Comment

Grosso introduces bill to protect abortion providers from discrimination

For Immediate Release:
November 7, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces bill to protect abortion providers from discrimination

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today introduced legislation that would prohibit discrimination against health care professionals who provide or support abortion care.

“Doctors and nurses are vital patient advocates,” Grosso said. “They should not fear employer discrimination for speaking up in the interest of patients who have decided to have an abortion.”

The Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017 would amend the Human Rights of Act of 1977 to make it unlawful to discriminate against health care professionals for providing or being willing to participate in abortion and protect their ability to speak publicly about their support for abortion. It also prevents hospitals from denying staff privileges just because the health care professional is an abortion provider.

Health care professionals across the country, including in the District of Columbia, report hostility and outright discrimination from their employers due to their support for abortion access or participation in abortion care. For example, Diane Horvath-Cosper, a physician who provided abortions at a private secular nonprofit hospital in D.C., was threatened with termination for speaking with the media about the importance of abortion access.

“D.C.’s health care industry employs over 45,000 people. While only a few of those would be likely to need the protection of this bill, we pride ourselves as a jurisdiction that staunchly defends the right to an abortion, and we should ensure that no nurse or doctor fears that they will lose their jobs or careers because of participation in abortion services or advocacy,” Grosso said.

“Health care providers should be able to pursue work as abortion providers, without fear of discrimination,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president & CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) in support of the legislation. “The Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act is a common-sense solution that voters support and health care providers need. Amid relentless efforts by the Trump Administration and Congress to attack a woman’s right to abortion, it is more important than ever to protect those providing this crucial care.”

Grosso previously introduced and the Council passed into law the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act to protect individuals from employment discrimination on the basis of their, or a dependent’s, reproductive health decision making.

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Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: November 7, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Charles Allen, Robert C. White, Jr., Anita Bonds

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prohibit discrimination against health care professionals by a health care provider, based on the professional’s participation in, willingness to participate in, or support for abortion or sterilization procedures, or public statements related to abortion or sterilization procedures.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Despite the protection provided by Roe versus Wade, elected officials in state houses across the country and up on Capitol Hill are trying to make it effectively impossible to access abortion services.

This includes a climate of demonization of the medical professionals who provide these services.

A doctor, nurse, or other health practitioner should not have to fear for their job based on their support for the right to choose or their willingness to participate in abortion services.

In fact, discrimination based on an employee’s participation in abortion – or willingness to do so – has been illegal under federal law since 1976.

But there are gaps in the federal law, which has led a number of states to legislate additional protections.

The District of Columbia does not done so, but this legislation would fix that.

It is a rather simple bill, adding protections under our Human Rights Act for health professionals who speak publicly about abortion, or who have a second job providing abortion services.

At a time when speaking out about the importance of access to abortion is critical, we had an incident here in D.C. last year in which a hospital tried to silence a doctor who was an outspoken defender of reproductive rights.

This sort of retaliation, or the firing of healthcare professionals for treating a woman seeking an abortion as has happened elsewhere, is inappropriate and discriminatory.

With over 45,000 people employed in the healthcare industry in the District of Columbia, we need to protect these individuals from employment discrimination like this.

While only a few of those would be likely to need the protection of this bill, we pride ourselves as a jurisdiction that staunchly defends the right to an abortion, and we should ensure that no nurse or doctor fears that they will lose their jobs or careers because of participation in abortion services or advocacy.

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Comment

Grosso seeks to prioritize fair practices and equitable community development in awarding of D.C. banking contracts

For Immediate Release:
November 7, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso seeks to prioritize fair practices and equitable community development in awarding of D.C. banking contracts

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation to strengthen existing responsible banking laws to ensure that the District of Columbia is investing in financial institutions that engage in fair lending practices and meet the needs of historically underserved communities.

”While there is certainly no perfect financial institution, we should endeavor to prioritize partnerships with business entities, banks, and other financial institutions that are committed to engaging in fair and responsible business practices and those that fulfill their obligations to meet the credit and other needs of the communities they serve,” said Grosso.

The legislation introduced today, the Strengthening Community Development Amendment Act of 2017 requires that financial institutions seeking to do business with the city highlight the programs, products, and any partnerships they have established to promote affordable housing and equitable development, in addition to submitting community development plans.

The bill also increases the weight D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer must give to a financial institution’s community development score, a rating of how well it meets the credit needs of its local communities, in awarding the District’s banking business.  Finally, it requires the CFO to seek public comment before executing an option year on a contract with banks doing business with D.C.

“Public transparency and accountability should always be paramount when the District of Columbia seeks to conduct business with financial institutions,” Grosso said. “We must ensure that these banks will serve the convenience and needs of their local communities and invest responsibly to help maintain the vibrancy of our neighborhoods through sound services and lending.”

Grosso has been pushing for greater scrutiny of the financial institutions D.C. does business with since earlier this year, calling on the CFO to reassess its business with Wells Fargo and introducing a Sense of the Council resolution urging divestment.

In March, Wells Fargo, D.C.’s bank of record, received a national rating of “Needs to Improve” on community lending from its federal regulator. Despite this and other reports of unethical business practices, D.C. continues its relationship with the troubled bank.

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Strengthening Community Development Amendment Act of 2017

Strengthening Community Development Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: November 7, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert C. White, Jr., Trayon White

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Community Development Act of 2000 to require the Chief Financial Officer to regularly evaluate the community development plans of deposit-receiving institutions and to seek public comment prior to the execution of an option year on a contract with a deposit-receiving institution; and to amend section 47-351.05 of the District of Columbia Official Code to increase the weight the Mayor or CFO must give to a financial institution’s community development score in competitions for District banking business.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

In 2014, the Council unanimously passed the Community Development Amendment Act of 2013, a responsible banking law designed to ensure responsible loans, investments, and services are being provided to our low and moderate income and minority communities.

That law required, among other things, an evaluation of financial institution performance in servicing these communities as part of the criteria for deciding which institutions receive municipal deposits and other city business.

The bill was an enormous victory and step in the right direction to hold large financial institutions accountable to historically underserved communities and ensure their continuous investment in these neighborhoods.

Today, that law needs to be strengthened.

In March, Wells Fargo, the city’s bank of record received a national rating of “Needs to Improve” on community lending from its federal regulator.

Despite the misdeeds cited in the evaluation, the city continues its relationship with the much-maligned Wells Fargo.

While there is certainly no perfect financial institution, we should endeavor to prioritize partnerships with business entities, banks, and other financial institutions that are committed to engaging in fair and responsible business practices and those that fulfill their obligations to meet the credit and other needs of the communities they serve.

My legislation seeks to improve upon the existing community development law in three key ways.  First, it requires that financial institutions seeking to do business with the city must, in addition to submitting their community development plans, highlight the programs, products and any partnerships they’ve established to promote affordable housing and equitable development.

Second, the bill increases the weight the CFO must give a financial institution’s community development score in competitions for District banking business.

Finally, the bill requires the CFO to seek public comment, prior to executing an option year on a contract with banks doing business with the city.

Public transparency and accountability should always be paramount when the District seeks to conduct business with financial institutions. We must ensure that these banks will serve the convenience and needs of their local communities and invest responsibly to help maintain the vibrancy of our neighborhoods through sound services and lending.

 

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Grosso’s out-of-school time law marks several milestones in implementation

For Immediate Release:
October 24, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso’s out-of-school time law marks several milestones in implementation

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, released the following statement today on the continued implementation of the Office of Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes Establishment Act of 2016, which he introduced and was passed into law last year:

“Today marks several important milestones in our efforts to provide equitable, high quality out-of-school time programming to the youth of the District of Columbia. I applaud the Deputy Mayor for Education on the launch of the Office of Out of School Time Grants & Youth Outcomes and look forward to working together.

“Today we received a better picture of the current programming and gaps that need to be addressed in our city with the release of the D.C. Policy Center’s Needs Assessment of Out-of-School Time Programs in the District of Columbia. The findings and questions raised will be excellent material for discussion at the Commission on Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes, which will be responsible for setting the strategic priorities and plan for this work. This afternoon I reconvened and concluded the hearing on the public member nominees and I look forward to approving their nominations next week.

 “As the Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I know that out-of-school time programming is critical to the educational, social-emotional, and physical well-being of our youth. What happens outside the classroom is just as vital to our students’ success as what happens inside of it.  I’m very excited to see all of these pieces coming together and that we are on the path to addressing these gaps in an equitable and data-driven manner.”

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Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: October 5, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Robert White

FACT SHEET & SECTION BY SECTION | BILL TEXT | RESOURCES & STATISTICSCOALITION CONTACTS | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To repeal an Act for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia; to amend an Act in relation to pandering, to define and prohibit the same and to provide for the Punishment thereof to remove certain criminal penalties for engaging in sex work in order to promote public health and safety; to repeal Section 1 of an Act to enjoin and abate houses of lewdness, assignation, and prostitution, to declare the same to be nuisances, to enjoin the person or persons who conduct or maintain the same and the owner or agent of any building used for such purpose, and to assess a tax against the person maintaining said nuisance and against the building and owner thereof; to repeal An Act to confer concurrent jurisdiction on the police court of the District of Columbia in certain cases; and to create a task force to assess the impact of this legislation and recommend further reforms to improve community safety and health by removing criminal penalties for engaging in commercial sex.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Good morning. I am At-Large D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, and I am pleased to be here with community members and the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition.

As you may know, all my work on the Council is based in the human rights framework.

That commitment includes speaking out for the human rights of the most marginalized communities, including sex workers.

I believe that we as a society are coming to realize that excessive criminalization is causing more harm than good, from school discipline to drug laws to homelessness.

It is time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a focus on human rights, health, and safety.

That is why today I am announcing the introduction of the Reducing Criminalization to Improve Health and Safety Amendment Act of 2017.

I developed this legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition, and the bill is in line with recommendations from Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, U.N. AIDS, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other expert organizations.

The bill is quite simple really—it repeals a number of laws, or parts of laws, that criminalize adults for exchanging sex for money or other things of value.

By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help them live safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or noise.

Some of the laws that this bill would repeal are over a hundred years old, showing how the criminalization approach has been a total failure.

There is plenty of other evidence that this approach puts people at risk for violence, inhibits the fight against HIV, and results in the exact opposite of what the laws purported intentions, but I will leave that to my fellow speakers to describe in greater detail.

The bill does not change any of our laws regarding coercion or exploitation, which will continue to be prohibited. Nor does it change how minors involved in sex trade are considered.

Sex workers themselves are often some of the best-positioned people to identify and help people in situations of exploitation, and by removing the criminal sanctions on them, we can improve our efforts on that front.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me work on this legislation and I also want to appreciate all the sex worker activists who have spoken out for their human rights, from Sharmus Outlaw here in D.C., to Gabriela Leite in Brazil, to countless others around the world.

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List of Organizations Providing Immigration Legal Services

Starting last fiscal year, the Council and Mayor have provided $500,000 annually in new funds for legal services to aid undocumented immigrants.  I urge anyone who has been, or knows someone who was, affected by the DACA decision or recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids to please contact my office at 202.724.8105 so we can connect you to organizations who can assist. That list of organizations and their contact information can be found below:

  • AYUDA - (202) 387-4848
  • Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, Inc. - (202) 772-4352
  • Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center - (202) 393-3572, ex. 22
  • Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International - (202) 529-2991
  • Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services - (202) 745-7000
  • Human Rights First - (202) 547-5692
  • KIND Inc. - (202) 824-8680
  • Asian/Pacific Island Domestic Violence Resource Project Confidential Helpline - (202) 833-2233
  • DC Affordable law Firm’s D.C. Immigrants’ Rights Project, in partnership with the Ethiopian Community Center and Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (202) 844-5430
  • CARECEN - (202) 328-9799
  • CAIR Coalition - (202) 331-3320

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Grosso introduces legislation to aid residents’ student loan repayments

For Immediate Release:
October 3, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces legislation to aid residents’ student loan repayments

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today continued his push to address the looming student debt crisis by introducing legislation to assist borrowers in repaying their federal student loans.

“While we have taken a preliminary step to tackle student debt with the creation of a student loan ombudsman, we need to do more to invest in our workforce and ensure that attending college is not a financial drain on individuals and families who call D.C. home,” said Councilmember Grosso.

The Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017 establishes a student loan forgiveness program for D.C. residents who are currently enrolled in a federal income-driven repayment plan. Qualified applicants would be eligible to receive an award equal to 100% of their monthly payment for up to 60 months if they were enrolled in a post-secondary institution after January 1, 2016.

“Growing student debt presents a serious challenge for our residents and local economy, creating a burden that follows them and stifles every aspect of their lives: buying a house, starting a business, saving for retirement, and furthering their education,” Grosso said. “What is worse is that our communities of color are being hardest hit by student debt.”

The District of Columbia maintains the highest concentration of student debtors in the country, according the U.S. Department of Education.  Over 112,000 D.C. residents collectively owe $5.6 billion in federal student loans.  Residents in the East End of D.C. carry twice as much debt and are three times more likely to be at least nine months behind on their loan payments as their neighbors in other parts of the city.

“This legislation, along with the work of the city’s new student loan ombudsman, could mean the difference between success and default for our residents,” said Councilmember Grosso.

Last year, the Council passed Grosso’s Student Loan Ombudsman Establishment and Servicing Regulation Act of 2016. It established a student loan ombudsman in the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking empowered to establish licensing requirements for student loan servicers in the city.  The office is also charged with informing D.C. residents about their options when seeking student loans and when working to repay them.

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Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017

Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017 

Introduced: October 3, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne K. Nadeau, and Trayon White

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To establish a student loan debt forgiveness program for residents of the District.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Currently, the national student debt exceeds $1.3 trillion, surpassing all other types of non-mortgage debt.

As one of the most educated cities in the U.S., the District of Columbia is home to several reputable colleges and universities; so it should come as little surprise that our residents experience significant student indebtedness.

In fact, the District of Columbia maintains the highest concentration of student debtors in the country.  Just last week, the U.S. Department of Education released state-specific information on student debt, for the first time ever.  According to their analysis, D.C. residents owe $5.6 billion dollars in federal student loans with 112,200 student loan borrowers in our city.

Repayment of this type of debt is challenging generally, but it is especially difficult for students who attend community college or for-profit colleges for some time, but never earn a degree or certificate.

Making matters worse, here in D.C. our communities of color are being hardest hit by student debt, as residents East of the River are three times more likely to be at least 9 months behind on their loan payments, than residents in the rest of the city who carry twice as much debt.

The negative impact of educational borrowing on a borrower’s potential wealth accumulation cannot be overstated. Carrying a high amount of student debt can severely limit an individual’s purchasing power and can have a detrimental effect on the greater economy.  Increased student debt impairs home sales, decreases retirement security, stifles entrepreneurship and discourages individuals from seeking careers that require additional education.

Last year, we created a Student Loan Ombudsman position within the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking and required student loan servicers to become licensed to ensure that servicers are responsive, acting according to clear standards and not creating obstacles to repayment and driving borrowers into default.

While this was certainly a critical step and I am thrilled that Dr. Charles Burt has been hired as the Student Loan Ombudsman, we need to do more to ensure that attending college is not a financial drain on individuals and families, especially families that may have little to no experience with college.

That is why today, along with my colleagues Brianne Nadeau, Trayon White and Elissa Silverman, I am introducing the Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017.

This bill establishes a student loan forgiveness program for D.C. residents who are currently enrolled in a federal income-driven repayment plan and meet other eligibility guidelines.

The program will be administered by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education and qualified applicants would be eligible to receive an award equal to 100% of their monthly payment for up to 60 months.

Passage of this legislation, coupled with the work of the Student Loan Ombudsman, ensures that we are protecting our student loan borrowers to the fullest extent and providing them additional opportunities for success.

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Grosso statement on the death of SNAP founder Barbara Blaine

For Immediate Release:
September 26, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso statement on the death of SNAP founder Barbara Blaine

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) released the following statement on the death of Barbara Blaine, founder and former president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP):

“My wife Serra Sippel and I are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of our friend Barbara Blaine. For three decades, she dedicated her life to giving voice to the voiceless. Those who have suffered unimaginable trauma at the hands of clergy lost a powerful and relentless advocate.

“For more than a decade, Serra and I had the opportunity to work with Barbara on holding the Catholic Church accountable for the abuse of minors at the hands of priests. Just over two years ago, Barbara reached out to me urging me to stand up for survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the District of Columbia. Her wealth of knowledge, tireless effort, and collaboration were instrumental in the development and introduction of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act in 2015. I re-introduced it this year and it is currently under consideration by the Council of the District of Columbia.

“Barbara reminds us that our lives are most impactful when lived in service of those who are most vulnerable. We must honor her life by continuing her work.”

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Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017

Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Kenyan McDuffie, and Trayon White

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend Chapter 8 of Title 16 to establish a process for expungement of records and qualify certain records for expungement, allow for automatic expungement or sealing of records in certain cases, expand the number offenses eligible for sealing to include all misdemeanors and most felonies and establish procedures for such, and allow for sealing of multiple convictions.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I am introducing the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017.

This legislation would overhaul the way that we handle records of arrests, charges and convictions in the District of Columbia to support reintegration of people with such records into the community.

At this point there is broad consensus that our criminal justice system has been dysfunctional for too long, resulting in too many arrests and convictions, with racist consequences.

We have begun to move away from using criminal penalties as the solution to social issues, we are seeking to undo the discriminatory policies of the war on drugs, and we are seeking to support people who go to jail or prison to be successful upon their return to the community.

One significant barrier to successful reentry is public access to criminal records.

It is time for us to recognize that making criminal records available does little to improve public safety and directly harms the individuals concerned, in fact hampering their ability to leave behind involvement in criminal activity.

A report from the Center for Court Excellence released last year noted that the burden of criminal records falls almost exclusively on our black neighbors—96% of people sentenced to prison in D.C. are black.

That same report called on the Council to reform the criminal records sealing process.

Research published by the Urban Institute this year showed how a criminal record was a direct barrier to gaining employment, even as having a job is the most important factor in helping returning citizens to avoid recidivism.

Nationally, there is a bipartisan policy trend that acknowledges the unfair premise of visible criminal records and the relationship between criminal records and recidivism.

In the past four years, 21 states have passed laws that expand opportunities for sealing or expunging records.

In preparing this legislation, I heard from constituents who didn’t understand why it can be so easy to seal records for some minor incidents next door in Maryland but so hard here in the District.

This bill would put us at the forefront of restoring people after an arrest or the conclusion of a criminal sentence.

It would create a process of expungement, completely removing some records from the system, such as for arrests that don’t result in a charge.

It would allow an individual to seal more than one record, and would greatly expand the records eligible for sealing.

The bill would make sealing automatic for a number of misdemeanor convictions, which would reduce the burden on the Superior Court as well as on the individual seeking relief.

I was pleased to write and pass legislation a few years ago to allow individuals to seal their arrest or conviction records for marijuana violations, but as I learned how hard it is for people to actually seal their records under our current system, I felt that the promise of that bill was not fulfilled.

It is my hope that the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2017 can help fulfill the promise to returning citizens—or even people who are arrested and nothing ever comes of it—that we support them and will not judge them forever for mistakes of their past.

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Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 to increase access to the program by qualified patients by establishing same-day registration and allowing patients to qualify without a doctor’s referral and delivery to patients, establish safe-use treatment facilities to allow consumption outside of the home, allow dispensaries and cultivation centers to relocate and expand operations to meet patient demand, and amend requirements for licensees.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017, and I thank Councilmembers Gray, Nadeau, and Robert White for joining me as co-introducers.

This legislation, along with the previous bill, will further bolster our responses to the opioid crisis.

Research shows that states with robust medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.

While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program over the past few years, there is more we can do to expand access for patients, and bring more people into the regulated market.

This bill would allow for same day access to medical marijuana just like any other medicine by allowing for a provisional registration when a patient submits their paperwork to the Department of Health.

It would also allow patients who may not have a primary care provider, or whose doctor does not want to recommend medical marijuana, to self-certify that they are seeking medical cannabis.

The bill would allow dispensaries to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

There are a number of other improvements to the program included as well, such as requiring that employees or owners of medical marijuana businesses be D.C. residents, removing the plant count limit, and allowing more residents affected by the war on drugs to be employed in these businesses.

Improving access makes sense when we are in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, but it also is an appropriate response to the challenges we face as a result of congressional interference with our local efforts to regulate marijuana.

Due to Representative Harris’ rider on our budget, residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market.

That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.
 

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Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017

Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Vincent Gray

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend Title 25 of the D.C. Official Code to remove possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use as a grounds for denial of a license; to amend Title 47 of the D.C. Official Code to remove possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use as a grounds for denial of a license; to amend the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981 to remove penalties for possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use; to amend the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982 to allow possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use; and to amend the District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 2001 to remove the prohibition on the operation of needle exchange programs in certain areas of the District.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I wrote this legislation, along with a bill I will introduce next to improve our medical marijuana program, as a response to the opioid crisis that we face in D.C., much like the rest of the country. 

Last year, we recorded 216 opioid-related deaths, nearly triple the number in 2014.

Meanwhile, we continue to face an HIV epidemic, even as our evidence-based needle exchange programs have dramatically reduced new infections since we were freed from Congress’ prohibition of these life-saving activities. 

This bill takes the next step in those efforts by allowing people to possess drug paraphernalia for personal use.

This is most important for improving access to clean syringes to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, but there is also new technology that can save lives in other ways.

Drug testing kits allow people who are using heroin to test the strength of their drugs to avoid overdose, including detecting the presence of fentanyl or carfentanil, the opioids largely responsible for the increase in overdoses.

But these kits would be prohibited as drug paraphernalia under current law.

The Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act also repeals a congressionally imposed law from years ago that severely restricts the geographical area in which our needle exchange programs can operate.

That law, like so much that Congress forces on us, was not based on any scientific evidence. To the contrary, research shows that the law limits the efficacy of our harm reduction efforts.

We need to consider every evidence-based approach that might help us roll back the tide of overdoses, while also continuing our important progress stopping the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. 

To that end, today I also sent a letter to Department of Health Director Dr. Nesbitt asking her to examine how D.C. could establish supervised injection sites, where injection drug users could be monitored to prevent overdoses and be connected to treatment.

I hope that Dr. Nesbitt and her team will find a way forward, and that she will also make the overdose prevention medication Narcan more available to our constituents, including by issuing a standing order to allow people to get Narcan over the counter at any pharmacy in the District. 

September is Pain Awareness Month and Overdose Awareness Day just passed on August 31, reminding us of the urgency we must have in our response to these issues. 


 

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Grosso proposes bills to deal with opioid crisis, improve public health as Council returns from summer recess

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso proposes bills to deal with opioid crisis, improve public health as Council returns from summer recess

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced two bills to address the opioid crisis in the District of Columbia.

“For decades we have attempted to use criminal penalties to solve drug addiction and its associated consequences,” Grosso said.  “This ‘War on Drugs’ has failed and in recent years, D.C. has adopted a public health and evidence-based approach to reduce harm and help people find appropriate treatment.  My proposals continue that approach.”

Last year, D.C. reported 216 opioid-related deaths—nearly triple the number reported in 2014. Grosso’s proposals would remove penalties for possession of certain drug paraphernalia and promote access to the medical marijuana program, both of which have been shown to reduce overdoses.

The Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017, allows for access to new technology that enables drug users to test their own drugs to avoid overdosing and supports harm reduction efforts for injection drug use by improving access to clean syringes to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

The bill achieves this greater access by removing criminal penalties for possession for personal use of syringes and drug testing kits, and expanding the areas in which D.C.’s successful needle exchange program can operate.

“There is no scientific basis for criminalizing paraphernalia possession,” Grosso said. “It only increases the likelihood of harm to those who are struggling with addiction and continues the failed policies of the War on Drugs that has had a disproportionate impact on our African-American communities.”

Councilmember Vincent Gray joined Grosso in co-introducing this bill. Grosso joined Gray in co-introducing two other opioid focused bills: Opioid Abuse Treatment Act of 2017 and the Opioid Overdose Prevention Act of 2017.

The Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017 reduces two major barriers to the city’s medical marijuana program: the requirement for a doctor referral and long wait times to get a registration card.

Under the bill, patients would be granted provisional registration and same-day access to medical marijuana like any other medicine. Patients without a primary care physician, or with one who does not wish to recommend medical marijuana, would be able to self-certify.

“Medical marijuana has been shown to be a viable alternative to the prescription of opioid painkillers, which can set people down the path to addiction,” Grosso said. “While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program here in D.C., there is more we can do to improve access for patients and reduce opioid reliance and overdose.”

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that medical marijuana programs reduce opioid overdose death rates by as much as 25 percent.  Americans for Safe Access also reported lower prescription rates of painkillers in states with medical marijuana programs.

Grosso believes D.C. can go even further to combat the opioid crisis.  In a letter sent to Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt today, the councilmember asked her to examine how D.C. might set up supervised injection sites where injection drug users could be monitored to prevent overdose and be connected to treatment.  He also believes DOH should find a way to allow Narcan, the opioid overdose prevention medication, to be obtained over-the-counter at any pharmacy in the District of Columbia.

“I hope that Dr. Nesbitt and her team will find a way forward,” Grosso said.

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Grosso raises concerns over police militarization with MPD

Councilmember Grosso is deeply concerned that we are not doing enough to prevent the militarization of law enforcement in the District of Columbia. To that end, he sent two letters to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham last month asking him about two separate programs.

The first letter asked Chief Newsham to reject changes made by the Trump administration to Obama era guidelines that placed critical safeguards on the transfer of military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies under the 1033 Program.  Councilmember Grosso believes that continuous improvement of police-community relations requires both good practices and projecting the right image.  A militarized police force is not the right one for our city.

The second letter expressed Councilmember Grosso's concerns over the planned participation an MPD leader in a training with military forces and intelligence services in Israel. While he believes strongly in cross-cultural exchanges and the importance of training for our law enforcement officers, learning from military advisors is not what local law enforcement needs.

Chief Newsham responded to both of Councilmember Grosso's letters.  His responses, and Councilmember Grosso's original letters, can be found below.

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Grosso denounces Trump's heartless decision to end DACA

For Immediate Release:
September 5, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso denounces Trump's heartless decision to end DACA

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, released the following statement, on today’s announcement that President Donald Trump will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months:

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is simply heartless.  These young people have built a life here—living, learning, and working alongside neighbors, families, and friends. The District of Columbia and the whole country are better for it. Casting their lives into further uncertainty, he has chosen to abdicate his moral leadership and recklessly pin their futures on the whims of Congress by delaying action for another six months.

“Only hate could motivate a president to tear these individuals from their communities like this. I urge Congress to act before the March expiration of the program to secure the place of DACA recipients in our country.

“As the Chairperson of the Committee of Education, I am particularly concerned about how this assault on families and neighborhoods will negatively affect students, filling them with fear and causing emotional distress over the possibility that they or a loved one could be snatched away at any time. Trauma such as this stands as a significant barrier to the success of our students—one that I have worked to address as a top priority of the committee.

“The District of Columbia stands for the human rights of everyone, including our immigrant neighbors regardless of legal status.  I pledge to do everything I can on the Council to protect their place in our city and in our nation.  I implore the young people impacted by this terrible decision to keep studying, working, and striving toward their dreams.

“This year, Mayor Bowser and the Council provided $500,000 in new funds for legal service providers who stand ready to help those who need it.  I urge anyone with questions about their immigration status to contact one of the following organizations.”

  • AYUDA - (202) 387-4848
  • Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, Inc. - (202) 772-4352
  • Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center - (202) 393-3572, ex. 22
  • Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International - (202) 529-2991
  • Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services - (202) 745-7000
  • Human Rights First - (202) 547-5692
  • KIND Inc. - (202) 824-8680
  • Asian/Pacific Island Domestic Violence Resource Project Confidential Helpline - (202) 833-2233
  • DC Affordable law Firm’s D.C. Immigrants’ Rights Project, in partnership with the Ethiopian Community Center and Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (202) 844-5430
  • CARECEN - (202) 328-9799
  • CAIR Coalition - (202) 331-3320

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Grosso requests update from DCPS on changes to Early Stages

Earlier in August, Councilmember Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, wrote a letter to District of Columbia Public Schools' Chancellor Antwan Wilson requesting an update from him on planned changes to the Early Stages' role with Child Find.  

His request, and the Chancellor's response, are below.

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DHS responds to Councilmember Grosso's concerns over D.C. Healthcare Alliance

Earlier this month, Councilmember Grosso wrote to the Department of Human Services raising concerns that individuals were being denied eligibility to the D.C. Healthcare Alliance program based on their immigration status, which he believes should not be relevant to the determination of their eligibility for the program.

For the particular issue that the councilmember raised, DHS informs him that they are in the process of considering precisely how an asylum seeker on a tourist visa may prove thier intent to reside in D.C. to make eligibility for the program.

You can read the full letter from Councilmember Grosso, and DHS's response, below.

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Grosso calls for removal of Confederate statue

Councilmember David Grosso, along with Attorney General Karl Racine and Councilmembers Kenyan McDuffie, Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Brianne K. Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White, Jr. sent the below letter to the National Park Service calling for the removal of the statue of Confederate General Albert Pike from Judiciary Square.

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