Council Approves Creation of Migrant Services Office, Advances Transportation Safety Measures

At its most recent Legislative Meeting, the first since the end of its summer recess, the Council approved a broad variety of measures, with some addressing longstanding concerns and others tackling issues that have come to a head more recently.

In light of the cynical actions of certain governors who have physically transported thousands of legitimate asylum seekers across the country with no legitimate purpose or concern for the migrants’ needs, Council action was necessary to address this influx. The unique profile of these asylum seekers–all are in immediate material need, all require specialized asylum-related legal services, but many have intended ultimate destinations elsewhere in the country—required a new and tailored basket of services from the District. These services will include meeting the buses, providing meals and urgent medical care, the facilitation of onward travel, and linking migrants to resettlement and asylum legal services. Such efforts will be bilingual, culturally competent, temporary, and distinct from the District’s homeless service continuum.

The Council’s recent action allowed for the creation of an Office of Migrant Services which will itself provide needed services, and will also offer grants to nongovernmental organizations to do so. The District will continue to seek additional assistance from the federal government, as well as eventual reimbursement for the Office of Migrant Services’ efforts during the declared public emergency. The Council passed emergency and temporary versions of the bill, ensuring it can go into effect immediately and for the coming months. A permanent version of the bill will also proceed through the standard legislative process, which includes a public hearing on the topic.

In other action at the most recent Legislative Meeting, in the first of two necessary votes, the Council voted to approve a bill intended to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety and convenience. One of the bill’s provisions would, once in effect, make all DC intersections by default “no turn on red” intersections, unless traffic analysis determines the intersection would be safer if right turn on red were allowed. This element of the bill is subject to appropriations, and will only go into effect once funded in a future budget. If funded, it is scheduled to only go into effect after an extensive education campaign, in 2025 (which will be the 100th anniversary of the passage of the underlying District Traffic Act of 1925). Going into effect immediately if the bill receives final approval by the Council will be another of the bill’s provisions: the legalization of what is known as the “Idaho stop.” This change to present law would allow bicyclists and scooter riders to treat stop signs as yield signs, proceeding across the intersection after yielding to verify the intersection is free of vehicles and pedestrians.

Among the other measures approved at the most recent meeting were bills to:

  • Ensure digital equity in DC Public Schools by requiring a system-wide digital equity plan, a parent/student/teacher advisory group to guide the plan’s development, as well as a school-by-school assessment of technology needs vs. current inventory of devices (second of two needed votes)
  • Expand the paid family leave available to DC government employees, ultimately providing 12 weeks of parental/medical leave and two weeks of prenatal leave once fully funded (first of two needed votes)
  • Provide a ten-year property tax abatement to Player’s Lounge/Georgena’s Restaurant, a legacy Ward 8 sit-down restaurant in business since 1972 (first of two needed votes)
  • Allow bars, restaurants, and breweries/distilleries who register for the privilege to remain open 24 hours a day during the upcoming November/December soccer World Cup, with alcoholic beverage service allowed from 6AM to 4AM (passed on an emergency basis)

The Council’s next Legislative Meeting will be held on October 4.