Council Advances Legislation Regarding Elections, Abortion Rights, Traffic Safety, and Victim Services

With just five Legislative Meetings left before time runs out on the legislative clock in the current two-year Council Period, a broad batch of legislation was advanced by the Council at its most recent meeting.

Although their provisions will not apply on the Election Day that is just around the corner, two election and voting rights reform bills did receive the first of two necessary votes at our most recent meeting. One would allow all residents, regardless of citizenship status, to vote in local (but not federal) elections. The rationale behind this measure was the same “no taxation without representation” mantra found on District license plates: non-citizens pay income, property, and sales tax yet are unable to vote for the elected officials who set the policy on the taxes they pay, the schools their children attend, and other aspects of their daily quality of life.

The second measure the Council advanced made permanent many aspects of election practice that were first put into practice due to the COVID pandemic. These include the mailing of ballots to all eligible voters, the use of ballot drop boxes, and allowing in-person voters to cast their vote at any polling place. The bill also would make Election Day a DC Public Schools holiday (facilitating the use of schools as polling places), and would also allow DC Public Schools employees to serve as members of the DC State Board of Education (as charter school employees are already permitted to do).

Three key measures regarding equality and protected rights also received the first of two necessary votes at the most recent meeting. The first would ban the use of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression in the calculation of personal injury or wrongful death damages in civil court cases in the District.

The second two measures reassert and strengthen the District’s existing abortion rights protections, including the prohibition of the District government from penalizing anyone who gets an abortion, provides an abortion, assists others in seeking an abortion, or provides self-managed abortion products. It would also prohibit the District government from facilitating any interstate investigation seeking to determine liability for the exercise of not just abortion rights but also contraception, consensual sexual conduct, or gender-affirming care.

Another measure receiving the first of two necessary votes at the most recent meeting was umbrella legislation reforming and expanding the services available to crime victims. The bill expands access to the District’s Crime Victim Compensation Program, establishes a new crime victim counselor role, formalizes and expands the use of Hospital Violence Interruption Programs, creates a new crime for violation of post-conviction stay-away orders, and clarifies that sexual conduct between law enforcement and arrestees is illegal.

In other action at the most recent meeting, the Council took the second of two necessary votes on bills that would:

  • expand the paid family leave benefits available to District government workers so that 12 weeks of parental/medical leave and two weeks of prenatal leave are provided
  • eliminate right turns on red in virtually all cases starting in 2025
  • allow bicycle/scooter riders to pass through stop-signed intersections without stopping, when safe (aka the “Idaho Stop”)
  • permit the same for-hire vehicle enforcement actions on rideshare vehicles that are delivering food or parcels as are currently permitted on such vehicles when they are transporting people
  • require new and substantially renovated District government buildings to provide diaper changing facilities for use by all genders

There is expected to be a Legislative Meeting called on October 18. The next already-scheduled Legislative Meeting will be held November 1.