitor student accomplishment while in school, and provide ongoing post-graduate assistance where needed
  • Put in place a schedule and a system to ensure that playing fields are safe
  • Empower the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to investigate waste and fraud, and have the Superintendent report to the State Board of Education rather than the mayor
  • Create a small business bonding program within the Department of Small and Local Business Development
  • Mandate smoke-free public areas for all rental housing
  • Change the Office on Aging into a Department, and add the prevention of elder abuse to its mission
  • Create a committee charged with improving educational outcomes for students who are incarcerated or in foster care
  • Require sexual abuse education and prevention training in schools
  • Increase the independence of State Superintendent of Education by extending the term of office and only allowing removal for cause
  • Ceremonially designate the street outside the Bowen YMCA as “Bowen Way”
  • Provide a comprehensive support system for youth who have reached adulthood and are exiting youth-oriented government programs
  • Require that kids meals in restaurants feature a healthy drink as the default beverage
  • Provide grants of up to $1,000 to assist low-income families in baby-proofing their homes
  • Eliminate the “Certificate of Need” process for the construction of new hospitals in the East End of the District
  • Require health providers to offer, and insurers to cover, the additional screening tests needed to detect breast cancer in those with dense breast tissue
  • Modify the boundaries within which incentives to open new supermarkets apply
  • Increase and strengthen the fines faced by slumlord repeat offenders
  • Designate the street outside NASA headquarters as “Hidden Figures Way”
  • Relocate a passageway easement in Ward 6

The Council’s next Legislative Meeting will be held on October 2.

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