As the DC Council’s current two-year legislative session winds to a close next month, many important bills advanced toward final approval at today’s Legislative Meeting.
Councilmember Allen’s Automatic Voter Registration Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-194) received unanimous support on final reading today. This bill removes barriers to voter registration by automatically registering residents to vote when they fill out an application for any identification at the DMV.
“I've fought for this legislation since I joined the Council. It puts DC on the leading edge nationally of what President Obama recently said should become ‘the new norm across America.’ Between automatic voter registration, online voter registration, and the District’s membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center, DC could soon have some of the most accurate voter rolls in the nation. This is a great moment for our local democracy that will give a lot more people a voice in their local decisions,” said Councilmember Allen.
Also receiving unanimous approval on final reading was Councilmember Allen’s Commission on Climate Change and Resiliency Act of 2016 (Bill 21-369). This bill will require the District to undertake a cross-sector approach to assessing and mitigating the current and coming climate change impacts, as well as assessing the District’s resilience to adverse events such as hurricanes and man-made disasters. “Climate change is real and it is here,” said Councilmember Allen. “We need to move the debate to focus more on how our city adapts to be resilient and prepared for the future.”
On first reading today, the Council advanced the Commemorative Flag Request Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-231). Introduced by Councilmember Allen, this bill will allow individuals to request a DC flag to be flown at the John A. Wilson Building for just the cost of the flag and would include an accompanying authentication certificate. The US Congress and many states have similar programs that allow residents to request a commemorative flag to display in honor of an event, person, or occasion.
Two bills co-introduced with Councilmember David Grosso, the Student Loan Ombudsman Establishment and Servicing Regulation Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-877) and Planning Actively for Comprehensive Education Facilities Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-777), also received unanimous approval on first reading today. The first will establish a Student Loan Ombudsman to receive, review, and attempt to resolve any complaints from student loan borrowers. The second requires a more detailed 10-year Master Facilities Plan and bi-annual supplement for public schools and amends the requirements for the formulation of the 6-year DCPS capital improvement plan to create a more data-driven approach that emphasizes actual facility conditions and equitable access to modernized schools.
Co-introduced with Councilmember Elissa Silverman, the Vacant Property Enforcement Amendment Act of 2016 advanced to final reading today. This bill will deter property owners from neglecting vacant properties by reducing the maximum duration of vacant property tax exemptions from three years to two. It allows for a partial rebate of vacant property taxes if a property is sold or occupied within a year of being designated as vacant and increases the maximum fine for noncompliance from $1,000 to $5,000.
Councilmember Allen’s Specialty License Plate Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-759) was approved for second reading. Merged with a similar bill by Councilmember Mary Cheh, it establishes two new specialty vehicle tags that residents can obtain when they register their vehicles: one to support women military veterans and one to support bicycle safety awareness. The woman veteran tag will bear the phrase “Woman Veteran” or a similar emblem. The bicycle awareness license plate will publicize the rule that vehicle drivers must give a cyclist three feet of space when passing.
Emergency legislation to halt cuts to the District’s public school nurse program was approved today by the full Council. Co-introduced with Councilmember David Grosso, the Public School Nurse Assignment Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 requires that any public school currently receiving school nurse services above 20 hours per week continue at that existing level of service, or the level recommended by the Department of Health’s risk-based assessment, whichever is greater, for the remainder of school year 2016-2017.
The Council of the District of Columbia’s next regular Legislative Meeting will be Tuesday, December 6, at 10:00am.