The DC Statehood Process, via the Tennessee Plan, Waltzes On

Although this was the final Legislative Meeting prior to the summer recess, by taking initial action on newer legislation, the Council’s action at the meeting spoke more to the future, providing a partial road map to what lies ahead for the body in the final months of Council Period 21.

One important issue, DC statehood, took a critical first legislative step at this meeting. With the surety of a new President in the White House in 2017, and the possibility of a change in the makeup of Congress, advocates for DC statehood have embraced what is known as the Tennessee plan for becoming a state. This model involves three elements: the drafting of what would become the state’s constitution, public approval of statehood via a referendum, and Congress’ signoff.

At its most recent meeting, the Council unanimously passed a resolution approving the submission of an advisory referendum to the Board of Elections asking the electorate if the Council should petition Congress to enact a statehood act and approve our Constitution. Prior to the meeting, Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced the text of the draft New Columbia Constitution, and after the recess, the Council will hold a hearing and proceed towards a vote approving that document.

The measure regarding the advisory referendum is a resolution, and therefore only receives a single Council vote. Council approval of the Constitution, however, will come via legislation, so a hearing and two Council votes will need to occur.

Other votes taken at this meeting also help provide a rough draft for the Legislative Meeting agendas following the recess. Measures providing for the redevelopment of the Sursum Corda area, protecting the elderly from financial exploitation, limiting the scope of rental housing late fees, and providing grant funds to enable seniors to age at home all received the first of two required votes at this meeting.

Also receiving a first vote, and on the consent agenda at that, was the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act. It included the elimination of contributory negligence, an insurance standard that denied pedestrians and bicyclists any compensatory damages if they were even slightly responsible for a collision with a car. This measure was postponed from the last meeting’s agenda, and will now face a second vote after the recess.

Subject to only a single vote, but a fair amount of attention, were two resolutions regarding school food service contracts. While many councilmembers expressed frustration with the process or the contractor, the looming first date of school led to the measure’s approval.

One of the only measures receiving a final vote today was a broad reform of government procurement practices.

A final sign of things to come in the post-recess Council were the bills introduced at the meeting. These measures will face a relatively compressed timeframe, because any bills not passed by the final day of Council Period 21 (January 2, 2017) will need to start the legislative process all over again in Council Period 22.

Bills introduced included measures to:

  • Express the Sense of the Council in favor of police reform
  • Regulate interstate insurance products
  • Reduce lead in the water at public schools, charter schools, and daycares
  • Allow for voter registration at schools
  • Restrict the marketing and sale of non-flushable products
  • Encourage off-hours use of school property for recreation use
  • Preserve jazz
  • Add two Census tracts to zones where supermarkets are encouraged to locate or remain
  • Reinstate firearm re-registration procedures
  • Transfer District-owned homes in Anacostia for redevelopment as workforce housing

For the complete text of all measures mentioned here, and a listing of all votes taken at the meeting, please click here.