Comment

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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2 Comments

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.

2 Comments

Comment

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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Grosso seeks to make D.C. more business friendly with simple regulatory fixes

For Immediate Release:

February 7, 2017

 

Contact:

Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987

mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

Grosso seeks to make D.C. more business friendly with simple regulatory fixes

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso introduced the Local Business Support Amendment Act of 2017 to simplify the procedures and reduce fees for businesses operating in the District of Columbia.

“This legislation removes government imposed roadblocks to our city’s businesses, which are a driving force of our economic prosperity,” Grosso said. 

He hopes that this will start a necessary conversation.

“I have met with local businesses of all sizes throughout this city, and I have consistently heard that D.C. government regulations are over complicated and offer few incentives for businesses to locate or expand in the city. We should take a hard look at our business regulations and see what fixes we can make that will improve the environment for locating a business in the District of Columbia.”

The bill creates a Local Business Ombudsman, in the Department of Small and Local Business Development, who will act as an independent business navigator and will work on behalf of businesses to troubleshoot and serve as the point of contact during permitting, licensing and taxation process. 

The bill also separates the Certificate of Occupancy from the Basic Business License process and will allow for a Basic Business License to be issued without the requirement of a Certificate of Occupancy. Currently, businesses throughout the city unnecessarily lose start-up capital waiting for the approval of their Basic Business License because they have to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy first.  Some businesses do not need a Certificate of Occupancy at all for their business model, but are forced to obtain one regardless.

The bill eliminates Basic Business License endorsement fee structures and allows for the transfer of a Basic Business License to a new location without any additional fees or applications.  It will also allow for a registrant to apply for, and use, the same trade name for a business at multiple locations, and will extend the trade name issuance from two years to five years to remove the burden of costly biennial reporting. 

Chairman Phil Mendelson joined Grosso in introducing the bill, which was originally introduced in 2015.

 

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Councilmember Grosso and Maryland Delegate David Moon seek to prohibit public funding for construction of Washington Professional Football Team’s facilities

For Immediate Release:

February 2, 2017

 

Contact: 

Matthew Nocella (Councilmember Grosso) - (202) 286.1987

Jeanine Johnson (Delegate Moon) – (410) 841.3474

 

MEDIA ADVISORY

Councilmember Grosso and Maryland Delegate David Moon seek to prohibit public funding for construction of Washington Professional Football Team’s facilities

As discussions continue between elected officials and owners of the Washington Professional Football Team about their plans for their next stadium, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso and Maryland Delegate David Moon will propose an interstate compact that prohibits a party to the compact from offering public incentives or financing for the construction.  They will hold a press conference to announce details of the plan and answer questions.

WHO:                Councilmember David Grosso

                           Maryland Delegate David Moon

 

WHAT:               Press Conference  

WHERE:            Room 120

                           John A. Wilson Building

                           1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

                           Washington, DC 20004

 

WHEN:               Monday, February 6, 2017 11:30 AM

 

Press interested in attending the event are asked to RSVP to mnocella@dccouncil.us.  

 

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Comment

Grosso donates remaining campaign funds to organizations assisting marginalized communities

For Immediate Release: 
January 31, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 286-1987

Grosso donates remaining campaign funds to organizations assisting marginalized communities

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso has donated the remainder of his unspent campaign funds to organizations whose missions align with his re-election platform: supporting the human rights of the citizens of the District of Columbia.

“I ran for the D.C. Council to build a better city through the political process,” Grosso said. “But every day, organizations are building a better city by touching people’s lives more personally.  The communities they foster, the minds they expand, the voices they engage, and the people they protect -- all drove me to seek public office.

“Their work is even more important now as many of the vulnerable populations they serve are the subject of disparaging rhetoric coming from the president of the United States and Congress.”

Grosso distributed the money left in his campaign fund to the following organizations in January:

  • Black Swan Academy empowers black youth in under-served communities through civic leadership and engagement.
  • Casa Ruby is the city’s only bilingual, multicultural organization serving and supporting the most vulnerable in the LGBTQ community.
  • D.C. Abortion Fund is the only organization in the area that makes grants to people who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion.
  • D.C. Center for the LGBT Community educates, empowers, celebrates, and connects the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities by focusing on health, arts and culture, social and support services, and advocacy and community building.
  • Free Minds uses books, creative writing, and peer support to awaken D.C. youth incarcerated as adults to their own potential.
  • HIPS promotes the health, rights, and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by sexual exchange or drug use due to choice, coercion, or circumstance.
  • Latin American Youth Center empowers a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood, through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths’ social, academic, and career needs.
  • Literacy Lab provides low-income children with individualized reading instruction to improve their literacy skills, leading to greater success in school and increased opportunities in life.
  • Planned Parenthood Metro Washington has been providing high-quality, affordable healthcare to women, men, and teens in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area for nearly 80 years.
  • SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) creates opportunities for LGBTQ youth to build self-confidence, develop critical life skills, and engage their peers and community through service and advocacy. 
  • Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. 
  • The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

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DeVos would undermine quality of education in D.C.

Today, Councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) urging them to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education in the Trump administration.

"Based on their merit, the responses Ms. DeVos gave at her confirmation hearing regarding the policies that she supports gave me grave concerns for the safety and education of the children of the District of Columbia," Grosso wrote.

Furthermore, it appeared that the nominee lacked the background to successfully serve as the nation's top education official.

"I am deeply concerned with Ms. DeVos’s lack of articulable basic knowledge about these laws and programs that protect the rights of our children and ensure their success both inside and outside of the classroom," he wrote.

He also raised issue with the nominee's support of vouchers, which have historically had negative impacts on education in D.C., undermining oversight, transparency, and accountability.

Read the full letter here:

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D.C. recommits to human rights as new president takes office

On Tuesday I stood with Councilmember Robert White to announce to our residents and the new administration that the District of Columbia will continue to be a bastion of human rights and work to protect the most vulnerable among us.

Like many residents, I have been anxious since November. Throughout last year’s presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump promised policies that many brushed off as simple campaign rhetoric. In just the first few days of his presidency, he has confirmed that the bigotry, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia he espoused will guide his policymaking. 

We as elected leaders must stand up on behalf of our residents.  That’s why Councilmember White and I introduced the Sense of the Council Resolution in Reaffirmation of the Human Rights of District of Columbia Residents and in Opposition to Bigotry and Violence.  This document sets forth the entire Council’s opposition to many of the policies that were promised by Donald Trump.  And more importantly, that the Council of the District of Columbia will resist them.

As a Council, we resolved to:

  • reject xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, disparagement of people with disabilities, misogyny, and bigotry in any form.
  • not cooperate with any effort to force individuals to register with the government based on their national origin or religious identity.
  • remain committed to our status as a sanctuary city and not participate in any federal immigration enforcement strategies that endanger those within our city.
  • welcome refugees and those fleeing violence and persecution.

The Council spoke with a unified voice.  Every member of the Council signed on as a co-introducer of these principles, which will now be sent to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

I also applaud Mayor Muriel Bowser’s efforts to reaffirm our sanctuary city status and set up the Immigrant Justice Legal Services Grant Program.  Increasing access to attorneys for our immigrant neighbors will dramatically increase positive outcomes for them in immigration court.

More needs to be done. That same day I introduced two bills to make D.C. an even more welcoming city by providing immigrants greater access to our educational and electoral institutions.

I doubt that these recent announcements from the White House will be the last to threaten the well-being of residents of the District of Columbia. I commit to looking at every single way we can continue to protect our residents from the aggressions of the new administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. Engaging with your local officials, including myself, and our staff will be integral to this effort.  I welcome and encourage your feedback.

We must stand together as a city.  Protecting our human rights cannot be done alone.  It must be the charge of all of our elected leaders and all of our residents. We must fight for each other. We must work for the most vulnerable among us. We must lift each other up. And we must love one another.

Read the full resolution adopted by the Council below:

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D.C. Child Development Facilities Expansion Amendment Act of 2017

D.C. Child Development Facilities Expansion Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: January 24, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Elissa Silverman, Charles Allen, Robert White

Summary: To amend the Child Development Facilities Regulation Act of 1998 to direct the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to determine the eligibility of child development facilities seeking to occupy space designated for childcare in buildings and adjacent areas for the purpose of meeting the childcare needs of employees and residents; to require the Office of State Superintendent of Education to market the childcare program and provide technical assistance to the public' to establish a preference system for employees and residents eligible to receive childcare in buildings and adjacent areas; to authorize the Mayor to designate, build out, competitively award and manage at least 10, 300 square feet of space in new, renovated, and existing buildings and leased space; and to repeal the District of Columbia Employees Child Care Facilities Act of 1986.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson.  Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Mary Cheh, I am introducing the District of Columbia Child Development Facilities Expansion Amendment Act of 2017.

It is no secret that Washington, D.C. has the highest childcare costs in the country. The Economic Policy Institute reports that the average cost of infant care is $22,631 a year.

Further, children under the age of 3 are the fastest-growing age group in the District of Columbia. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of infants and toddlers increased by 26 percent.

One of the problems that we are facing with these growing costs and population increase is that licensed early learning providers only have space for one-third of the population of infants and toddlers in D.C.

During my time as Chairperson of the Education Committee, I have often heard from families, child care providers, and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (or OSSE) that finding an early learning provider in this city that is affordable, high-quality, and has open childcare slots is a rarity for many.

That is why I am introducing a bill that would require the Mayor to provide early learning providers with free childcare space, utilities, equipment, furnishings, and security in certain new, existing, and renovated D.C. owned buildings and leased space. 

It directs OSSE to determine the eligibility of existing early learning providers seeking to occupy space in buildings, to market the program, and to provide technical assistance to the providers.

It also establishes a priority system for D.C. government employees and residents seeking childcare in these buildings.

By eliminating facility costs for early learning providers, this bill ensures that cost savings are passed on to families. It also guarantees that early learning providers will no longer have to compete with more established businesses for space on the first floor of buildings.

If D.C. is to become a world-class city for education, we must plan ahead and invest more money in the zero to three years.

I look forward to working with OSSE and the Mayor to ensure that our youngest residents are put in the best possible position to succeed in school and later in life by starting as early as we can.

At this time, I will reserve my remaining time for co-introducers.

Thank you.

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Bills provide equitable access to education, elections for D.C. immigrants

For Immediate Release:

January 24, 2017

Contact:

Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987

mnocella@dccouncil.us

Bills provide equitable access to education, elections for D.C. immigrants

Washington, D.C. – As the national political climate becomes more divisive, Councilmember David Grosso today re-introduced two bills that promote the inclusion of our immigrant communities in our city’s educational and electoral institutions.

“D.C. welcomes and embraces the diversity that has made America great for centuries,” Grosso said. “Regardless of what language they speak, regardless of where they were born, immigrants are an integral part of our neighborhoods. We must therefore ensure that they have every opportunity to fully participate.”

The Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2017 strengthens existing law by increasing the standards of the Language Access Act for government services for all non-English proficient residents.

The bill requires that each public school and public charter school provide translations of essential educational information, such as data relating to a student's well-being and educational progress.

“As chairperson of the Committee on Education, I know that having parents who are actively involved in the education of their child is critical to their success,” Grosso said. “Putting students in the best position to succeed means ensuring that information is made available to their parents in the language they speak.”

The bill also requires that each public and public charter school with a 5 percent or more non-English proficient population, must designate a culturally competent language access liaison at each school and designate a language access coordinator for each local education agency. 

The second bill, the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017, would grant voting rights in local municipal elections to D.C. residents who are not U.S. citizens but have permanent residency status.

“’All politics is local’ is a common phrase in the U.S. political system and what most District residents care about are the tangible things that affect their day-to-day lives like education, potholes, playgrounds, taxes, snow removal, trash collection, red light cameras and more,” Grosso said. “Everyone deserves a voice in their government. We cannot perpetuate the same injustice in our own city that is imposed upon us by the federal government each day.”

Currently, there are seven jurisdictions where non-citizens can vote in local elections in the U.S., six of which are in neighboring Maryland. None of these cities or towns has experienced incidents of voting fraud with regard to non-citizens voting in federal elections. 

Both bills have been introduced in previous council periods and have received hearings. Under Council rules no additional hearings will be necessary for committees to act on the legislation.

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Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2017

Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: January 24, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Grosso, Nadeau, Gray, Allen, R. White, Silverman, and McDuffie

Summary: To amend the Language Access Act of 2004 to add the Mayor's Office of Community Affairs, the Secretary to the Council of the District of Columbia, and other entities to the list of covered entities with major public contact; require each public school and public charter school to provide translations of essential information to students, parents, and guardians; require the language access coordinators of certain covered entities with major public contact to have language access coordination as their primary role; require the Office of Human Rights to publish an annual summary of all decisions, orders, corrective actions, and fines issued in the prior year; require public schools and public charter schools to designate a culturally competent language access liaison and each local education agency to designate a language access coordinator if the percentage of students who are of limited or no-English proficiency is more than 5 percent, or less, or 500 individuals, whichever is fewer, of the population being served by the public school or public charter school; clarify the complaint filing and appeals procedures; establish monetary penalties for violations of the act; and establish the Language Access Education Awareness Fund. 

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson. 

Today, along with Councilmembers Allen, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Vincent Gray,  I and introducing the “Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2017.”

Since the D.C. Language Access Act of 2004 was passed over ten years ago, the immigrant population has grown rapidly in the District of Columbia. Our diverse immigrant communities, who come from all over the world, account for more than one third of the city’s population growth since 2007.  There are approximately 85,000 immigrants in D.C., and they have a need for government services. 

I introduced this legislation with the intent of strengthening existing law by increasing the standards of the Language Access Act for government services for all of our non-English proficient residents. This is an issue that is important in both government agencies and in our schools. 

Originally, this bill was introduced in Council Period 21 and assigned Bill 21-66 and was jointly referred to the Committee on Education, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee of the Whole.  A joint hearing with over 80 witnesses was held in July 2015 and the Committee on Education marked it up in September 2015 and the Committee on Judiciary marked it up in September 2016.  Therefore, I am re-introducing the version that is substantially similar to the one passed out of the Judiciary Committee to preserve the hearing that took place and the work already accomplished.

The bill requires that each public school and public charter school shall provide translations of essential information.  Essential information is defined as data relating to a student's well-being and educational progress, including special education matters; academic performance and attendance; behavioral and discipline; activities for which notice is needed or parental permission; public health and safety notifications; and the student handbook.

The bill also requires that each public and public charter school with a 5 percent or more non-English proficient population, must designate a culturally competent language access liaison at each school and designate a language access coordinator for each local education agency. 

Finally, the bill addresses violations made by other government agencies and imposes corrective actions and penalties for violations of this act and establishes a non-lapsing Language Access Education Awareness fund to help cover the costs of agency awareness and implementation.

I want to thank my colleagues who for co-introduced this legislation with me and welcome any other co-sponsors at this time.

Thank you.

Comment

Comment

Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017

Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: January 24, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Grosso, Silverman, Allen, Nadeau, R. White, Evans, and Bonds

Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Election Code of 1955 to expand the definition of "qualified elector" to include permanent residents for the purpose of local elections.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

Today, along with Councilmembers Jack Evans, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White, I am introducing the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017. 

This bill allows permanent residents in the District of Columbia, who are not yet U.S. citizens, the right to vote in our local municipal elections. These residents are well on their path to citizenship.  This bill will allow them to legally participation in our elections for the Mayor, Council, State Board of Education, ANC’s and the Attorney General.  

“All politics is local” is a common phrase in the U.S. political system.  What most D.C. residents care about are the local issues of city life that affect them day-to-day.  This includes our public schools, paying their taxes, having access to quality health care, crime rates in neighborhoods, and so much more.  All of these issues are important to voters in the District of Columbia but unfortunately, not all of our residents have a say in choosing the officials who make the policy decisions that will directly impact them.  In my opinion, that is unjust.

Since 1970, the District of Columbia has seen a steady increase in the number of foreign-born residents and according to the U.S. Census Bureau report in 2012, 54,000 residents in the District were foreign born, but not naturalized U.S. citizens and this number is growing.  Over 90% of legal permanent residents are 18 years of age or older. These are law-abiding taxpayers and they should have the opportunity to have their voices heard in local elections.

I recognize that this is a very political and polarizing issue further agitated by the incoming Presidential Administration and current Congressional make-up.  I strongly believe that the result of the national election reverberated in our city perhaps more than anywhere else in the nation.

Many are scared and anxious as our future and the future of our laws are at the whim of a Congress where we have no voting representation from our city, and many of its members have never set foot in our diverse neighborhoods. 

For most of American history, noncitizens were permitted to vote in 22 states and federal territories. It was not until the 1920s that, amidst anti-immigrant hysteria, lawmakers began to bar non-citizens from voting in local and statewide elections.  Unfortunately, this hysteria continues across the United States, but it does not need to be perpetuated in the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia is a leader in how we relate to immigrants and we are a sanctuary city – to me that means we will protect families and communities from being torn apart by immigration policies rooted in fear and bigotry. 

I want to thank my colleagues who for co-introduced this legislation with me and welcome any other co-sponsors at this time.

Thank you.

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