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FY2018 Performance Oversight Questions and Responses

Councilmember Grosso, as chairperson of the Committee on Education, has received responses to his pre-hearing performance oversight questions from D.C. Public Schools, the Public Charter School Board, D.C. Public Library, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the State Board of Education, The Office of the Student Advocate, and the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education.

You can find the Committee's questions and agencies responses here.

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Chairperson Grosso sends follow up questions to education agencies after roundtable on improving school attendance,

Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, today sent letters to the acting D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee, the Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn, and Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants Director Michelle Garcia with follow-up questions related to the joint Committee on Education/Committee of the Whole roundtable on Improving School Attendance held on January 31.

  • Read the letter sent to Acting Chancellor Lewis Ferebee here. Responses are due Feb. 22, 2019

  • Read the letter sent to Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn here. Responses are due March 1, 2019

  • Read the letter sent to Director Garcia here. Responses are due Feb. 22, 2019.

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Grosso expands proposal to promote retail equity for the underbanked

For Immediate Release:
February 5, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso expands proposal to promote retail equity for the underbanked

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today re-introduced legislation to promote equity at local businesses and combat the trend towards cashless retail, a discriminatory practice that excludes District of Columbia residents who do not have a credit or debit card.

The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2019 requires retail establishments operating in the District of Columbia to accept cash as a form of payment. Further, it prohibits discrimination against anyone who chooses to use cash as a form of payment, such as charging different prices.

“By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome,” Grosso said. “Practices like this further stratify our diverse city when we should be working to foster greater inclusion.”

One in ten residents in the District of Columbia has no bank. An additional one in four are underbanked and therefore may not have access to a debit or credit card.  

“Through this bill, we can ensure that all D.C. residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card,” Grosso said.

Grosso originally introduced the legislation last year, but that version only required food establishments to accept cash. The version introduced today expands the requirement to accept cash to all in-person retail establishments.
Last week, the New Jersey state legislature overwhelmingly passed similar legislation prohibiting cashless retail.

Grosso has also been focused on how the trend toward cashless payment is impacting city services. In December, he sent a letter to City Administrator Rashad Young requesting a full accounting of which D.C. government agencies accept money from the public, for what services, and, of those, which cannot be paid in cash. Additionally, he has been monitoring the impact of the cashless 79 express bus route pilot program which could worsen commuting options for riders with disabilities or lower income residents.

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Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2019

Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2019

Introduced: February 5, 2019

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White. 

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend Title 28 of the District of Columbia Official Code to prohibit retail establishments from discriminating against cash as a form of payment, and to provide for enforcement of this requirement.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson.

Today, along with my colleagues Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Bonds, Nadeau, Trayon White, and Gray, I am introducing the Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2019.

Last year, I introduced similar legislation along with many of my colleagues.  This new proposal expands the cashless prohibition to include all retail establishments, instead of only those establishments that sell food.

Several local businesses have recently implemented new policies to ban the use of cash as a form of payment.

This has been a nationwide trend, backed in some instances by credit card companies like Visa, which have provided short-term funding to businesses that agree to stop accepting cash from their customers.

This practice requires that patrons have a credit card in order to purchase a salad at Sweetgreen, frozen yogurt at Menchie’s, or a sandwich at Jetties.

Banning the use of cash is a discriminatory practice that disproportionately impacts the 10% of DC residents who are unbanked, and an additional 25% of residents who are underbanked and may not have access to a credit card.

In addition, this practice is discriminatory against youth, who are often unable to obtain a credit card, impacting many of our middle school and high school students.

 By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome.

 These are customers who could otherwise afford the simple luxury of a glazed treat from District Doughnut in Union Market, though they may not have the ability to obtain a credit card.

In addition to the disparate impact on low-income and young patrons, this practice effects other customers who may prefer to pay with cash to better manage their budget, or to avoid the very real risk of identity theft that comes along with credit card use.

 Through this bill, we can ensure that all DC residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose, while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card.

 Thank you and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Grosso leads Council comments opposed to Trump Administration's proposed Title IX changes

Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter signed by every member of the Council of the District of Columbia, to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to Title IX enforcement for failing to properly address the realities of sexual harassment and assault in schools.

“As local elected officials, including the chairperson of the D.C. Council Committee on Education, we support a robust oversight role by the Department and we look to the Department to set the bar for ourselves and other jurisdictions in protecting our students,” the Councilmembers wrote. “The proposed rules would restrict our ability to build upon the floor that federal laws and rules should allow, thereby undermining your goal of providing greater control over these decisions to local communities.”

Last year, Grosso introduced and the Council unanimously passed the School Safety Act, which requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence. The act also increases the requirements of what efforts D.C. Public Schools and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students.

Councilmembers expressed their concerns that changes to Title IX could undermine this work, including its ability to address off-campus incidents which have on-campus effects.

“We heard consistently from schools, students and parents, and experts about the need for schools to be able to respond to incidents of abuse or harassment that happen outside of school hours or off-campus,” Councilmembers wrote, referencing testimony they heard in considering the school safety legislation. “This could include online harassment or an abuse near school that significantly disrupts students’ ability to learn. The proposed rules would contradict this by requiring schools to dismiss a complaint if the alleged conduct “did not occur within the [school’s] program or activity.”

The Council also raised concerns over language that forces schools to ignore harassment until it becomes incredibly severe, raise the bar on what is considered “deliberate indifference” to complaints of misconduct, and allow parochial schools greater freedom in claiming religious exemptions from fulfilling their Title IX responsibilities.

“Taken together, these proposed rules represent a serious misstep in the ongoing effort to address safety and stop discrimination in education. We ask that you withdraw the proposed rulemaking and reconsider the best way to ensure safety for students,” the Councilmembers concluded.

You can read the full letter below and here.

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Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Education Amendment Act of 2019

Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Education Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmember Anita Bonds

BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend the Healthy Schools Act of 2009 to require that District of Columbia Public Schools and Public Charter Schools provide education on the process of making an anatomical gift, including information about the life-saving and life-enhancing effects of organ, eye, and tissue donation to help students become better informed.

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Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to Prevent Nuclear War Resolution of 2019

Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to Prevent Nuclear War Resolution of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Anita Bonds, and Robert White

RESOLUTION TEXT

Summary: To declare the sense of the Council that the District of Columbia is committed to promoting the human rights and well-being of all its residents, workers, and visitors; and to call on the federal government to prevent nuclear war.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Finally, Mr. Chairman I will be introducing the Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to Prevent Nuclear War Resolution of 2019 along with my colleagues Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Charles Allen, Anita Bonds, and Robert White.

For decades the idea of nuclear war seemed a relic of the past; however, just last year it appeared a nuclear conflict between the United States and North Korea was imminent.

In the wake of the departure of Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis—and the appointment of Acting Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, a man who possesses no military experience and just a year and a half in government, there is a growing unease across the country.

Perhaps most unsettling though, is the reality that President Trump has unchecked and complete authority to launch nuclear weapons based on his sole discretion.

The use of even a small fraction of nuclear weapons would cause worldwide climate disruption and global famine. A large-scale nuclear war would kill hundreds of millions of people and directly cause catastrophic environmental damage.

Now more than ever it is imperative that the federal government do all it can to prevent nuclear war and this resolution urges them to do just that by renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons, ending any president’s sole and unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack, cancelling plans to replace the entire weapon arsenal with enhanced weaponry, and actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

Through this resolution we declare our commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of the residents and visitors of the District of Columbia and we challenge the federal government to make this same commitment to the people of the United States of America.

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

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Grosso champions greater access to D.C.’s medical marijuana program

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso champions greater access to D.C.’s medical marijuana program

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today introduced legislation that would further improve access to the District of Columbia’s medical marijuana program for residents as another method of reducing opioid-related deaths.

“We are all concerned with the ongoing tragedy of D.C. residents dying from opioid overdoses and this legislation provides another tool to address that crisis: greater access to the District’s medical marijuana program,” said Grosso.

Since 2014, over 800 people have died as result of opioid-related overdoses, according to the D.C. Chief Medical Examiner. Two hundred and seventy-nine of those deaths were reported in 2017 alone, more than triple those reported in 2014.

Under the Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019 patients would be granted provisional registration and same-day access to medical marijuana like any other medicine.

Additionally, dispensaries would be allowed 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.

Finally, the legislation also removes the plant count limit on cultivation centers to address ongoing supply issues and seeks to rectify negative impacts of the racist War on Drugs by allowing more residents affected by the misguided criminalization of marijuana to be employed in these businesses.

“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., we can do more 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 also views the legislation as an appropriate response the negative effects of congressional interference with D.C.’s local efforts to regulate marijuana.

“D.C. residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market,” Grosso said. “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.”

Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Grosso re-introduces bill to assess public health impacts of new development

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso re-introduces bill to assess public health impacts of new development

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today proposed legislation that would promote healthier individuals and communities by requiring new development projects to receive an analysis of its health impacts before proceeding.

“New housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated,” said Grosso. “As the District of Columbia continues to grow, with new development projects emerging every day, it is imperative that we assess how these projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents.”

The Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019 creates a health impact assessment program within the Department of Health to evaluate the potential health effects of proposed projects on individuals and communities and to support healthy communities, healthy community design, and development that promotes physical and mental health by encouraging healthy behaviors, quality of life, social connectedness, safety, and equity.

Through this legislation DOH will be able to examine all projects that require an environmental impact statement–such as those relating to new construction, roadway changes, and others–to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

“I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident,” Grosso said. “Implementing this comprehensive approach here in D.C. would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sector collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.”

Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Vince Gray, Elissa Silverman, and Anita Bonds joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019

Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne K. Nadeau

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 to authorize the dispensation of medical marijuana to and use by qualifying patients over the age of 21 at safe-use facilities, to allow qualifying patients, upon application to the Mayor for a medical marijuana registration identification card, to immediately purchase medical marijuana on a provisional basis, subject to the approval or rejection of a registration application, to eliminate the limit on the number of marijuana plants that cultivation centers are permitted to grow, and to allow for the delivery of medical marijuana to qualified patients.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019.

We are all concerned with the ongoing tragedy of D.C. residents dying from opioid overdoses—this bill is another part of the effort to stop that 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.

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 as well, such as 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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Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019

Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

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

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE | FACT SHEET

Summary: 

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. This morning, along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau, I am introducing the Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019.

Research indicates that there are myriad factors outside of the traditional health scope that shape health-related behaviors.  Economic sectors such as housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities and yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated.

As the District of Columbia continues to grow, it is imperative that we assess how development and other projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents, particularly in light of the enormous health disparities across the city by ward and by race.

Under this legislation, a Health Impact Assessment Program will be established within the Department of Health to ensure that we are properly evaluating the potential health effects of construction and development projects on our residents and the communities they call home.

Health impact assessments rely on quantitative, qualitative and participatory techniques, to determine health impacts, the distribution of those impacts within communities and identify mitigation strategies to address adverse effects.

Through this legislation D.C. Health will be able to examine projects such as those relating to new construction, mixed-use development, use modifications, changes to roadways, traffic calming solutions and more to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

Implementing this comprehensive approach here in the District of Columbia would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sectoral collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.

I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident and this legislation is an important step toward accomplishing that goal.

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DISB responds to Councilmember Grosso on delayed public bank study

On January 16 the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) sent a response to Councilmember Grosso’s Jan. 9 letter inquiring about the status of a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a public bank in the District of Columbia and requesting an explanation for the delay in its delivery.

In the letter, Director Stephen Taylor informed Councilmember Grosso that the feasibility study was delayed due to additional requested work and that the draft report is currently under review. The final step will be final review from the Executive Office of the Mayor, but Director Taylor was unable to provide a date certain for public release of the study.

The councilmember secured the funding for the feasibility study in the FY2018 budget.

“I have long advocated for a public bank because I believe its establishment would enable the city to serve as a participation lender, partnering instead of competing against local banks, to drive lending to small businesses and others that have been historically denied access to credit,” Grosso wrote.

Read the letters below.

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Dept. of Corrections response leaves unanswered questions on employees in medical marijuana programs

In November, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Corrections to inquire about the Department’s policy and practices for drug and alcohol testing of employees. Specifically, the councilmember was interested in whether or not DOC was taking into account employees’ enrollment in medical marijuana programs as part of such testing.

“If an employee, for example, is undergoing treatment for cancer and is prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor to help with the side effects of treatment, it seems unreasonable and inappropriate that the employee would be penalized, or even subject to termination, because of seeking such medical care,” Grosso wrote.

After a delayed response, Director Quincy Booth laid out DOC’s practices and procedures and its adherence to District law. However, the response sidestepped a question specifically aimed at how DOC takes into account an employees enrollment in the medical marijuana program, instead focusing on how DOC complies, as other D.C. agencies do, with the impact of Initiative 71.

Initiative 71 dealt with recreational, not medical, marijuana.

The D.C. Department of Human Resources specifically sets out an exception for medical marijuana in District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34, similar to exceptions for other prescription drugs

Councilmember Grosso will follow up with the Department of Corrections and the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to ensure District government employees in the medical marijuana program are treated equally to those who require other prescription drugs for medical purposes.

Read Councilmember Grosso’s letter and DOC’s responses below.

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Councilmember Grosso requests update on delayed public bank feasibility study

Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) today inquiring about the status of a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a public bank in the District of Columbia and requesting an explanation for the delay in its delivery.

“I have long advocated for a public bank because I believe its establishment would enable the city to serve as a participation lender, partnering instead of competing against local banks, to drive lending to small businesses and others that have been historically denied access to credit,” Grosso wrote.

The councilmember secured the funding for the feasibility study in the FY2018 budget.

“As we are now four months into Fiscal Year 2019, I am deeply disappointed that neither I nor the public has seen the study.”

Grosso requested an update on the study and a specific date for finalization from DISB Commissioner Stephen Taylor by Wednesday, January 16.

Read the letter below.

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New hope for Grosso’s bill to legalize marijuana sales in D.C.

For Immediate Release:
January 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

New hope for Grosso’s bill to legalize marijuana sales in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – With control of Congress changing hands, Councilmember David Grosso’s legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate the sale of marijuana in the District of Columbia–reintroduced today–may have new hope.

“Since D.C. voters approved Initiative 71 to decriminalize recreational marijuana we have seen marijuana-related arrests plummet, representing thousands of District residents who were spared needless involvement in the judicial system,” Grosso said. “The logical next step, to continue to reduce arrests and to bring marijuana totally out of the shadows, is to set up a strong tax and regulatory system.”

In the newest version of the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act, Grosso included new provisions intended to remedy the wrongs of the misguided, racist War on Drugs.

“The War on Drugs was a failure—it was increasing our mass incarceration problem and not helping with our drug dependency problem. Further, the data also has consistently shown that the War on Drugs has been racist in its implementation,” said Grosso. “It’s a racial justice issue. It’s not enough that we change these policies, we also have to proactively heal the communities most negatively impacted.”

The bill allocates a portion of the funds from the taxes on marijuana to: drug abuse services and prevention efforts; supporting long-term, African-American, formerly incarcerated, and other residents affected by criminalization of marijuana to own or work at these businesses; and giving grants to communities impacted most by criminalization. It would also automatically expunge criminal records solely involving marijuana.

Ten states have legalized the sale of marijuana. The District was prohibited from using local tax dollars to establish a tax and regulate scheme by Congress, which has attached a provision in federal budgets since 2014 that has left D.C. in limbo on recreational marijuana.

“This status quo has led to a confusing and problematic state of affairs with residents and businesses unclear on what is legal, what is not, and wondering how it can be that it is legal to possess marijuana but not to buy or sell it. We need to fix this,” Grosso said.

Grosso has introduced a form of this legislation in every Council Period since 2013. This time, however Democrats control the House of Representatives, where the rider on federal budgets has always originated.

“The new reality on Capitol Hill means that chances of D.C. legalizing marijuana sales are greater than ever,” Grosso said.

At-Large Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Robert White, and Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, signed on as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2019

Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2019

Introduced: January 8, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, and Brianne K. Nadeau

BILL TEXT (as introduced) | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To legalize the possession, consumption, display, purchasing, or transporting of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for personal use, not in public, for persons over the age of 21; to establish that possession, consumption, display, purchasing, or transporting of marijuana and marijuana-infused products shall not constitute a civil or criminal offense under District law or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under District laws, for persons under the age of 21; to amend the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981 to decriminalize certain amounts of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for personal use; to amend the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982 to strike certain paraphernalia related to marijuana use from the provision; to amend Title 25 of the District of Columbia Official Code to establish the licensing and regulation infrastructure for the production, sale, consumption, and testing of retail marijuana and retail marijuana-infused products in the District of Columbia; to establish a dedicated marijuana fund, which shall consist of all sales tax and excise tax revenue from retail marijuana; to direct all retail marijuana license fees, penalties, forfeitures, and all other monies, income, or revenue received by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration from retail marijuana-related activities; to establish a tax on the gross receipts of retail marijuana sales and on the first sale or transfer of unprocessed retail marijuana in the District of Columbia; to clarify the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act of 2010 maintaining each regulation, standard, rule, notice, order and guidance promulgated or issued by the Mayor, except where inconsistent with this act, and the rights of any person holding a license pursuant to that legislation; and to amend Title 18 of D.C. Municipal Regulation to adjust allowances of THC concentration while operating a motor vehicle.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am also introducing the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2019, along with Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, and Brianne Nadeau.

When I introduced the first version of this bill in September 2013 no one was willing to co-introduce or co-sponsor it.

At that time it was unclear whether or not decriminalization of marijuana would pass the Council.

But the number of arrests and the racial disparities were simply too compelling for us not to act.

In the years since, thankfully, this Council did pass decriminalization and voters approved Initiative 71 with almost 70% of the vote.

In that time we have seen marijuana-related arrests plummet, representing thousands of District residents who were spared that needless involvement in the judicial system.

Based off the data from before and after these policy changes, we know that the War on Drugs was a failure—it was increasing our mass incarceration problem, and not helping with our drug dependency problem.

The data also has consistently shown that the War on Drugs has been racist in its implementation, so we understand that changing these policies is a racial justice issue.

The logical next step, to continue to reduce arrests and to bring marijuana totally out of the shadows is to set up a strong tax and regulatory system.

The legislation I’m introducing today does that, and it includes important provisions to help repair the harm of the War on Drugs, including business incubation and technical assistance to ensure those formerly targeted by criminalization can benefit from the legalization of marijuana.

The bill also incorporates lessons from other jurisdictions that have moved forward with the regulation of recreational marijuana over the past few years.

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, the list goes on--all these states have legal sales of marijuana, but we in D.C. do not, because in late 2014 Congress prohibited us from spending any of our local tax dollars to set up such a taxation and regulation system.

So this is a home rule question as well as a question of human rights, racial justice, and wise use of criminal justice resources.

This status quo has led to an confusing and problematic state of affairs with residents and businesses unclear on what is legal, what is not, and wondering how it can be that it is legal to possess marijuana but not to buy or sell it. We need to fix this.

With change in control of the House of Representatives, there is now hope that the rider will be removed.

It has been my stance that we should deliberate and vote on this bill regardless of the rider and invite the federal government to arrest us for doing our jobs.

But I know not everyone has the appetite for that, so hopefully with the rider gone, we can move forward with this legislation.

In any case, we should push back every time that Congress singles us out and demand that they let us, elected by the residents of the District of Columbia, decide on local issues.

This Council should be unapologetic in pursuing what is best for our constituents and we must stand up to the meddlers in Congress and the White House.

Thank you and I welcome co-sponsors.

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Grosso re-introduces bill to modernize sealing of criminal records

For Immediate Release:
January 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso re-introduces bill to modernize sealing of criminal records

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso re-introduced legislation that would overhaul the way that the District of Columbia handles records of arrests, charges, and convictions in D.C. to support reintegrating people with such records into the community.

“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,” Grosso said. “One significant barrier to successful reentry is a criminal record.”

The Record Sealing and Modernization Amendment Act of 2019 establishes a process for expungement of records, qualifies certain records for expungement, and allows for automatic expungement or sealing of records in certain cases. Additionally, it expands the number offenses eligible for sealing to include all misdemeanors and most felonies and allows for sealing of multiple convictions (FACT SHEET).

A report from the Center for Court Excellence released in 2016 noted that the burden of criminal records falls almost exclusively on black residents—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.

“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,” said Grosso. “The negative impacts of criminal records harm tens of thousands of residents of our city, as do the decades of discriminatory criminal justice policies and practices, disproportionately affecting African Americans. We have an obligation to confront it and seek bold remedies.”

Research published by the Urban Institute last year found 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 several years, 21 states have passed laws that expand opportunities for sealing or expunging records.

“This bill would put us at the forefront of restoring people after an arrest and trial or the conclusion of a criminal sentence,” Grosso said.

Originally introduced in 2017, Grosso’s bill received a hearing along with similar proposals introduced by the mayor and other councilmembers.

"I was extremely encouraged by the broad agreement heard at the 2017 hearing that improvements can be made to the way D.C. handles the sealing of criminal records,” Grosso said. “It demonstrated the strong will within both branches to move forward with reforms that will remove barriers to successful reentry for our residents with criminal records.”

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers.

“It is my hope that the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019 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 past mistakes,” Grosso said.

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Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019

Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 8, 2019

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

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

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:

Additionally today, along with Councilmembers Charles Allen, Kenyan McDuffie, Anita Bonds, and Trayon White, I am introducing the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019.

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 in 2016 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 more recently showed how a criminal record is 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 several 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 of Columbia.

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

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 2019 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 past mistakes.

I welcome my colleagues to join as cosponsors of this legislation.

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Grosso introduces legislation to protect educational rights of special needs students in criminal proceedings

For Immediate Release:
January 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces legislation to protect educational rights of special needs students in criminal proceedings

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, re-introduced legislation to protect the educational rights of youth with special needs involved in criminal proceedings in the District of Columbia.

“The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive free appropriate public education and makes them eligible for special education and related services up until the age of 22,” said Grosso. “While the Superior Court designates a panel of special education attorneys for these youth in Family Court, adult students that appear in criminal proceedings do not receive the same treatment.”

The Special Education Rights for Youth Defendants Amendment Act of 2019 establishes a panel of special education attorneys at the Superior Court to represent students with identified special education needs who are involved in the criminal justice system.

According to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, students with disabilities represent a large portion of students in correctional facilities. In D.C., over 80% of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (“DYRS”) committed youth have special education needs.

“This legislation will go a long way in helping ensure older students with special needs are adequately represented, afforded a real opportunity to earn a high school diploma, and placed on a path to a more productive and successful life,” said Grosso.

This bill is the latest step Councilmember Grosso has taken to implement recommendations of the Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Working Group he convened in 2018.  According to a report issued by the group last July, students in the care of the D.C. government experience many disruptions to education which make it difficult for them to achieve their educational goals.

The Council unanimously passed Grosso’s Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act of 2018, which establishes a coordinating committee to focus on the educational success of students who are detained, committed, incarcerated, and in foster care. before it adjourned at the end of last month.

“The District of Columbia government has a responsibility to provide high-quality education to the youth who are in its care,” Grosso said. “The recommendations put forward by the working group push D.C. to better fulfill that responsibility by improving coordination between agencies and reducing barriers to educational achievement for these often-overlooked youth.”

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Special Education Rights for Youth Defendants Amendment Act of 2019

Special Education Rights for Youth Defendants Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 8, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, and Vincent Gray

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend Chapter 7 Title 16 of the District of Columbia Official Code to establish a panel of special education attorneys to represent students with identified special education needs who are involved in the criminal justice system.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, I am introducing the Special Education Rights for Youth Defendants Amendment Act of 2019.

This legislation amends Chapter 7 of Title 16 of the DC Code to establish a panel of special education attorneys at the Superior Court to represent students with identified special education needs who are involved in the criminal justice system. It requires the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants to issue a grant to the Superior Court for the purpose of funding all costs associated with this panel.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (also known as “I.D.E.A”) is a federal law that ensures children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive free appropriate public education, just like other children. According to this law, children with special needs are eligible for special education and related services up until the age of 22.

Currently, the Superior Court designates and approves a panel of special education attorneys for children with special needs in Family Court proceedings. However, adult students that appear in Criminal proceedings do not receive the same treatment even though they are owed special education and related services pursuant to I.D.E.A.

According to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, students with disabilities represent a large portion of students in correctional facilities. In D.C., over 80% of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (“DYRS”) committed youth have special education needs, and over 90% of the DYRS-committed population is diagnosed with either an Axis 1 or Axis 2 diagnosis.

Special education attorneys provide a number of critical benefits for defendants, to include aiding the court on Fifth Amendment issues related to Miranda warnings and defendant confessions; helping a judge during sentencing by determining which programs, treatments, and placements are most appropriate; and ensuring defendants successfully receive the full extent of the protections pursuant to I.D.E.A.

Last year, I convened a multi-stakeholder working group of over 80 participants comprised of students, Councilmembers and staff, school leaders, advocacy groups, and executive agency directors and staff, including DYRS, the Department of Corrections, and the D.C. Superior Court. Together, we grappled with how best to improve collaboration and coordination among entities responsible for the education and care of students.

As a result, we produced a report of over 40 policy and legislative recommendations that will help improve educational outcomes. One of those recommendations was to create this bill.

This legislation will go a long way in helping ensure older students with special needs are adequately represented, and have a real opportunity to earn a high school diploma or G.E.D. and lead a more productive and successful life.

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