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Will D.C. residents get to vote for or against a $15-an-hour minimum wage this November? That’s still up in the air.
At a hearing Thursday, D.C. Superior Court Judge Maurice Ross said he has not come to a decision yet regarding the legitimacy of the (popular) ballot initiative, which was approved by D.C. Board of Elections members whose terms had expired.
With the decision delayed yet again, supporters of the initiative will have to continue to wait to collect the 23,200 valid signatures needed by early July to qualify for the fall ballot.
The lawsuit was brought by Harry Wingo, the former D.C. Chamber of Commerce president, whose lawyers have argued that because some BOE members’ terms had expired when the initiative’s language was approved, it’s invalid.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has nominated David Michael Bennett to replace BOE Chair Deborah Nichols, whose term expired in July 2012. The D.C. Council will consider his appointment at a March 10 hearing, as well as the appointment of Michael Gill to replace a member whose term expired in July 2014.
The Office of the Attorney General intervened in the case last month after Ross’ oral opinion on the case seemed to threaten to invalidate years of actions made by BOE, including presiding over the most recent mayoral race, successful marijuana legalization initiative, and the appointment of several councilmembers.
OAG attorney Brad Patrick argued today that the term limitations that the Council imposed on BOE went against their powers laid out in the Home Rule Act and a 1955 act of Congress that established the board.
The language in that 1955 act states that “until [a BOE member’s] successor is appointed and has qualified, a member may continue to serve even though the term of the office to which he was appointed has expired.” Patrick argued that this means those members’ terms were never technically expired, since the Council’s mandate could not trump the act by Congress.
“Clearly that limitation would be inconsistent or contrary to what Congress had provided in enacting [these acts],” Patrick told Ross.
Delvone Michael, director of D.C. Working Families, told City Paper that he’s not concerned about collecting the needed signatures by the July deadline. A coalition in support of the initiative has had signature collectors organized for a while who are anxious to get started, he added.
“At this point, we’re just waiting to send the ships out to sea,” Michael said.
Illustration by Lauren Heneghan