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Grosso to organize alternative Council retreat to focus on critical issues

Today, Councilmember Grosso circulated a letter to his colleagues inviting them to participate in a retreat to discuss the vital issues that face the District of Columbia, after Chairman Mendelson failed to appreciate the gravity of the city's situation and declined to assemble a diverse agenda to discuss solutions and chart a path forward.

Councilmember Grosso's letter:

Agenda of March 29 Council Retreat organized by Chairman Mendelson:

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Grosso introduces bill to promote individual power in local elections

For Immediate Release: 
March 22, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso introduces bill to promote individual power in local elections

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation to encourage greater participation in District of Columbia elections by providing for public financing for campaigns, shifting power and influence from big donors to smaller, individual contributors.

“Public financing of campaigns would give greater voice to all voters and reduce the disproportionate influence of big donors in D.C. politics,” Grosso said. “We must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in and positively influence the political process, regardless of how much or how little they are able to contribute, or if they do not contribute at all.”

Under the legislation, the Fair Elections Act of 2017, qualified participating candidates are eligible to receive base amount allocations and matching payments. In exchange for receiving public financing, participating candidates would no longer be able to accept direct corporate contributions or traditional political action committee (PAC) contributions.

The contribution limits and matching funds are tiered by the office being sought, ranging from a limit of $20 for Ward State Board of Education candidates to $200 for mayor. Candidates would receive a 2-to-1 match before qualifying for the ballot, then a 5-to-1 match after.

“In addition to fighting corruption, a public financing system empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office,” Grosso said.  “This bill is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents.”

Eight of Grosso’s colleagues, Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Trayon White, and Brianne Nadeau, joined him as co-introducers.

“The Fair Elections bill is about putting more power in the hands of DC residents. Changing the way we fund campaigns in a way that prioritizes the low-dollar donor means candidates can spend more time focused on their constituents and neighbors, rather than chasing big-dollar donors,” said Councilmember Charles Allen, chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, to which the bill was referred.

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Sense of the Council Urging Reassessment of Relationship with Wells Fargo Resolution of 2017

Sense of the Council Urging Reassessment of Relationship with Wells Fargo Resolution of 2017

Introduced: March 22, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, and Charles Allen

Summary: To declare the sense of the Council that the District of Columbia is committed to promoting fair and responsible banking and lending practices; and to call on the city to reassess its existing relationship with Wells Fargo and consider greater investment in local banks to support community growth.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Nadeau, Bonds and Silverman, I am also introducing the “Sense of the Council Urging Reassessment of Relationship with Wells Fargo Resolution of 2017.”

For years Wells Fargo has been plagued with allegations of racial discrimination in lending practices leading to some of the largest settlements in recent memory.

Recently, the financial institution has come under scrutiny for its involvement in financing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and highly questionable sales practices.

In a report published by In The Public Trust, it was found that Wells Fargo is one of the private prison industry’s most dedicated lenders. 

In light of the myriad allegations against Wells Fargo, several cities across the country including, San Francisco, CA; Takoma Park, MD; Minneapolis, MN; Seattle, WA and others have moved to divest or explore divesting from Wells Fargo.

The District of Columbia has long sought to protect the city’s interests and the public’s trust by managing and spending city funds in a fiscally responsible and prudent manner.

As Wells Fargo is the District of Columbia’s bank of record, I believe we have an obligation to fully reassess our relationship with Wells Fargo and strongly consider divestment.

We should prioritize partnerships with business entities and financial institutions that are committed to engaging in fair and responsible business practices and we should fully commit to reinvesting in local banks to support community growth.

Thank you Chairman Mendelson, I yield the remainder of my time to my co-introducer and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Fair Elections Act of 2017

Fair Elections Act of 2017

Introduced: March 22, 2017

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, and Trayon White

Summary: To reform campaign financing and to provide for publicly funded political campaigns.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Trayon White and Brianne Nadeau, I am reintroducing the “Fair Elections Act of 2017.”

Since I’ve been in office, I have introduced some version of this bill in every Council period because I believe strongly that public financing of elections is one of the most vital tools to combat the corrupting influence of outsized campaign spending.

As we all know, campaign donations are a necessary, though sometimes complicated aspect of politics.

Support for candidates in the District of Columbia today generally comes from three sources: Friends of a candidate who know his or her qualifications and support their aspirations for democracy and the common good; Citizens who have views on governance and public policy, or citizens with grievances with governance; and individuals with commercial interests that either benefit or risk loss due to decisions of governance.

All of these sources are appropriate in a functioning democracy; however, the situation we face today is that we are out of balance—big donors outweigh the ability of others’ to influence campaigns.

My legislation helps to restore that balance by establishing a robust public financing program.

In Council Period 21, then-Chair of the Committee on Judiciary, Councilmember McDuffie held a hearing on this bill, which brought about important feedback and healthy criticism.

Following that hearing, my staff worked to make the changes recommended by the Attorney General and completed an in-depth analysis of the previous3 election cycles to understand what is truly needed to run a successful campaign in the District of Columbia.

Under the legislation, qualified participating candidates are eligible to receive base amount allocations and matching payments, the latter both before qualifying for the ballot and after.

In addition to fighting corruption, a public financing system empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office.  Establishing this system will allow those who may not have personal wealth or access to high-powered connections to launch competitive campaigns.

This is bill is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents and I hope that all of my colleagues will stand up for publicly funded elections and cosponsor this legislation.

I yield the remainder of my time to my co-introducers and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Grosso introduces bill to promote greater transparency in D.C. government

For Immediate Release: 
March 17, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso introduces bill to promote greater transparency in D.C. government

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso introduced legislation on Tuesday to foster more open and responsive government by strengthening existing open government laws.

“An open and transparent government is more likely to be an effective and ethical government—a good government,” said Grosso. “When we open up the government for our residents to see, it increases confidence in our work, and lets the public highlight areas for improvement.”

The Strengthening Government Transparency Amendment Act of 2017 strengthens D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings Act, and Open Government Office Act and codifies key components of past mayoral orders on open data.

The bill establishes in D.C. law the principle that if government information is deemed appropriate to share with one person under a Freedom of Information Act request, it should be shared with everyone and ought to be proactively published. It also shifts the Freedom of Information Act appeals process from the mayor’s office to the independent Office of Open Government, bringing more objectivity and expertise to the appeals process.

Additionally, the Open Meetings Act is reinforced by requiring that a public meeting is one where the public is permitted to be present, creating a complaint process for alleged violations, and a private right of action for residents when a meeting that should be open is improperly closed.

“Having an open and accountable government is something we should constantly strive for in D.C.,” Grosso said.

Councilmember Mary Cheh co-introduced the bill with Grosso.

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Strengthening Government Transparency Amendment Act of 2017

Strengthening Government Transparency Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: March 15, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Mary Cheh

Summary: To amend the Freedom of Information Act to clarify procedures for public bodies to make information available to the public, to extend the time a public body has to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request, to clarify certain exemptions from Freedom of Information Act requirements, to establish the Open Government Office as the body to resolve appeals regarding Freedom of Information Act requests, to clarify reporting requirements on public body Freedom of Information Act activities, to clarify the public bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Act; to amend the Open Meetings Act to include Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and other bodies, to require that a public body’s meeting is considered open only if members of the public are permitted to attend, to create a complaint process for instances of alleged non-compliance, to create a private right of action for an individual alleging non-compliance; to amend the Open Government Office Act to change the name to the Office of Open Government, to clarify the Office’s roles and responsibilities, to require boards, commission, and task forces to make available certain information in a central location online, and to create uniform procedures for processing and tracking requests for public records.

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Councilmembers send letter opposing voucher expansion in D.C.

For Immediate Release: 
March 7, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmembers send letter opposing voucher expansion in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, released the following statement regarding a letter he sent with a majority of his colleagues to House of Representatives Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) opposing legislation to reauthorize and expand the Congressionally-imposed school vouchers program:

“Despite ample evidence that the Congressionally-imposed voucher program is ineffective, and while D.C. public schools improve every year, some members of Congress continue to see our city as their personal petri dish. With the new Administration and leadership in the Department of Education, it is even clearer that our public education system is and will remain under attack.

“It is insulting to our constituents that members of Congress, where D.C. has no voting representation, would push their personal agendas on our city in a way they could never do in their home states. Attacking D.C. home rule, including any expansion of the voucher program, is irresponsible governing on the part of Congress.

“Rather than siphoning public dollars into private ventures, we should continue the progress made in our public schools – both traditional and charter – that will put every child in the District of Columbia in the best position to succeed.”

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D.C. in the age of Trump

The first month and a half under President Trump has been dizzying, to put it mildly.  He’s taken actions promising a range of harms to include: withholding federal money from “sanctuary” cities, a travel ban aimed at seven Muslim-majority countries, and even rescinding the student protections based on their gender identity.  In addition to the stress-inducing actions of the president, congressional Republicans are still committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act, a move that would have massive implications for millions of Americans.

We are living in incredibly uncertain times, which has given rise to the #resistance movement. Millions have joined marches to protest the disheartening steps taken by the Trump administration and states across the country are developing strategies to protect themselves against potentially sweeping federal policy changes.  Unfortunately, here in the District of Columbia, our circumstances are more precarious. 

Statehood confers certain protections, though those protections are not without limits.  By virtue of having it, states are afforded more avenues through which they can act to thwart ill-conceived federal action.  Similarly, states have at their disposal clear defenses and certain recourse. 

As D.C. is not a state, it begs the question—what can we do to protect ourselves?

The District of Columbia has long been a pawn in the political meddling of Congress.  Congressional leadership has wrongly interfered with the city’s ability to govern itself by attacking the rights of women and families to make their own reproductive health decisions, blocking the city from using local funds to legalize marijuana and, most recently, attempting to block D.C. physicians from prescribing medication to terminally ill residents.  

While most attempts fail, we are faced with an unpredictable executive administration and an emboldened Congress.  The current climate requires us to be more diligent, defiant, and creative.

As the city is currently enjoying a $2.4 billion General Fund Balance and our cash reserves have reached $1.165 billion, we need to be prepared to establish a new, non-lapsing special fund to help us continue to provide services to our residents in the event of something catastrophic, like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The resources to establish a new fund are ample and could be available now

I have stated repeatedly that the time is ripe to reassess our reserves, how they are currently spent and how they should be spent in the future.  Continuing to pursue 60 days of cash on hand may not be the best approach, particularly if we are unwilling to exhaust all of those funds to ensure that our residents have access to needed services in the event of federal changes.

Nevertheless while our cash reserves, the contingency cash reserve in particular, could be used to help residents in need due to “unexpected obligations created by federal law,” any money taken from our reserves must be paid back within 2 years.

Last month, I introduced the Reserve Fund Improvement Amendment Act of 2017, which standardizes the reserve fund calculations to allow the city to meet its reserve requirements this year, freeing up $89.7 million of the reserve funding surplus to be used immediately for other investments. Though legislative amendments would be required, this money is a perfect example of available funding to establish a new fund.

Similarly, the city’s Chief Financial Officer recently revised the local fund revenue forecast upward by $128.1 million in FY17 alone.  Pursuant to recommendations of the Tax Revision Commission, current law requires that all recurring revenue above the prior year’s February forecast be allocated to tax policy changes.  This year, the current law should be amended and the Council should move the additional revenue into a new, non-lapsing fund. Combined with the $89.7M of potential reserve fund surplus, the city should be able to immediately deposit $217.8M into the new non-lapsing fund.

As a city, it is time we stand ready to fight.  We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency.  Though we have yet to see the full scope of what could happen at the federal level, we know with certainty that we have an obligation to our residents.  We need to act decisively and with a sense of urgency to pursue all strategies to ensure that our residents are protected and our coffers are properly resourced.

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Letter from Councilmember Grosso on New York Avenue Streetscape

On February 24, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to Mayor Bowser opposing Virginia Railway Express' request to build portions of their rail yard within the New York Avenue right of way, and to expedite the planning and construction process for the trail and greenspace in this land along with other pedestrian and bicycle connections to serve the Ivy City neighborhood.

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Attacking transgender students' rights is unconscionable

For Immediate Release: 
February 22, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Attacking transgender students' rights is unconscionable

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso released the following statement on a letter issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice reversing guidance issued by the Obama administration to protect transgender students:

“I’m dismayed that the first significant education policy to come out of the Trump White House attacks the right of children to learn in a welcoming and supportive environment. The rescinding of an Obama administration guidance intended to provide equitable access to education is unconscionable. The actions of adults do not go unnoticed by students and this sends a dangerous signal that leaders are not looking out for the best interest of the most vulnerable.

“To the transgender students at D.C. public and charter schools, please know that you are loved and that the city stands with you. The laws of the District of Columbia and federal civil rights laws still protect your right to be your true self without fear of discrimination.  This letter from the Trump administration cannot change that.

“I’m not surprised that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would authorize this letter.  Throughout her confirmation, she demonstrated a lack of policy understanding and a track record of undermining public education. She used her first week in office as an opportunity to question the dedication of D.C. teachers.  And now this.

“I’m even more disappointed that a former mayor of this city, Tony Williams, endorsed her for this position. I again repeat my call that Mayor Bowser stand with our transgender students, our teachers, and our public education system and remove Mayor Williams from the Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force.

“As chairperson of the Council’s Education Committee, I will continue to fight for the human rights of every student in the District of Columbia so that they may focus on succeeding in their educational pursuits.”

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One License For One D.C. Amendment Act of 2017

One License For One D.C. Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: February 21, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Jack Evans and Brianne Nadeau

Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Traffic Act, 1925 to eliminate the distinguishing features of the limited purpose driver’s license.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson.

Today, along with Councilmembers Nadeau, and Evans, I am introducing the One License for One D.C. Amendment Act of 2017.

During my first year on this Council, we passed important legislation to allow residents of our city who do not have legal immigration status to get driver’s licenses and identity cards.

We passed that bill both to improve safety on our roads and to ensure more equitable access to IDs, which have become so critical to daily life in our day and age.

While I supported the goal of that legislation, unfortunately I could not agree with the provision that required all licenses and non-driver’s ID cards issued to undocumented immigrants be marked differently than the credentials issued to everyone else in the city.

I argued at the time against having a different license or ID for undocumented immigrants because it would make them an easy target for federal authorities.

We have seen the indiscriminate disregard for human dignity and due process in immigration enforcement, most recently last week when federal agents in Texas arrested a domestic violence victim while at court seeking a protection order, and ICE officers rounded up men at a church homeless shelter in Virginia.

The Washington Post reported this weekend on draft versions of new executive orders being prepared at the White House to dramatically expand raids, deportations and other enforcement actions.

Based on the aggressive stance this administration has taken against human rights, we can expect federal officials will take advantage of the fact that undocumented immigrants in our community can be identified by a phrase on their licenses.

A document issued by our local government will be used by federal officials to arrest, detain and deport our residents, tearing apart families and wrecking communities.

The One License for One D.C. Amendment Act seeks to prevent this scenario from playing out by removing the distinguishing phrase “not valid for official federal purposes” from the limited purpose driver’s license and ensuring that licenses and ID cards issued by the D.C. government look the same no matter your immigration status.

It is a very simple change that will have far-reaching effects, strengthening our stance as a sanctuary city and depriving the federal government of a method for targeting undocumented immigrants.

It will likely mean that D.C. will need to no longer comply with the REAL ID law, or seek an extension on compliance from the federal government, as about half of other states and territories have done.

As a sanctuary city, we should be doing everything we can to protect the human rights of our community members, not put them at greatest risk of harm.

I hope to count on my colleagues support for this and invite co-sponsors.

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on mayor’s advancement of paid leave

For Immediate Release: 
February 16, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on mayor’s advancement of paid leave

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso released the following statement on the mayor’s advancement of the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015:

“We are now one step closer to relieving D.C. families and workers from the difficult choice between a paycheck and caring for a loved one.

“Paid leave provides financial stability to workers while allowing them to care for ailing family members. Parents who take leave after the arrival of a new child will return to work in better general health. More women will participate in the work place. Infant mortality will decline.

“The bill is also good for all businesses. They will now have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees with a progressive benefit that they can offer to all their workers at a fraction of the cost of providing it themselves.

“All this while continuing the upward trajectory of D.C.’s thriving economy.

“I appreciate the mayor advancing this legislation without her signature. I recognize the concerns she raised and commit to working with her and the rest of the Council to address them as we move forward with implementation.

“I urge the Congress to respect D.C. and our democratic right to enact policies and allow paid leave to become law.”

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Former Mayor Williams should be removed as co-chair of D.C. education taskforce

Councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education, today sent a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser requesting that former Mayor Anthony "Tony" Williams be removed as co-chair of the District of Columbia Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force over his vocal support and endorsement of Betsy DeVos as she sought Senate confirmation as the U.S. Secretary of Education in the Trump Administration.

The task force's mission is to produce "clear and fair recommendations on how to improve the coherence of public education in D.C. for parents and increase the collaboration across and among public schools...".  Williams endorsement of a nominee who lacks a basic understanding of the laws that protect and who supports voucher programs, and his vocal support in a video recorded for DeVos of such a program that would undermine public education, is in conflict with that mission.

Historically in D.C., voucher programs have undermined the oversight, transparency, and accountability of our school choice system.  As recently as five years ago, voucher dollars for charter schools paid for private tuition funded schools that were low-performing and not subject to quality controls.

Previously, Grosso had sent a letter to Deputy Mayor Niles urging a re-examination of Williams' fitness to serve on the task force given his endorsement.  Deputy Mayor Niles responded stating that the concerns have been brought to the mayor.  All three letters can be found below.

Read the letter to Mayor Bowser here:

Response letter from Deputy Mayor Niles to Councilmember Grosso:

Councilmember Grosso's original letter to Deputy Mayor for Education Niles:

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Local Business Support Amendment Act of 2017

Local Business Support Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: February 7, 2017

Co-introducer: Councilmember Phil Mendelson

Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Code to create a local business ombudsman; establish roles and responsibilities of the Ombudsman’s office and to designate agency-wide Officers for Small and Local Business Inclusion; to remove endorsement fees for the issuance and renewal of basic business licenses; to allow a basic business license to be issued without a certificate of occupancy; to allow for the same registered trade name to be used for multiple business locations; to amend the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations to decrease the percentage of funds owed each quarter by supply schedule vendors for doing business with the government; to amend the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations for trade name renewal and requirement for an expiration notice.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson.  Today, along with you, I am introducing the “Local Business Support Amendment Act of 2017.”

During my first term in office, I served as an active member of the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs and was an active member of the Workforce Investment Council.  During that time, I became deeply familiar with the agencies that govern business operations in District of Columbia.

I consistently heard from local businesses of all sizes that D.C. government regulations are not business friendly and there are very few incentives for businesses to locate here.

After meeting with businesses and associations of all sizes, we devised a few relatively simple ways the D.C. Council can act to alleviate the government imposed burdens on our city’s businesses. 

First, this bill creates a Local Business Ombudsman who will act as an independent business navigator and will work on behalf of businesses to trouble shoot and act as the point of contact during permitting, licensing and taxation process.

Second the bill will separate the Certificate of Occupancy from the Basic Business License process.  It will allow for a Basic Business License to be issued without the requirement of a Certificate of Occupancy.  Currently, businesses throughout the city lose start-up capital waiting for the approval of their Basic Business License because they had to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy first, with no exceptions.   Others do not need a Certificate of Occupancy at all, but are forced to obtain one regardless of their business model.

Third, the bill will allow for the transfer of a Basic Business License to a new location without any additional fees and it will also remove the additional endorsement fees when a business license is issued or renewed.  I understand that this is revenue for the city, but I believe we need to closely analyze what these seemingly small fees on businesses are really worth if they are ultimately driving industry and jobs out of the city.      

Lastly, the bill will allow for a registrant to apply for, and use, only one trade name for a business under the same Basic Business License.  It will extend the trade name issuance from two years to five years to remove the burden of costly biennial reporting.  It will also decrease the percentage of funds owed each quarter by D.C. supply schedule vendors for doing business with the D.C. government. 

These are impactful changes that can be made to make us better aligned with how neighboring jurisdictions treat trade name registration and reporting. 

I believe this bill can be the catalyst for a necessary conversation about how we can pass responsible laws and regulations that do not hinder the greatest drivers of our local economy. 

I yield the remainder of my time to the Chairman for any remarks and we welcome any co-sponsors.

Thank you.

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Reserve Fund Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Reserve Fund Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: February 7, 2017

Summary: To amend section 47-392.02 of the District of Columbia Official Code to align the locally mandated cash reserve funding formula with the federally mandated cash reserve funding formula.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson.

The recently released FY16 CAFR report illustrates that the financial health of our city is strong. 

We are enjoying a General Fund balance of $2.4 million and our federally and locally mandated reserves have increased from $985 million to $1.165 billion, amounting to 56 days of cash on hand.

These are extraordinary achievements, and I want to thank the Mayor, the Chairman and the Chief Financial Officer for their hard work to get us to this point. 

While we are in a good financial position, the city is still 4 days shy of achieving our goal of 60 days cash on hand.

Based on testimony received by the Chief Financial Officer during last week’s CAFR Briefing, the District’s emergency, contingency, fiscal stabilization and cash flow reserves are approximately $95M short of being fully funded.

After working closely with the Council Budget Office and analyzing the numbers, I believe this shortfall could be turned into a surplus of millions if the requirements for our federally and locally mandated reserves were calculated using the same expenditure budget assumptions.

That is why today, I am introducing the Reserve Fund Improvement Amendment Act of 2017.

Currently, we use three different methodologies to calculate the federal and local reserve requirements.

Pursuant to the Home Rule Act, the federal reserve mandate (emergency and contingency cash reserve) is calculated using the actual operating expenditure from local funds reported in the CAFR for the fiscal year immediately preceding the current fiscal year, less debt service payments.

The locally mandated fiscal stabilization reserve fund is calculated using the General Fund operating expenditures for each fiscal year and the cash flow reserve fund, also locally mandated, is calculated using the General Fund operating budget for each fiscal year. 

My legislation will align the locally mandated cash reserve funding formula with the federally mandated reserve funding formula. 

I believe standardizing the reserve calculations across all reserve funds would allow the District to meet its reserve requirements this year, and allow a portion of the CAFR surplus to be used for other investments, such as affordable housing and PayGo capital projects. 

Given the uncertainty that pervades as the Trump Administration and a Republican Congress continue to undermine all that we’ve worked to accomplish in the city, hitting the 60 days is more important than ever.

Additionally, once we reach 60 days, 50% of all additional uncommitted amounts in the unrestricted fund balance will be deposited in the Housing Production Trust Fund and 50% will be reserved for PayGo funding, provided that these funds will be used to supplement the existing capital budget for school construction.

If we were to change the method of calculating our locally mandated reserve requirements, both of these funds could receive millions now.

Thank you Chairman Mendelson and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Secure A Fair & Equitable Trial Act of 2017

Secure A Fair & Equitable (SAFE) Trail Act of 2017

Introduced: February 7, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Jack Evans, Robert White Brianne Nadeau, and Mary Cheh

Summary: To amend Chapter 1 of Title 23 to curtail the availability and effectiveness of defenses that seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or other inherent identity, is to blame for the defendant’s violent action and to require an anti-bias jury instruction in criminal trials if requested by the prosecutor or the defendant.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. Today, along with my colleagues Brianne Nadeau, Jack Evans, and Robert White, I am introducing the “Secure A Fair & Equitable Trial Act of 2017”, which we are calling the SAFE Trial Act.

This legislation would curtail the use of defenses that seek to excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent action.

You may remember in 2008 when Tony Hunter died after being attacked in Shaw while on his way to a gay bar.

According to court records, the man arrested for the attack told police that he punched Hunter in self-defense after Hunter touched his crotch and buttocks in a sexually suggestive way.

There were many other factors in the case that made it complex, and could have resulted in a similar outcome, but the fact that the assailant blamed the victim’s sexual orientation for his violence was disturbing and inappropriate.

This argument is known as the “gay panic” defense and it seeks to blame a victim of a violent attack for provoking the violence by making a sexual comment, action, or simply by expressing their identity.

It is used around the country and throughout D.C.’s history.

The same argument has been used by individuals accused of attacking or murdering transgender women, arguing that the victim’s transgender identity amounted to deception and therefor justified a violent response.

That is essentially the argument that the killer of Bella Evangelista made after he killed her in 2003, also in D.C..

The SAFE Trial Act would end the use of such arguments in the District of Columbia.

The American Bar Association has carefully considered this topic and has voted in support of this type of legislation—in fact the SAFE Trial Act is based on the model language put forward by the ABA.

Anyone who knows me knows that I argue passionately for the human rights of criminal defendants, a fair and swift trial, and for alternatives to incarceration.

All of that is possible without resorting to a defense that is premised on bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals

A defense that exploits bias simply should not be acceptable.

The SAFE Trial Act is not limited to LGBT victims, but also covers any situation where an individual might seek to excuse their violent actions on the basis of another person’s identity.

The bill also requires that a jury be instructed to not let bias play a role in their deliberations during a criminal trial if requested by the prosecutor or the defendant.

In this time of heightened rhetoric of hate and violence, it is incredibly important that we act to eliminate bias whenever we can.

I welcome any co-sponsors.

Thank you.

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Washington Area Professional Football Team Franchise Facility Interstate Compact Establishment Act of 2017

Washington Area Professional Football Team Franchise Facility Interstate Compact Establishment Act of 2017

Introduced: February 6, 2017

Summary: To establish an Interstate Compact prohibiting a party state or a local jurisdiction from providing certain public incentives or financing for the construction or maintenance of facilities for a professional football team franchise in the Washington, D.C. area.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Good morning. Thank you all for joining Delegate Moon and me here today.

As the Washington Football Team begins to explore options for relocating their football facilities, I believe it is important that D.C. clarify where we stand on how such a project would be financed.

So today I am introducing an interstate compact which prohibits the District from providing or offering special public incentives or financing for the construction of facilities for the Washington Football team.

More simply put, I don’t believe we should be offering special financial treatment in order to bring the Washington Football team back into the District of Columbia.

A football team worth over $1 billion should not need to rely on special government assistance to fund their facilities.

I especially do not public financing to go to a team with such a racist and derogatory name.

The city’s economy is thriving and our chief financial officer reports that the District’s financial health is strong.

Living in very uncertain times requires us to think more critically about how we financially plan for the future.

The events of the past two weeks have demonstrated that President Trump and the Republican Congress present a threat to that status. 

They are not above pulling federal funding over our determination to protect our immigrant communities and maintain our sanctuary status. 

Their plan to repeal Obamacare and leave tens of millions without health insurance across the country will be felt in all eight wards.

And the president’s nominee to be secretary of education makes it clear that funding for our schools could be undermined by misguided voucher policies.

We must be able protect the well-being of our residents, the education of our students, and the integrity of communities as these confrontations arise.

Regardless of our financial circumstances or the threat of federal overreach, research shows that NFL stadiums do not generate the significant local economic growth promised and cities tend to not recoup their significant financial contributions through increased tax revenue.

Funding a new stadium is just not in our city’s best interest at this time.

Furthermore, District tax payers’ money should not be used to further the commercial use of racist and derogatory terms that dishonors indigenous peoples.

Working across state lines on this issue is vital to ensure one state does not secure a competitive advantage over another in negotiations with the Washington Football Team.

We are still reaching out to Virginia legislators to find a champion for this issue in the General Assembly.

I want to thank Delegate Moon for his work on this interstate compact.  He will be introducing the companion to it in the Maryland House of Delegates.

He brought this idea to me and I was more than happy to be the sponsor of this legislation in D.C.

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No evidence that more police officers will reduce violent crime in D.C.

Today, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to his colleagues on the Council of the District of Columbia regarding a proposal introduced that would increase the number of officers serving in the Metropolitan Police Department.

"It is my belief that while we must act urgently to stop violent crime in the District of Columbia, there is no evidence that increasing the number of officers to 4,200 would achieve that result," Grosso wrote.

According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, D.C. had approximately twice the number of sworn officers per 10,000 residents in 2015 as similarly sized cities.  Despite more officers, D.C. did not have a corresponding low-level of violent crime when compared to these other cities.

Instead of increasing the number of officers, the city should continue to embrace the public health approach to ending violence in our neighborhoods.

"The public health paradigm, with programs focused on violence interruption and preventing its spread, has proven successful in many other cities, with evaluations showing reductions of shootigns and killings by as much as 50% in targeted neighborhoods," Grosso wrote.

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education

For Immediate Release:

February 7, 2017

 

Contact:

Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987

mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education

 

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education of the Council of the District of Columbia, on today’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education by the U.S. Senate:

“I am extremely dismayed that the Senate has voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education.  The nation’s top education official must promote the safety, education, and best interest of the all students and families in our nation’s schools.  Her confirmation hearings, and the historic bipartisan opposition to her nomination, made clear she is not up to that task.

“Mrs. DeVos’ lack of articulable basic knowledge about the laws and programs that protect the rights of our children and ensure their success both inside and outside of the classroom, as well as her support for school vouchers, would deeply undermine the quality of education children can receive in the District of Columbia.

“A strong public education system, with appropriate resources, accountability, and transparency, puts our students in the best position to succeed. I am committed to the continued improvement of our public education system in the District of Columbia and will fiercely oppose any attempts by the Trump Administration and the Congress to hinder that progress.”

 

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