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Constituent Service Fund Reform Amendment Act of 2019

Constituent Service Fund Reform Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: April 2, 2019

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

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Campaign Finance Act of 2011 to repeal the existing constituent-service program and related language; and to amend Chapter 3 of Title 47 of the District of Columbia Official Code to establish a government-funded constituent services program.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White, I am introducing the Constituent Service Fund Reform Amendment Act of 2019.

Misused, Inequitable and Ethically Fraught. That’s the title of a report on the use of Constituent Service Funds by councilmembers, released last week by Public Citizen.

The report found that, in the last seven years, only a quarter of expenditures from constituent service funds have been used to meet the immediate needs of our residents.

Sports tickets, branded t-shirts, membership dues, calendars, greeting cards¬–the list goes on–are just some of the items that have been purchased with funds intended to help our residents in need pay bills, buy groceries, or make funeral arrangements.

Worse than what the money is used for (or rather NOT used for) is where the money comes from.

Private donations raise the specter of pay-to-play politics, with maxed out campaign donors and those seeking government business able to further contribute financially to an elected official.

Last year, as part of the debate and passage of the Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2017, which became effective law two weeks ago, provisions to reform constituent service funds were removed at the markup.

During that debate councilmembers touted the important role these funds play in helping their constituents on a day to day basis and raised concerns about meeting constituents’ needs if we were to eliminate these funds or place restrictions on donations to them.

The bill I am introducing today would allow us to both meet those IMMEDIATE needs of constituents while also removing the undue influence of monied interests in this important work.

The legislation establishes a central, publicly-funded constituent service fund for the Mayor, Attorney General, and the members of the Council, providing each the ability to direct up to $40,000 annually for immediate constituent needs.

Elected officials will not be able to solicit donations from private donors or move unused campaign, transition, and other funds to constituent service funds, removing even the appearance of corruption from the equation.

New requirements will ensure expenditures directly benefit constituents and prohibits using funds on questionable perks like sports tickets and branded advertising.

And finally, the bill empowers the Chief Financial Officer to administer the program and approve expenditures, creating a new system of accountability and removing the burden from the Office of Campaign Finance.

This legislation builds on the work undertaken in recent years to put our ethical house in order, continuing us down the road that both the Fair Elections and Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Acts have set us on to win back the public’s trust in our work.

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School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019

School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019

Introduced: April 2, 2019

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend The Uniform Per Student Funding Formula for Public Schools and Public Charter Schools Amendment Act of 1998 to require that the District of Columbia Public Schools submission be based on the cost associated at each school based on projected enrollment and include detailed information for each school’s funding, a separate line-item for at-risk funding for each school, and a narrative description of programs and services funded by at-risk funds; that the DCPS submission delineate cost of the central office attributed listed categories of students in each grade level; that the Public Charter School Board shall publish the detailed budget and end of year expenditures of each public charter school; to amend the District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1995 to require the Boards of Trustees of public charter schools to comply with Title IV of the District of Columbia Administrative Procedures Act; and to require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to create an electronic reporting system for the public to ensure the greatest degree of clarity and comparability by laypersons of expenditures among all public schools in the District of Columbia.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Next, along with Chairman Mendelson, Councilmembers Allen, Bonds, Cheh, Evans, Gray, McDuffie, Nadeau, Silverman, Todd, R. White, T. White, I am introducing the School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019.

Over the past several years, there has been significant confusion around funding for DCPS schools. At the same time, there is less information about funding for public charter schools. The lack of information about public schools in both sectors has raised many questions around school funding cuts and transparency.

The Council and the public have had a number of conversations about the Universal Per Student Funding Formula, At-Risk Funding, and if fund allocations meant to supplement are actually supplanting.

I have long believed that we cannot have a full and meaningful conversation on this topic until we all have similar baseline information. Unfortunately, because of the disjointedness of our education system, and specifically our funding systems, we continue to have these conversations in silos.

Last year, the Committee on Education attempted to start this conversation when it approved a Budget Support Act subtitle to require the Mayor to be more transparent about how the executive formulates DCPS and schools’ budgets. Unfortunately, that language was not included in the final BSA.

This Council Period, we are attempting to start that conversation again because it is clear that the public is clamoring for a more transparent way to digest and engage with how the District of Columbia funds schools.

The School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019 attempts to bring about transparency in the following ways:

  • First, it requires DCPS use a school-based budgeting model to fund schools, as opposed to the comprehensive staffing model, and submit that to DC Council. This would allow principals to have more autonomy of their local dollars and the ability to build their budgets based on their students’ needs, rather than the adults that Central Office dictates schools must hire. It would also require DCPS to delineate the cost of central office in its budget submission.

  • Next, Public Charter Schools must be more transparent. It would subject charter schools to the DC Open Meetings Act. Additionally, it requires PCSB to publish both charter school budgets and school expenditures – currently, only school budgets are published. Also, the legislation makes clear that charters must delineate how at-risk funds are being spent at each school.

  • Finally, the bill requires that OSSE publish school budget expenditure information in a way that ensures the public can compare expenditures by LEA and by school in a clear manner. This gives parents and policymakers clear information and finally allows us to see across all schools how tax dollars are being spent.

By no means do I believe this is the panacea to solve all the problems around school budgets that the Council and the public have identified. I do however believe this is a place to start the conversation and I look forward to having that discussion with all stakeholders.

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Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2019

Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: March 19, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmember Robert White, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, Brianne Nadeau

BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to protect individuals experiencing homelessness from discrimination.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson.

A survey conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and George Washington University in 2014 found that out of 142 individuals experiencing homelessness, 132 claimed they had been discriminated against because of their homeless status.

While there isn’t more recent data on this issue, virtually all homeless individuals experience some form of discrimination as they go about their everyday lives.

Today, I am introducing the Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2019.

This bill amends the Human Rights Act of 1977 to add homelessness as a protected class to help eradicate discrimination for individuals experiencing homelessness in housing, employment, public accommodation, educational institutions, public service, and commercial space.

It is named the Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2019 to honor the life and legacy of a person who was a long-time advocate for the rights of individuals experiencing homelessness and a tireless warrior for overcoming income inequality.

During his 67 years of life, Michael was able to accomplish many great feats on behalf of individuals experiencing homelessness.

In the 1980s, he help founded the National Coalition for the Homeless.

He fasted and slept on the street in order to pressure Congress to pass the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a federal law that provides funding for homeless shelter programs, and is the primary piece of federal legislation related to the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness.

Later, he pushed the standards of living for homeless individuals by organizing over 100,000 people to join the “End Homelessness Now! Rally”.

In the 1990s, Michael co-found the North American Street Newspaper Association (or “NASNA”). NASNA is a nonprofit trade association of street newspapers that helps to support 110 papers in 40 countries, including our very own local newspaper, Street Sense, where Michael served on the board from 2003 to 2014.

Unfortunately, in 2015 tragedy struck. Michael suffered a massive stroke, which caused him to be wheelchair bound and unable to speak. However, he still remained dedicated to his life’s mission until he passed away in 2017.

Passing this legislation will help eliminate discrimination against homeless people simply because they are homeless.

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District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019

District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019

Introduced: March 19, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Anita Bonds

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To require the development of a comprehensive multi-year student technology plan for the District of Columbia Public Schools that achieves a one-to-one device-to-student ratio for grades 3-12 and provides for the adequate repairing, maintaining, and updating of information technology in schools.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Along with Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Anita Bonds, I am introducing the District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019.

Last summer, I heard from students at my youth-led education town halls who shared that the access to adequate technology in their schools was a major hinderance to their academic pursuits.

Slow and outdated computers, laptops missing keys, spotty Wi-Fi, and students forced to share devices are just a few of the complaints students have voiced.

In 2019, this is unacceptable.

Studies have shown that adequate access to technology has a positive impact on student test scores and imparts modern skills they will need to fully participate in a 21st century economy.

Up-to-date and ample technology in our schools would also improve their ability to seamlessly administer annual standardized testing, which has presented logistical challenges in years past.

The DCPS Student Technology Equity Act of 2019 requires the mayor to periodically convene a steering committee of DCPS, the Chief Technology Officer, educational stakeholders, and information technology experts.

The steering committee will be responsible for engaging the public, assessing the current state of education technology, identifying gaps in student fluency, and determining the adequacy of information technology support for each DCPS school.

This needs assessment will form the basis of a Comprehensive Student Technology Equity Plan that will lay out a road map to ensure there is one device per student in grades 3-12 in the next 5 years.

It will also include a framework to maintain and update technology in our schools and recommendations on how to close the gaps in student technology fluency.

At the end of February 2019, DCPS released a budget that would invest $4.6 million in technology for FY20 and provide a three-to-one technology device ratio for all students and a one-to-one ratio in grades 3, 6, and 9 in SY2019-2020.

While this is a great first step, a comprehensive, multi year technology plan and a strategy to maintain and update this education technology in DCPS is necessary.

In closing, I want to thank student leaders who participated in my town halls for raising their concerns last year and Digital Equity in DC Education for their continued advocacy for improving technology in our schools.

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District of Columbia Public Library Partnership and Sponsorship Amendment Act of 2019

District of Columbia Public Library Partnership and Sponsorship Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: March 19, 2019

BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend An Act To establish and provide for the maintenance of a free public library and reading room in the District of Columbia to permit the District of Columbia Public Library to promote, endorse, co-sponsor, solicit for, or collaborate with charitable organizations whose sole mission is to support the public library; and to engage in certain revenue-generating activities.

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Interagency Council on Behavioral Health Establishment Amendment Act of 2019

Interagency Council on Behavioral Health Establishment Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: March 5, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Brandon Todd, and Kenyan McDuffie

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend The Department of Behavioral Health Establishment Act of 2013 to establish an Interagency Council on Behavioral Health and to describe its members, powers, and duties.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Brandon Todd, and Kenyan McDuffie, I am introducing the Interagency Council on Behavioral Health Establishment Amendment Act of 2019.

Modeled after the Interagency Council on Homelessness, this legislation establishes an Interagency Council on Behavioral Health for the purpose of facilitating cross-sector, cabinet-level leadership in planning, policymaking, program development, and budgeting for a culturally competent, outcome-based, behavioral health system of care.

Just last year, the Office of the Auditor and the Council for Court Excellence completed a robust report focused on the Department of Behavioral Health's work with justice-involved individuals and the criminal justice system broadly.

The report was revealing, highlighting enormous gaps in service and raising serious questions about agency leadership.

It was the culmination of a series of perplexing and deeply troubling events—a trend that unfortunately continues.

In January, federal officials launched an investigation into the Department's mishandling of millions of dollars awarded over the past 2-years to treat opioid addiction and reduce fatal overdoses—money that was never actually spent to that effect.

That audit was just the most recent example of inexcusable lapses on the part of DBH.

In my opinion, we have absolutely failed in the provision of quality behavioral health services for our residents.

There has been an inadequate response to the opioid crisis specifically and almost no prioritization of substance abuse treatment generally; delayed or non-payment to our dedicated community-based providers; the closure of several Core Service agencies; a failure of the iCAMS billing system; poor rollout of the School-Based Mental Health program as well as the continuing challenge to implement it with fidelity; and of course the many issues highlighted within the CCE report.

Further, DBH has been without permanent leadership since November as the Director of DC Health is now forced to split her time between both agencies, an arrangement that is wholly untenable.

For all of these reasons, I believe now is the time to elevate, prioritize, and strengthen our behavioral health system of care.

As a city, it is imperative that we do better for our residents. In order to chart a path forward we have to be honest about our missteps, clear in our vision, and diligent in our effort to provide the highest quality care to some of the most vulnerable among us.

Through this legislation we will ensure that all of the relevant stakeholders are at the table and afforded a meaningful opportunity to shape our system and develop a comprehensive strategic plan to move us forward.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Washington Area Professional Football Team Franchise Facility Interstate Compact Establishment Act of 2019

Washington Area Professional Football Team Franchise Facility Interstate Compact Establishment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 7, 2019

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.

BILL TEXT (introduced Version) | PRESS RELEASE

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Safe2Tell Act of 2018

Safe2Tell Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Trayon White.

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To establish a program in the Office of the Attorney General to allow anonymous reporting concerning unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent, or criminal activities in a school or the threat of the activities in a school.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Throughout the past year, the national conversation about school safety has focused on school shooting incidents, particularly as a result of the willingness of survivors of the Parkland, Florida tragedy to speak out.

While those mass-casualty incidents are deeply disturbing, despite seeming to happen ever more often, they remain fairly rare when compared to other forms of violence that affect our students and schools.

Locally, we had the misfortune to witness another form of violence over the past year—teachers sexually abusing children and students sexually assaulting other students.

It was upsetting enough to learn of the these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

The School Safety Act seeks to fix that going forward, along with accompanying legislation I am introducing in the secretary’s office today. 

Under this legislation, all schools would have to establish policies and protocols for preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, including mandatory prevention-oriented education for staff, students, and parents.

We learned last year of a school that did not report allegations of child sexual abuse properly and this bill should help fix that. 

The bill would also increase the requirements of what efforts DCPS and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any individual they are hiring who will have direct contact with students.

As a companion bill to this legislation, I also am introducing today in the secretary’s office the “Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018.

That bill focuses on sexual violence among students, requiring all schools to establish policies to prevent and properly respond to instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence.

I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were punishing the victims of sexual assault rather than seeking to support them and address the behaviors of the perpetrators.

As part of prevention efforts, the bill also requires DCPS and public charter schools to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Lastly, I want to note that I also introduced today in the secretary’s office a third school safety-focused bill that would establish an anonymous hotline for reporting instances of student plans to harm others or themselves, modeled on similar successful programs in other states.

At a time when the federal Department of Education is promoting more guns in schools as a response to violence, I am excited to continue the conversation in D.C. about how to truly make our schools safer places.

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Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018

Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen.

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To establish a requirement that all schools in the District of Columbia shall adopt and implement a policy to prevent and address sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence among student and to amend the Healthy Schools Act to require that local education agencies shall provide age-appropriate instruction on consent.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Throughout the past year, the national conversation about school safety has focused on school shooting incidents, particularly as a result of the willingness of survivors of the Parkland, Florida tragedy to speak out.

While those mass-casualty incidents are deeply disturbing, despite seeming to happen ever more often, they remain fairly rare when compared to other forms of violence that affect our students and schools.

Locally, we had the misfortune to witness another form of violence over the past year—teachers sexually abusing children and students sexually assaulting other students.

It was upsetting enough to learn of the these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

The School Safety Act seeks to fix that going forward, along with accompanying legislation I am introducing in the secretary’s office today. 

Under this legislation, all schools would have to establish policies and protocols for preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, including mandatory prevention-oriented education for staff, students, and parents.

We learned last year of a school that did not report allegations of child sexual abuse properly and this bill should help fix that. 

The bill would also increase the requirements of what efforts DCPS and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any individual they are hiring who will have direct contact with students.

As a companion bill to this legislation, I also am introducing today in the secretary’s office the “Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018.

That bill focuses on sexual violence among students, requiring all schools to establish policies to prevent and properly respond to instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence.

I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were punishing the victims of sexual assault rather than seeking to support them and address the behaviors of the perpetrators.

As part of prevention efforts, the bill also requires DCPS and public charter schools to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Lastly, I want to note that I also introduced today in the secretary’s office a third school safety-focused bill that would establish an anonymous hotline for reporting instances of student plans to harm others or themselves, modeled on similar successful programs in other states.

At a time when the federal Department of Education is promoting more guns in schools as a response to violence, I am excited to continue the conversation in D.C. about how to truly make our schools safer places.

Comment

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School Safety Act of 2018

School Safety Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen.

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To establish a requirement that all schools in the District of Columbia shall adopt and implement a policy to prevent and address child sexual abuse and to require that District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools thoroughly vet potential hires including by checking the national licensing database.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Throughout the past year, the national conversation about school safety has focused on school shooting incidents, particularly as a result of the willingness of survivors of the Parkland, Florida tragedy to speak out.

While those mass-casualty incidents are deeply disturbing, despite seeming to happen ever more often, they remain fairly rare when compared to other forms of violence that affect our students and schools.

Locally, we had the misfortune to witness another form of violence over the past year—teachers sexually abusing children and students sexually assaulting other students.

It was upsetting enough to learn of the these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

The School Safety Act seeks to fix that going forward, along with accompanying legislation I am introducing in the secretary’s office today. 

Under this legislation, all schools would have to establish policies and protocols for preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, including mandatory prevention-oriented education for staff, students, and parents.

We learned last year of a school that did not report allegations of child sexual abuse properly and this bill should help fix that. 

The bill would also increase the requirements of what efforts DCPS and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any individual they are hiring who will have direct contact with students.

As a companion bill to this legislation, I also am introducing today in the secretary’s office the “Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018.

That bill focuses on sexual violence among students, requiring all schools to establish policies to prevent and properly respond to instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence.

I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were punishing the victims of sexual assault rather than seeking to support them and address the behaviors of the perpetrators.

As part of prevention efforts, the bill also requires DCPS and public charter schools to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Lastly, I want to note that I also introduced today in the secretary’s office a third school safety-focused bill that would establish an anonymous hotline for reporting instances of student plans to harm others or themselves, modeled on similar successful programs in other states.

At a time when the federal Department of Education is promoting more guns in schools as a response to violence, I am excited to continue the conversation in D.C. about how to truly make our schools safer places.

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State Education Agency Independence Amendment Act of 2018

State Education Agency Independence Amendment Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

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

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the State Education Office Establishment Act of 2000 to establish the Office of the State Superintendent of Education as an independent agency and to amend the State Superintendent of Education’s term from 4 to 6 years.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson.

Today I am introducing the State Education Agency Independence Act of 2018, along with Chairman Mendelson, and Councilmembers Nadeau and Bonds

For the past few months I have engaged with community members about what the next steps to improving our education system are.

Many have expressed a desire to see more independent oversight of both traditional public and public charter schools that puts our students’ education above political victories.

The District has seen growth in education outcomes over the past 10 years because we have learned from what has been working and made gradual adjustments. This Bill is a continuation of those adjustments.

The State Education Agency has a number of responsibilities that require a more intentional level of autonomy and independence from politics than what is currently in place. By removing OSSE from the Office of the Mayor, extending the term of the State Superintendent, and only allowing for the removal of the State Superintendent but for cause, the State Superintendent would have the autonomy to hold all LEAs accountable without the consideration of what is politically best for the executive or any political entity.

The provisions contained in my legislation are necessary to move us to a more impartial education agency in the District of Columbia. 

This legislation amends the State Education Office Establishment Act of 2000 to establish the Office of the State Superintendent of Education as an independent agency and amend the State Superintendent’s term from 4 years to 6 years.

This legislation will not stop scandals.  It will however ensure that the public can trust as objective and impartial the work of OSSE and the Superintendent when they investigate issues that arise.

I look forward to the discussion spurred by this bill and would welcome any of my colleagues to cosponsor this bill.

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