On Tuesday, the Council held its penultimate Legislative Meeting and final Committee of the Whole markup for Council Period 24. Any permanent bill that did not receive a vote yesterday will have to be reintroduced in 2023 for consideration. Penultimate meetings for any legislature – the Council, the United States Senate, it doesn’t matter – are always long and involved. We voted on 56 measures in the Committee of the Whole, as well as several other resolutions, contracts, and emergency bills during the Legislative Meeting. I didn’t want to wait until the end of the month to tell you about some of our work. Here’s a look at bills and resolutions I introduced that passed and other notable ones to watch for:
BILLS FROM TEAM HENDERSON
- Give SNAP A Raise Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-600): This bill would increase the minimum monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payment guaranteed to all participants by 10 percent. For example, a household of three with $2,000 a month in income would see their monthly benefit go from $58 to $129, and the same household, with an income of $1,000 a month, would see their monthly allotment increase from $358 to $419. In 2019, approximately 94,000 residents of the District of Columbia—nearly 1 in 8—depended on SNAP. This number grew to 135,000 residents in 2020 during the pandemic. More than half of households currently exhaust their SNAP benefits within the first two weeks of the month, which leaves most participants $100 short each month for an adequate healthy diet. This results in a $160 million SNAP food security gap city wide. This bill will need to be funded in the FY24 budget in order to go into effect.
- Safe Streets for Students Amendment Act (B24-66):This bill codifies the existence of and makes some changes to the Deputy Mayor for Education’s Safe Passage program and the Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program. It also requires the creation of a Safer Streets for Students Master Plan in which DDOT, DME, and other relevant agencies would lay out their intentions for safe routes and safe passage programming over the next 5 years, including on infrastructure. Additionally, the bill streamlines the process for requesting a crossing guard and requires the launch of a School Streets Pilot program, which would close at least one block adjacent to a school to vehicular traffic during drop-off and pick-up hours. The final bill incorporates language from other bills authored by Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) and Councilmember Janeese Lewis George (Ward 4).
- Educator Background Check Streamlining Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-989): This bill makes changes to the suitability check requirements for individuals seeking to work or volunteer in our public schools. In particular, it adds the requirement that local education agencies check the National Sex Offender Registry and removes the review of all 50 states Child Protection Registry (CPR) which was administratively burdensome and was never intended to be used for employment suitability for school staff or contractors. There is no public or national CPR database as there is for criminal checks, so current law would require CFSA to contact every state to manually search for a match of an applicant. This bill strikes the appropriate balance of providing safe learning environments for our students and having human resources policy that is administratively workable for our LEAs.
- School Psychologist Licensing Clarification Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-648): Psychologists who work for our public schools are exempt from Board of Psychology licensing obligations, but the Board recently interpreted the law to only apply to school psychologists employed by DC Public Schools, thus excluding those professionals in our public charter schools. This bill will ensure that both of our education sectors have the same laws and regulations pertaining to school psychologists. Thank you to DC Prep Public Charter School for bringing this problem to our attention. The bill also contains the language from an emergency bill we did earlier this Fall to make changes to the Perinatal Mental Health Taskforce overseen by the Department of Healthcare Finance.
BILLS TEAM HENDERSON ENHANCED
- Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-320): This omnibus police reform legislation has been under consideration for at least 2 years and adopts many of the recommendations of the Police Reform Commission. For example, the bill has specific limits on certain use of force tactics like neck restraints, improves access to body-worn camera footage, and strengthens the Office of Police Complaints, among other things. It also incorporates a bill I introduced last May, B24-0254: School Police Incident Oversight and Accountability Amendment Act of 2021, which would require local education agencies to maintain data on school-based disciplinary actions involving law enforcement. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) would be required to report school-involved incidents bi-annually disaggregated by age, race, gender, and disability.
- Second Chance Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-63): This legislation is a comprehensive rewrite of our record sealing and expungement law. It contains elements of a bill I introduced in April 2021 B24-0180: Record Expungement Simplification to Offer Relief and Equity (RESTORE) Amendment Act of 2021, to provide a clear framework for record sealing and expungement, including facilitating automatic sealing for non-convictions. As you know, arrest and criminal records, even for non-convictions, ‘no paper’ cases, or for crimes that have been decriminalized, can introduce barriers to employment and housing. There is more work to be done on this legislation in the coming weeks to address some of the administrability challenges raised by the Courts and organizations like the DC Justice Lab.
- Metro For D.C. Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-429): I was a co-introducer of the original bill which would have provided certain DC residents with a $100 monthly stipend to use for Metrobus or Metrorail. The bill was modified in the Committee of the Whole to prioritize making all Metrobus service that originates in DC free, and expanding overnight Metrobus service to 12 lines. I was really happy to see the ideas that I proposed in late October in my bill, B24-1088: Universal Metrobus Access Pilot Act of 2022, are being embraced on a broader scale and much more quickly than I imagined possible.
- Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-113): The District of Columbia cannot implement an adult-use recreational cannabis program like 21 other jurisdictions already have due to Congressional overreach and micromanagement. With the medical cannabis marketplace being the only fully legal option, this bill does a lot to enhance that program like allowing for self-certification for patients to get cannabis cards. My priority for this bill was to ensure that good actors among the various I-71 shops have an opportunity to migrate into our medical cannabis program prior to enforcement beginning. Working with the relevant Committees, the Office of the Attorney General, and ABRA, this version of the bill allows I-71 establishments to join the medical marijuana program by lifting the existing cap on dispensaries, cultivations centers, and other licenses and allowing for an open application period provided that the applicant meets business, health, safety, and location requirements.
RESOLUTIONS TEAM HENDERSON INTRODUCED
As you can see, though it was a long meeting (11.5 hours!), it was a productive one. None of this could have been done without the hard work of the Council staffers (Budget Office, General Counsel, Office of the Secretary, and CORE included), the FIS team at the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and partners at Executive agencies who dedicate their time, energy, and careers to the service of the residents of DC. I want to thank them for all they do.
As we bring in Council Period 25, I am clear-eyed about the momentum we have gained and will continue to advocate for common-sense legislation that not only makes life better for current residents, but for future residents as well. Thank you for continuing to trust me to represent you.