D.C. agencies will no longer be able to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as the Metropolitan Police Department and Department of Corrections have in the past. Nor will most employers be able to use non-compete clauses in employment agreements and workplace policies, which are occasionally used in the hospitality industry. The Council passed a number of bills on second and final reading on Tuesday, including the Sanctuary Values Act and Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act. The Council also extended the public health emergency until March 31, along with all the protections tethered to it including the eviction and utility shutoff moratoriums. Mayor Muriel Bowser has a lot to review.
Tuesday’s legislative meeting was the Council’s final one this session. Members said goodbye to Councilmembers David Grosso (At-Large), who is leaving for a major lobbying firm, and Brandon Todd (Ward 4), who hinted that he may join the executive branch. Todd’s parting gift came in the form of an amendment to a bill that bans cashless businesses. His amendment exempts businesses that have on-site cash converting devices at no charge to customers. The amended bill passed.
Here are other notable moments:
“D.C. just made history.” James Zeigler, an attorney who represents people in prison who’ve applied for resentencing, tweeted that after the Council approved the Second Look Amendment Act on final reading. The bill gives people who committed serious crimes before their 25th birthday a chance at resentencing. The Council received a lot of criticism from MPD and prosecutors. But lawmakers remained unfazed, citing an unjust system that disproportionately incriminates Black people. A strange moment happened in what was supposed to be a standard second vote: Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh reintroduced amendments that were defeated last legislative meeting. And again, the Council voted them down, as some viewed them as undermining the bill’s intent.
For more context, read Loose Lips’ 2019 cover story on the Second Look Amendment Act, “How to End a Sentence.”
The Office of the Attorney General will be able to bring civil lawsuits against people who commit hate crimes under a newly passed bill. The United States Attorney’s Office has failed to prosecute these types of crimes, according to the OAG. “The Council’s actions to combat hate and discrimination, reduce destructive mass incarceration, and advance justice for all is particularly timely after a weekend when divisiveness, vitriol, and bias-motivated violence came to the District of Columbia,” says Attorney General Karl Racine via a press statement.
“This is a victory for District workers.” John Boardman, with the labor union UNITE HERE Local 25, applauded the Council’s decision to pass the so-called Right To Return To Work bill in the aforementioned press statement. The Council passed a watered-down version of the bill it originally approved during a Dec. 2 legislative meeting. Lawmakers faced a lot of pressure to kill the bill from the restaurant industry. Chairman Phil Mendelson, who introduced the bill, worked with restaurants, along with Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, as he said he would in the earlier meeting, to make the bill more palatable. The bill, which applies to businesses who had 50 or more employees before the pandemic hit, exempts 85 percent of District businesses, according to Mendelson.
The only bill that would legislate reopening schools does not get a vote. At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman withdrew her bill that aims to create more transparency around reopening schools during the pandemic. The Washington Teachers’ Union was not pleased with Silverman’s decision. “We’re disappointed the Council did not move forward. We need collaboration and transparency to build trust,” the union says in a tweet. Silverman cited a number of reasons, including DC Public Schools’ decision to test asymptomatic students and staff. In a tweet, Silverman suggested associated costs related to the bill prevented her from introducing it. “I think ReOpening DCPS has not had enough sense of urgency, but they also can’t have a fiscal impact unless the administration agrees to absorb,” she says.
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- The daily case rate and COVID-19 hospitalizations remain in the red, at Phase 0/1 levels. To see today’s coronavirus cases and more information, visit our coronavirus dashboard.
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