At its most recent Legislative Meeting, the Council completed action on several of the legislative puzzle pieces that comprise the totality of the District’s annual budget. Passing the District’s budget generally requires action by the Council at three different meetings. At the first, the Council takes the first of two necessary votes on the Local Budget Act (which includes the dollars-and-cents of the budget) as well as the Budget Support Act (which includes the legislative changes needed to implement the numeric changes in the other bill). At the second, the second vote is taken on the Local Budget Act, and the sole needed votes occur on bills that include the federal spending in the District’s budget, as well as the bill encompassing supplemental spending for the tail end of the ongoing fiscal year. Finally, at a third meeting, the second vote on the Budget Support Act (itself the final vote of the budget season) occurs.
The Council’s most recent Legislative Meeting represented the second in the above series. The budget numbers approved in the prior Legislative Meeting advanced with only one substantial change—a unanimously approved amendment that would provide $20 million in assistance to excluded workers if and only if this can be funded via excess unanticipated revenue generated later this fiscal year that is not already committed to other specific legislative priorities. The separate budget bills related to the federal portion of our budget, as well as supplemental spending for the ongoing fiscal year, advanced without substantial change or controversy.
As discussed in our summary of the prior Legislative Meeting, the budget approved by the Council included among its highlights these additions:
- A $41.6 million increase in funding for schools with high at-risk populations, paired with a mechanism intended to lock in that uptick in funding
- An extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit created in last year’s budget to those undocumented workers with a tax ID number. Paid out in monthly installments, this in effect creates an initial basic monthly income for these excluded workers.
- 400 new Targeted Affordable Housing vouchers, with priority treatment for those family facing a potential return to homelessness and eviction from Rapid Re-Housing
- An additional $11.6 million for the Access to Justice Initiative, which provides access to free legal counsel in civil cases (such as evictions or appeals of denial of public benefits) for those who could not ordinarily afford it
- 41 additional building inspectors, to help ensure that the Department of Buildings (one spinoff of the soon-to-be-former, bifurcated Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, can most successfully tackle its core mission of enforcement of housing code, vacant property, and illegal construction violations.
The Council’s final bite of the budget apple is scheduled to come at its June 7 Legislative Meeting, when the second vote on the Budget Support Act is anticipated.
In additional action at its most recent meeting, the Council approved the boundaries for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and their component Single Members Districts, to be in effect for the next ten years. The Council was placed in a near-impossible situation on redistricting—receiving the Census data quite late at the front end of the process, and facing an inflexible deadline of ballot preparation for the November 2022 general election as the other bookend. As a general rule, the Council does not vote on non-budget legislation at the two main Legislative Meetings where budget bills are addressed. But the tightness of this year’s redistricting window required that to take place this year. The vote taken at the most recent meeting was the first of two needed votes. While small changes to Ward 7 ANC boundaries were approved as an amendment to the bill passed at the most recent meeting, it is expected that further changes could be incorporated into the bill prior to the second and final vote on the matter on June 7.