I am proud to share updates from a March filled with in-person events, budget hearings, and newly introduced legislation. Most notably, Mayor Bowser released her fiscal year 2023 budget proposal on March 16th. Later that week, Councilmembers had the opportunity to question the Mayor and her team on the budget, changes from the previous fiscal year, and new initiatives and plans. Since then, we’ve dug even deeper.
Below, you will find highlights of agency budget hearings that have already occurred this month. Budget hearings will run until April 7th. Each Committee will then hold their votes on April 20th and 21st. More dates to remember are in this newsletter.
There is still time for you to have your voice heard. See the full budget hearing schedule and instructions on how to sign up to share testimony here. Throughout every stage of the budget process, I will continue to fight for investments that directly support our working families.
Finally, as we head into April, the Month of the Young Child (MOYC), I want to call attention to the work of our early childhood educators. During the budget process last year, I worked to establish the Early Childhood Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force. It is past time we reflect the value of our early childhood educators through increased wages. You will find details on the final report produced by the Task Force in this newsletter. I deeply thank everyone who dedicated time to this report because when we invest in childcare, we invest in our economy.
Christina Henderson Councilmember, At-Large ChristinaHendersonDC.com
March Legislation Update
Enhancing Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-0726)
This legislation would first clarify that an individual assisting another individual who is seeking, inducing, or attempting to induce that individual’s own abortion shall not be penalized. Second, it clarifies that any individual’s act of providing, dispensing, administering, or transferring possession of a product used for self-managed abortions to an individual who is self-managing an abortion shall not be penalized.
Context: In the past year, we’ve seen unprecedented action against a woman’s right to choose in states across the country. We want to make it abundantly clear in our local laws that in the District of Columbia we are a safe haven for women seeking unrestricted access to reproductive health care. A big thanks to Renee Bracey Sherman, Founder and Executive Director of We Testify for her work and support.
Expanding Access to Fertility Treatment Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-0699)
This legislation would expand coverage provided through private insurers, Medicaid and the DC Healthcare Alliance to include diagnosis and treatment for infertility.
I had the pleasure of speaking with NBC4 on what this bill could mean for families in the District. I continue to receive texts, DMs, and messages on the unexpected difficulty of conception.
Context: Many people don’t anticipate that they will have difficulty conceiving a child. Once they realize that they do and that there is a clear solution, they are then met with another obstacle – cost. One cycle of IVF alone can cost between $20,000 to $25,000, and insurance providers are not required to cover this treatment. State mandated coverage has been shown to increase 3-fold the use of infertility services, which is also linked to better public health outcomes. This will close the gap we see today where only 8% of Black women aged 25 to 44 seek medical help to get pregnant, while 15% of white women do so.
Final Report: Early Childhood Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force (RC24-0154)
During the budget process last year, I worked to establish the Early Childhood Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force. It’s a group of volunteers in the early educator field that was tasked with making recommendations on how best DC could raise the wages of educators in this field. I want to thank the Task Force for its dedication to the task and the product they have put forward.
The final report includes top line recommendations and best practices for distributing direct-to-educator payments from the pay equity fund, and then establishing a new salary scale. Overall, the scale will differentiate based on role, credential, and experience. Each teacher with the same number of achievements in these categories will be paid utilizing the same scale, signifying that no matter where you work or what age child you support, your work is equally valued.
The report is worth the read as the Council will now need to finish the work associated with this new salary scale proposal.
The Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Highlights To Date
Budget oversight is arguably one of the most important parts of my work here at the Council. After receiving the Mayor’s budget proposal on March 16th, we have gotten to work examining the mayor’s proposal and preparing for budget hearings. During these hearings, I ask agency leaders questions that will inform the Council’s budget decisions. As a Councilmember in my second year, I do not yet lead a Committee and thus have the privilege of time to work through every agency budget, looking for savings and identifying what enhancements are necessary.As mentioned in this newsletter, please find the full budget oversight schedule and instructions to sign up to testify here. If you keep reading, we’ll share a few key dates to keep in mind as we head into April. Prior to the budget proposal, I submitted an FY23 Budget Letter to share my priorities with Mayor Bowser. Please read a few highlights from hearings I have already attended:
Monday, March 21 – Department of Behavioral Health (DBH)
I asked Director Bazron pointed questions on school based mental health investments and how these investments are applied across all our schools. I also discussed investments in rehabilitation services that directly impact our residents inside and outside school buildings.
Wednesday, March 23 – Department of Corrections (DOC)
We spoke about the proposed investments in the new facility, changes to security operations, and vacancies. I was also able to shed light on the food service contract currently operating at the facility, emphasizing that no matter where you are, you deserve access to a healthy, nutritious meal.
Thursday, March 24 – Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE)
In Mayor Bowser’s proposed FY23 budget, we see a $3.7M increase in investment and 40 new full time equivalents (FTE) for this agency. I asked both Interim Director Hunter and Deputy Director Dana McDaniel for details on how to fill these new positions, building community capacity, and clarity between both contracts and grants.
Friday, March 25 – Department of Public Works (DPW)
My conversation with Interim Director Carter focused on customer service delivery – from trash and recycling programs to food waste diversion.
Monday, March 28 – Department of Employment Services (DOES)
I was pleased to speak with Director Morris-Hughes on investments that have the potential to overhaul our Infrastructure Academy, public and private paid leave programs, and the unemployment fund.
Monday, March 28 – Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (DMHHS) and the Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF)
I questioned Deputy Mayor Turnage about the future of the CARE pilot, progress on the Medicaid contract, enhancements being made to provider pay, and progress on changes to maternal health services.
On Wednesday, I dug deeper on proposed budgets for multiple education agencies including the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the State Board of Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, District of Columbia Public Schools, and District of Columbia Public Charter Schools.
One piece of information we learned was that the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund is fully funded, and then some, for FY23. Specifically, the proposed budget has $73M total allocated for this fund.
Wednesday, March 30 – Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)
I spoke with Chief Contee on the plan to continue investments that enhance the public safety of District residents. I understand that the budget for School Resource Officers (SRO) has decreased from FY22 to FY23, in line with the law requiring an SRO phase out which I plan to continue supporting.
Councilmember Christina Henderson participates in the Mayor’s FY23 budget proposal presentation. Click the photo to watch a short video of our questions asked at the briefing held at the MLK Jr Library.
FY23 Budget Dates to Remember
Thursday, April 7th – Final day for committee public hearings on agency budgets within each committee
Friday, April 8th – Committee of the Whole will host its first public hearing on the FY23 proposed budget
Wednesday, April 20th and Thursday, April 21st – Committee mark-ups on agency budgets
Wednesday, April 27th – Budget work session for the Council of the District of Columbia
Tuesday, May 10th – Committee of the Whole will host its first vote on the Local Budget Act (LBA) and the Budget Support Act (BSA)
Tuesday, May 24th – Committee of the Whole will host its second vote on Local Budget Act (LBA)
End of May – Committee of the Whole will host its second vote on the Budget Support Act (BSA)
Listening to Future Generations of the District
This past month, I have had the pleasure of meeting with many of our younger residents in the District. I am often blown away by the depth and detail questions from middle school, high school, and college students have for me. From discussions on inclusive language in school to being a woman in a male-dominated industry, I greatly appreciate time I get to spend with these groups.
Councilmember Henderson speaking to students in the Girl Up GW club about women in politics.
This in-person visit to EL Haynes brought wonderful discussion between students, faculty, and Councilmember Henderson.
Over zoom, Councilmember Henderson spoke with 80+ students and teachers at Capital Village PCS.
Constituent Services Corner
DPR Summer Camp Registration will open on Monday, April 4th, 2022
DC DPR will offer a variety of camps with specific programs tailored for age groups between 3 and 13 years old. Camp spots are secured on a rolling basis, so be sure to act early.