John A. Wilson Building
John A. Wilson Building Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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The D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety approved a handful of long-anticipated bills yesterday, including one that will allow undocumented immigrants to vote in local elections and another that makes permanent the mail-in voting system the Board of Elections implemented during the pandemic.

All five bills passed the four-member committee unanimously and without much discussion aside from some perfunctory self-congratulating from some members. The bills will now go to the full Council, which will vote on them twice before they’re sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk. Here are quick summaries of the three most significant pieces of legislation:

> The Elections Modernization Amendment Act of 2021 requires the Board of Elections to mail every registered voter a ballot with a prepaid postage envelope—one of the more significant voting reforms in D.C. that came about due to COVID-19. The bill also requires the board to place at least 55 ballot drop boxes throughout the city, establish a ballot tracking system, and publish a dashboard on its website with election data, among other mandates. 

The bill also allows D.C. Public Schools employees to serve on the State Board of Education, as charter school employees are allowed to do, and makes Election Day a DCPS holiday. 

> The Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act allows D.C. residents to vote in local elections even if they’re not U.S. citizens. The original bill, introduced by Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, did not include undocumented immigrants, but the version passed by the committee was expanded to include them. If the bill passes the full Council, those residents will be able to vote for mayor, attorney general, Council chair, councilmembers, State Board of Education members, and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, but not for federal offices. 

> In personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, courts are forced to assign a dollar value to a person’s life. That calculation considers a person’s age, education, and future earnings. But forensic economists also factor in a person’s race and gender. Due to systemic racism and gender inequality, those factors cut against women and people of color. The potential earning of a Black woman with a bachelor’s degree is $1.2 million, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen recited during the meeting, but a White man’s projected earning is $2.3 million.

The Stormiyah Denson-Jackson Race and Gender Economic Damages Equality Amendment Act of 2021, introduced by Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, bars courts from using a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression to reduce a calculation of past, present, or future damages.

The bill’s namesake, Stormiyah Denson-Jackson, died by suicide in a D.C. charter school when she was 12 years old. Her mother, Patricia Denson, filed a lawsuit against the school, which was settled in 2020. She and her supporters, including former Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May, have been pushing for Allen to advance the bill ever since. May and former At-Large Councilmember Bill Lightfoot represented Denson in court.

Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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  • Kyle Young was sentenced to seven years in prison for attacking D.C. police officer Michael Fanone during the Jan. 6 insurrection. In court yesterday, Fanone told the 38-year-old Iowan, “I hope you suffer.” Young is the first in the group accused of attacking Fanone to be sentenced. [Post, Register]
  • Two Maryland high school students, Lily and Eliza Dorton, created an app that features an interactive map of civil rights landmarks throughout D.C. [Informer]
  • A female African lion at the Smithsonian Zoo named Naba was euthanized this week. The 18-year-old lion had been treated in the preceding months for chronic renal disease, but when her health didn’t improve zookeepers decided more exams would be too invasive. [DCist]

By City Paper staff (tips? editor@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray seems to be moving toward a re-election bid in 2024 despite some recent health troubles. That hasn’t stopped chattering in the ward about potential challengers, with Ward 7 Dems chair Wendell Felder, 2020 candidate Veda Rasheed, and current at-large hopeful Karim Marshall getting mentions. [Axios]
  • D.C.’s hospitals are coping with a nursing shortage (or, perhaps more accurately, a “shortage of nurses who are willing to work in these kinds of conditions,” says a union leader). Mayor Bowser is considering measures to help, waiting on recommendations from a task force set to be delivered in the coming weeks. [DCist]
  • Want to dive into the nitty-gritty of the city’s advisory neighborhood commission races? Greater Greater Washington surveyed roughly 175 of the candidates for the hyperlocal seats for their positions on development, transit, and more. [GGWash]

By Alex Koma (tips? akoma@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The Lidl grocery store at Skyland Town Center is officially open. [WTOP]
  • Top Chef judge and restaurateur Tom Colicchio will open a new restaurant in the downtown spot that 701 Restaurant previously occupied. [Eater]
  • Hamilton cast members, in town during the musical’s run at the Kennedy Center, served meals at Martha’s Table. [Fox5]

By City Paper staff (tips? editor@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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  • Recapping the wonder that is DC Jazz Fest. [Washington Informer]
  • Netflix’s Love Is Blind is casting in D.C. and might even film here? [DCist]

By Sarah Marloff (tips? smarloff@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The Wizards are heading to Japan for preseason games against the Golden State Warriors. The team’s staffers have developed elaborate plans to help players fight jet lag. [Post]
  • Caps GM Brian MacLellan says the team is in the NHL’s second tier heading into this season. [WTOP]
  • But bored hockey fans can enter the team’s rally towel design contest. The winner’s design will appear on towels handed out at the Feb. 14 game against the Carolina Hurricanes. [Fox5]

By City Paper staff (tips? editor@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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