D.C. Council members have returned from their summer recess and are working on their legislative priorities before the Council Period ends on Dec. 31.
“My team and I are preparing for a busy fall ahead and the end of Council Period 24,” said Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large) in the Sept. 2 edition of her e-newsletter to District residents. “There will be a flurry of hearings and votes in the next few months. Any legislation that does not have a second vote by December 20 will die, and the legislative process must start again over in January.”
In January, Council Period 25 starts with new members added to the District’s legislative body and new assignments to committees.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) concurred with Henderson, saying that during the summer recess, which lasted from mid-July to Sept. 16, no legislative activity occurred but his colleagues continued to work.
“During the recess, council members were catching up on issues and working to prepare for the fall,” said Mendelson during a news briefing that took place on Sept. 19 at the John A. Wilson Building in the District’s Northwest quadrant. “We will have a lot of work that will need to be done at the end of October and the beginning of November. I expect that we will need two legislative meetings in November and December to complete the work that needs to be done.”
Mendelson said any council member that wants to have a bill possibly move forward in the legislative process before the end of the Council Period should introduce it this month or at least in the early part of October.
“A bill introduced in the middle of October will have a hard time getting through before the session ends,” he said.
The chairman said he will be hesitant to waive council’s rules to prioritize any legislation. He said despite the lateness in the Council Period, legislation should go through the normal process.
Mendelson said his top legislative item will be to change the way the budget for the District of Columbia Public Schools “is put together.”
“I know the [Bowser] administration does not support this but parents are frustrated with the process,” he said. “This legislation will be handled in the Committee of the Whole which deals with education.”
Henderson said in her e-newsletter that she anticipates markups in bills she has sponsored such as safe passage to school, giving SNAP recipients more money, simplifying the expungement process and enhancing reproductive process.
Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who serves as the chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said he will have an active remainder of the session also. He said his legislation putting a recurring $100 balance on District residents’ SmartTrip card every month and making a $10 million annual investment in improving bus service and infrastructure in the city will be of utmost importance, according to the Sept. 16 e-newsletter he sends out to his constituents.
Allen said the first major bill he will move deals with the significant expansion of services and rights provided to victims and survivors of crime. Essentially, Allen says the bill will strengthen victims access to city services designed to help them through the trauma they have suffered.
“Helping victims is an important way to begin to heal after a traumatic event and also a critical way to break cycles of violence,” Allen said.
Allen has also sponsored bills that he plans to lead through the legislative process. One bill — the Partition of Real Property Act — is designed to protect homeowners by creating a new legal process when one or more co-owners want to sell their stake in the property. The other bill, the Expanding Fee Waivers for Low-Income Litigants Amendment Act, would let more indigent public benefit program participants automatically qualify for waivers to access the civil legal system.
Council members Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) are working together to pass The Players Lounge Tax Exemption Act of 2021. The bill would allow a property tax exemption for The Players Lounge, also known as Georgena’s located on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, for several years and retroactively. The bill passed McDuffie’s Committee on Business and Economic Development in June unanimously and Mendelson said he doesn’t see any major opposition to it.
“I don’t like tax exemptions [for individual businesses],” the chairman said. “I don’t have the taste for exemptions. But the bill did come through committee.”