As any savvy Council watcher knows, a Council Period lasts for two years—from January of an odd-numbered year to January of the next odd-numbered year. In the waning days of Council Period 20 (2013 to 2015), the Council met for one of its final full 13-member Legislative Meetings as anticipation for Council Period 21 (2015 to 2017) mounts.
This most recent Legislative Meeting was the 32nd of the Council Period, and just two more remain, on December 2 and 16. Given that Council rules require two readings (votes) on all legislation, and given that any legislation not passed by the end of the Council Period must start over from scratch in the next Council Period, this third-to-last meeting in reality constituted the second-to-last opportunity for councilmembers to introduce new legislation. Therefore, it was no surprise that the 32nd meeting had a full agenda and an elevated sense of urgency.
Perhaps the highest profile piece of legislation addressed in this session was the Housing Production Trust Fund Baseline Funding Amendment Act of 2014, which requires an annual minimum funding level of $100 million. Many view the Housing Production Trust Fund as among the government’s most effective tools in the creation of affordable housing.
Likely nearing the end of its years-long legislative travails was a bill designed to improve snow removal on the District’s sidewalks. Rather than the decades-old process, which involved having government workers shovel the snow then bill or eventually sue the violator for the cost of the removal, the Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act of 2014 establishes a simple fine structure ($25 for residents, $150 for businesses). Seniors and the disabled will be exempted, and will be able to self-certify as such if tickets are issued, through a process to be determined during a subsequent rulemaking.
Also passed on second reading: a bill clarifying the minimum requirements for accommodations that can adequately accommodate a homeless individual or family, and another bill creating a process designed to eliminate paint waste through reuse, recycling, and other measures.
On first reading, one piece of legislation that faced extensive debate was a bill banning the use of restraints by law enforcement on incarcerated pregnant women. Questions were raised regarding the nature of the restraints, how soon in a pregnancy the restrictions would become effective, and what process could be used to overrule the restriction. The initial vote on this bill has been postponed until December 2.
Nearly three dozen pieces of legislation faced first votes at the most recent meeting. Some of the legislation included:
- Approval of former Councilmember Kathy Patterson as the DC Auditor
- Criminalization of unauthorized circulation of nude photos, also known as “revenge porn”
- Modification of police procedures regarding the seizure of civilian items, including improved notice requirements and inventory procedures
- Restrictions on firefighters retiring while under disciplinary review
- The prohibition of the use of tanning machines by minors
- Banning conversion therapy for minors
- Facilitating the use of copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) by Medicaid recipients
- Authorization of sponsorship and advertising at the annual Turkey Bowl football championship
- A property tax reduction for land used for urban farming
- A tax credit for businesses who invest in the use of a trash compactor
- The ceremonial renaming of the two blocks of First Street that separate the Capitol from the Supreme Court as “DC No Taxation Without Representation Way”
- The selection of Potomac Bluestone as the District’s official rock
As indicated above, any legislation such as that on the above list which has only had its first reading must have a second and final reading on December 2 or 16 prior to being sent to the Mayor’s desk.
For a full listing of every bill considered, and every vote taken, at the Legislative Meeting, click here.