Legislative Update - A few bills I'm working on and what they mean for Ward 6
Protecting Access to Women's Health Benefits Through Emergency Law: While the Affordable Care Act appears to be safe as the law of the land for now, I don't want to risk any of the access to women's health benefits currently in federal law getting chipped away or rolled back. That's why I have introduced legislation, the Defending Access to Women's Health Care Amendment Act, on both a permanent and emergency basis to protect those rights immediately and without congressional interference. This legislation will protect a wide variety of health care benefits here in the District, including:
- breast cancer screening;
- screening for gestational diabetes;
- human papillomavirus testing;
- counseling for sexually transmitted infections;
- counseling and screening for HIV;
- patient education and counseling on contraception;
- sterilization procedures and related follow-up services;
- breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling;
- well-woman preventative visits;
- screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.
What does this mean for Ward 6? These are life-saving, cost-saving, critical health care services for women that were hard fought in the push to pass the ACA years ago. Ensuring all of our Ward 6 families can get access to these through their insurance coverage is great for us all. Since all of these benefits are part of the current federal law, I do not anticipate this will have an impact on the insurance markets in DC, where we already have one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country.
Re-thinking How DC Campaigns Are Funded: I was proud to co-introduce the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which will significantly reshape how local DC campaigns are financed. At its heart, the bill creates a matching benefit for smaller donations to a campaign, multiplying the impact of those smaller gifts while putting a cap on the size of donations and banning corporate contributions. This bill flips the incentives for how campaigns are now run, allowing candidates to spend more time with voters and less time chasing big-dollar donors.
What's next for the Fair Elections Act? The bill has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. As Chair, I plan to hold a hearing soon, and will invite the public to testify and share feedback on this approach to reforming our campaign finance system in the District.
Proposing a Permanent, New Primary Date: I also submitted a bill to permanently change the day on which DC primary voting takes place. Through my role as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which oversees the Board of Elections, I was notified that DC will not meet a federal requirement that mandates all general election ballots must be mailed to overseas voters (such as DC residents in the military) no later than 45 days before the general election. This is not a new problem. With our legally set date of the first Tuesday in September, we have had to move the primary date three times in four voting cycles to avoid violating federal election law. It's very confusing for voters and puts us at risk of Department of Justice lawsuits.
The Washington Post wrote a good explainer on the need to make this change. I have proposed permanently moving the DC primary date to the third Tuesday in June. This date works well for many reasons:
- avoids conflicts with schools, who host the majority of our polling sites;
- avoids any holidays during the two-week early voting window;
- allows ample time for election results to be verified and for due process for any challenges or recounts; and,
- gives Board of Elections a much larger window to prepare for the general election.
What's next for the bill? It has also been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. We will hold a hearing soon and invite the public to testify.
Books From Birth Turns One - They Grow Up So Fast
DC's Books From Birth program just celebrated its first birthday! DC Public Library is doing great work enrolling families with newborn and young children. In fact, in just one year, nearly half of all kids under the age of five in the District of Columbia are receiving a free book in the mail each month. Probably the best news to date is nearly two-thirds of the program's enrollment is in target areas of higher poverty, unemployment, and low literacy rates, where families need Books From Birth the most. Our highest enrolling zip codes were in northeast and southeast DC, meaning DCPL is doing a great job in their outreach. You can dig into the data on Books From Birth in this blog post from District Measured.
Community Hearings for MPD Chief Nominee Peter Newsham Conclude
On Friday, March 24, I heard from more than 80 witnesses who testified about the Mayor's nominee to be the next Chief of Police for the Metropolitan Police Department, Peter Newsham, who answered questions at the end of the day. The hearing lasted 11 hours and was the final of three hearings we held to solicit as much community input as possible. For our first two hearings, we took the hearing out of the Wilson Building and brought it to Wards 6 and 8 to make it easier to hear from people where they live and work. We heard from many residents about what they want to see in the next Chief of MPD. This is a major decision for our community and I am thankful to the many people who took time out of their lives to share their perspective. The next step in the process will be for the committee to produce a report on all of the testimony and research related to the nomination. Once the report is complete, we will schedule a Committee meeting to vote on the nomination, which would then send it to the full Council for a final vote.
Hands Off DC Takes Next Steps
After a huge launch rally and forum, what's next for Hands Off DC? Energy has gone into protecting several local DC laws under assault, as well as defending the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in Congress. But we know more congressional interference is likely coming soon, and more members may get in on the act, like a recent effort to overturn our gun laws and allow semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazine clips on our streets. So #HandsOffDC prepared for the next fight with a Hill Advocacy Training on Monday, March 27, at the Northeast Neighborhood Library in partnership with Neighbors United for Statehood. After some Q+A on what it's like for Hill staffers and the best ways to break through the noise, we practiced how to advocate for the District during an office visit. After all, we may not have voting representation in Congress, but we don't need a plane ticket to visit the Hill. Many neighbors have started weekly Hill visits, dropping off postcards, letters, and messages to say #HandsOffDC. There's even a large group visiting this afternoon with their children! If you'd like to join in, visit the Facebook group to find out more.
Finally, let's get coffee! My next Ward 6 Office Hours are coming up on Friday, April 7, from 8 to 9:30 am. I'll be joining the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District at A Baked Joint in Mt. Vernon Triangle and I'd love to meet you face-to-face.
As always, don't hesitate to reach out to me or my staff if we can help you with anything.
Thanks for your support,
Renovation Expo - Eastern Market North Hall, Saturday, April 1, 11am-2pm
Ward 6 Community Office Hours in Mount Vernon Triangle, Friday, April 7, 8-9:30am
Clean Waterways Volunteer Cleanup - Anacostia Park, Saturday, April 8, 9am-12pm
Benjamin Drummond Emancipation Day Celebration events at The Hill Center start April 9
Anacostia River Festival - Anacostia Park, Sunday, April 9 from 1-5 p.m.
Ward 6 Community Conversation with DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson - Tuesday, April 11 at 6:30pm
Ward 6 Community Office Hours in Southwest (Waterfront Safeway), Friday, April 14, 8-9:30am
Ward 6 Budget Town Hall - Monday, April 24, 6:30pm at Jefferson Middle School
Ward 6 Community Office Hours in Hill East (Pretzel Bakery), Friday, April 28, 8-9:30am