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Councilmember Grosso introduces legislation to protect D.C. abortion rights

For Immediate Release:
September 17, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso introduces legislation to protect D.C. abortion rights

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today pushed back against a tide of measures in several states that seek to limit reproductive health freedom by introducing legislation to affirm all D.C. residents’ right to access the full range of reproductive health options, including abortion.

“Across the country, reproductive health decisions—and specifically abortion rights—are under attack,” said Grosso. “President Trump continues to nominate judges that will shift the ideological makeup of the courts, while state legislatures enact unconstitutional laws that restrict access to abortion.”

Since January, 10 states have passed total or near-total bans on abortion. In some cases, laws like Alabama’s, the strictest abortion ban in the country, are crafted in such a way to force the court to revisit Roe v. Wade. In other states, restrictive laws are meant to make access to abortion so difficult that it will not matter whether Roe v. Wade stands or not.

“D.C. residents have the right, in consultation with their doctor and free from government interference, to make medical decisions about contraception, abortion, or carrying a pregnancy to term,” Grosso said. “We must enshrine that right into the D.C. Human Rights Act, leaving no doubt that the District of Columbia stands for reproductive health freedom.”

The Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019 puts D.C. in direct opposition to this trend by amending the 1977 Human Rights Act to recognize the right to choose or refuse abortion care, prohibit the criminalization of self-managed abortion, and protect health care professionals against employer discrimination based on their participation in providing abortion care.

“We need lasting protection for reproductive health access now, no matter what happens in Congress, in the states, or in the courts,” said Grosso.

Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Charles Allen joined Grosso as a co-introducer of the bill, as well Councilmember Brandon Todd, chairperson of the committee to which the legislation was referred.

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Comment

Comment

Councilmember Grosso re-introduces legislation to ban the use of “gay/trans panic” defenses in D.C.

For Immediate Release:
September 17, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso re-introduces legislation to ban the use of “gay/trans panic” defenses in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – At the D.C. Council’s first legislative meeting after summer recess, Councilmember David Grosso re-introduced his legislation to counter the use of “gay/trans panic” defenses, which seek to utilize the stigma associated with the sexual orientation, gender identity, or other identity expression of victims to excuse violent crimes.

“I am a passionate supporter of the human rights of criminal defendants, a fair and swift trial, and for alternatives to incarceration,” said Grosso. “All of that is possible without resorting to a defense that is premised on bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.”

The Tony Hunter and Bella Evangelista Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2019 would 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. The bill also requires an anti-bias jury instruction in criminal trials if requested by the prosecutor or the defendant.

“The bill makes one thing clear: a defense that exploits bias is simply unacceptable,” said Grosso.

Councilmember Grosso originally introduced the bill in February 2017 as the Secure a Fair and Equitable (SAFE) Trial Act. Over the summer, Grosso worked closely with LGBTQ advocates ahead of re-introduction and fulfilled their request to rename the bill in honor of Tony Hunter, a gay man, and Bella Evangelista, a transgender woman.

“LGBTQ+ panic defenses have long stood as a symbol of dangerous and outdated thinking,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, Executive Director of the National LGBT Bar Association. “The Tony Hunter and Bella Evangelista Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2019 would send a clear message: Discrimination has no validity in the courtroom.”

“Victims of crime, their families, and their communities experience enough trauma without having to shoulder the blame for their murder or assault or watch their loved one’s name maligned as they seek justice,” said David Mariner, Executive Director of The D.C. Center for the LGBT Community. “I greatly appreciate Councilmember Grosso’s continued engagement with the LGBTQ+ community on this issue and for naming the bill in honor of Tony Hunter and Bella Evangelista–two victims whose cases were marred by the discriminatory statements that are used in the making of these panic defenses.”

“This bill would prohibit the misuse of a victim’s identity as an excuse for perpetrating a murder or violence. The ‘panic’ defense attempts to justify a criminal act motivated by a defendant’s racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism or other bias. This Act is a necessary step to address an anachronism in our legal system that demeans and devalues the lives of vulnerable people. These defenses simply have no place in our justice system and it is time for them to go,” said Sasha Buchert, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal.

In August, the Washington Post reported that D.C. saw the highest number of bias-motivated attacks last year and had the highest per capita hate-crime rate of any major city in the country.

“In this time of heightened rhetoric of hate and violence, it is incredibly important that we act to eliminate bias whenever we can. I appreciate the renewed grassroots support for this legislation, including the many letters and resolutions Advisory Neighborhood Commissions have recently approved, and urge the Council to move swiftly,” said Grosso.

Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Comment

Comment

PARCC scores continue to demonstrate improvement

For Immediate Release:
August 19, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

PARCC scores continue to demonstrate improvement

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the release of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores from assessments administered in the 2018-2019 school year:

“The PARCC results released today demonstrate that public education in the District of Columbia continues to improve. I appreciate the hard work of educators across the District of Columbia whose dedication to our students’ success has produced these positive results.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that every student, regardless of race, disability, or other factor, completes their education prepared for a bright future; and while today’s results show some improvements, we still have more work to do in order to fulfill that responsibility. The data we gain from these assessments will provide us with valuable information about where our focus needs to be in order to continue our progress and put every student in the best position to succeed.”

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Comment

Comment

Councilmember Grosso introduces bills to strengthen safe passage to school and support students on extended medical leave

For Immediate Release:
July 10, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso introduces bills to strengthen safe passage to school and support students on extended medical leave

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, yesterday introduced two bills to support students’ academic success by improving safe passage to school and reducing barriers to academic instruction when medical conditions require them to be away from school for extended periods of time.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our students feel safe from the moment they step out of their home until they return from school at the end of the day,” Grosso said. “Unfortunately, our city has experienced far too many shootings near our schools in just this past year which threatens our students’ sense of safety and negatively impacts their ability to learn.”

According to research conducted by Guns & America, 177 of the 286 shootings in the District of Columbia occurred within a 1,000-foot-radius of a school campus. Most of these incidents were concentrated near schools on the east end of the city.

The Safe Passage to School Expansion Act of 2019 establishes an Office of Safe Passage charged with improving the safety of students on their way to and from school through the creation of a five-year plan, enhanced agency coordination, grant making, and data collection. It also requires the Mayor to provide a shuttle bus from Metro stations to DCPS and public charter schools with the fewest transportation options.

“With continuous and sustained safe passage programming, I believe our students, schools, and communities will be safer and our students will be in a better position to succeed academically,” Grosso said.

Grosso also introduced legislation to protect the right to an education for students who are absent from school for an extended period of time due to physical or psychological reasons.

“Students in the District of Columbia have a right to an education even when they are unable to attend school for long periods of time due to medical reasons. However, it has become clear that D.C. is not always fulfilling that responsibility to our students,” Grosso said.

Research conducted by Councilmember Grosso’s office found major shortcomings across sectors in the provision of home and hospital instruction services to students.

At DCPS, many parents are unfamiliar with their home hospital instruction program. There is no transparent process for determining a child’s eligibility, no clear mechanism for appealing a decision, and no basic public data about the program.

Further, students who are admitted into the Psychiatric Institute of Washington or St. Elizabeth’s Hospital do not receive any instruction at all. It is also unclear if all public charter schools have a program in place, what the requirements are, or if they are in line with best practices.

The Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2019 requires every local education agency to adopt and implement a home or hospital instruction program that provides academic instruction and support to students who have been or will be absent from their school of enrollment for 10 or more consecutive or cumulative school days due to a physical or psychological condition. It also creates an appeal process to be administered by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

“This long overdue legislation sets basic expectations for local education agencies to ensure they are meeting their responsibility to educate our students,” Grosso said.

Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers of both bills.

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Comment

Comment

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from the D.C. Council

For Immediate Release:
July 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from the D.C. Council

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso regarding Councilmember Evans’ latest dishonesty to the Council about the nature of his relationship with lobbyist Bill Jarvis:

“Tomorrow, the Council will consider resolutions to remove Councilmember Jack Evans as chairperson of the Finance and Revenue Committee and hire a law firm to conduct an investigation into his potential violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct. While I appreciate that the Council is finally acting to take Councilmember Evans’ misconduct seriously, it is frustrating that it has taken us this long to act to protect the Council’s reputation and hold our colleague accountable.

“Regardless of the actions we take tomorrow, given new revelations over the weekend of Councilmember Evans’ dishonesty, I believe the public trust in Councilmember Evans is irreparable and it is in the best interest of the Council and the residents of the District of Columbia that Jack Evans resign as the Ward 2 Councilmember. Short of that, I will be offering an amendment that would also remove him from all committees until the conclusion of this investigation.

“Last week, Councilmember Evans attempted to present his case to Councilmembers in response to the release of a memo from a law firm hired by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to investigate Evans. This memo illustrated that Mr. Evans was not forthcoming and not truthful with his colleagues and the public about the findings of the WMATA investigation.

“My colleagues and I asked many questions, including the nature of the relationship between Mr. Evans and his consulting firm NSE Consulting with lobbyist Bill Jarvis. Councilmember Evans maintained that Mr. Jarvis was merely a long-time friend who helped file the paperwork creating NSE Consulting. However, over the weekend The Washington Post ran a story contradicting Mr. Evans’ claims yet again, summarizing e-mails demonstrating that Mr. Jarvis acted on behalf of the firm by negotiating contracts with potential clients.

“It is no longer possible to trust anything that Councilmember Evans has told us since this ordeal began. Councilmember Evans lied about what happened with the WMATA report, and now he’s lying about the nature of his relationship with a well-known lobbyist, Mr. Jarvis. We must now question votes and actions he has taken on the Council during his many years as chairperson of the Finance and Revenue Committee, and particularly during the past decade in which he has not once recused himself from a Council vote.

“Especially troubling is his rush to legalize sports wagering and to sole-source the contract to ensure his business partner’s client remains the incumbent vendor. The relationship between Councilmember Evans and Intralot’s lobbyist Bill Jarvis only reinforces my view that we should disapprove the proposed $215 million lottery and sports wagering contract, decouple the two issues, and open both to competition.

“This is an unfortunate situation of our own making. The Council failed to address the allegations of Councilmember Evans’ corruption, conflicts of interest, and misconduct when they first surfaced in early 2018. At that time I privately requested that Chairman Mendelson create an ad hoc committee made up of five Councilmembers to investigate. I re-iterated those calls in the subsequent months as new allegations and information came to light. The Chairman still has not appointed an ad hoc committee and has indicated that he is unlikely to do so until the fall.

“Rather than investigating these allegations at the first hint of wrongdoing, it has taken the work of the press to bring Councilmember Evans’ conflicts and dishonesty to light. We are continually distracted by new allegations of wrongdoing or new information that casts doubt on Councilmember Evans’ honesty. Who knows what else this week will bring? Further distraction can be avoided if Councilmember Evans takes the appropriate action by resigning from the Council.”

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Comment

Comment

Councilmember Grosso reiterates need for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation of Councilmember Evans and calls for the removal of Evans from all committees

For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso reiterates need for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation of Councilmember Evans and calls for the removal of Evans from all committees

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on the ethical issues plaguing Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Councilmember Evans’ ethical lapses have created a terrible distraction for the Council of the District of Columbia and it is preventing this body from moving forward with its work in a manner that instills trust and confidence in the public. The Council has abdicated its responsibility to conduct an investigation of one of its members–to its own detriment. We cannot continue to incrementally sanction Councilmember Evans based on a slow trickle of information from media outlets. Only a full investigation will provide Councilmembers with the necessary information to act appropriately and with finality.

"Chairman Mendelson must appoint an ad hoc committee to fully investigate Councilmember Evans and Councilmember Evans should be removed from all Committees while that investigation moves forward."

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Comment

Comment

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from WMATA Board and for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation

For Immediate Release:
June 20, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from WMATA Board and for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on recent news reports of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's ethics investigation into Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Councilmember Jack Evans’ reputation and ability to faithfully represent the people of the District of Columbia to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are beyond repair and he should resign from the Board of Directors immediately.

"Councilmember Evans has represented the citizens of the District of Columbia on the WMATA Board since 2015. In that time, he has 'knowingly' engaged in 'a pattern of conduct in which Evans attempted to and did help his friends and clients and served their interests' rather than the interests of WMATA or D.C. residents. Worse still, his attempt to obfuscate WMATA’s Ethics Committee’s findings have tarnished the District’s reputation in the eyes of our partner jurisdictions. There are 12 other members of the Council who could bring a strong, ethical, diverse, and respected voice to the WMATA Board and begin to repair our critical regional relationships.

"Furthermore, Councilmember Evans’ actions throughout the WMATA ethics investigation and his statements this week have called into question his honesty. His entire strategy is to avoid public accountability for his actions. By eschewing an ad hoc committee to investigate Councilmember Evans’ potential violation of the Council’s Code of Conduct in favor of a mere reprimand and minor committee reassignments, the Council has abdicated its responsibility to hold its members accountable.

"If the WMATA Ethics Committee can investigate without interference from federal authorities, the Council should do the same and hold Councilmember Evans accountable. I grow increasingly concerned that our failure to conduct a thorough and full investigation will allow further media reports of Councilmember Evans’ behavior to distract the Council from its work on behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia and corrode the public trust.

"The people of the District of Columbia deserve a full accounting of the misuse of his public office and potential violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct. I urge Chairman Mendelson to immediately appoint an ad hoc committee to carry out this task."

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Comment

Comment

Council preserves independence and dedicated funding for arts and humanities in final action on FY2020 budget

For Immediate Release:
June 18, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Council preserves independence and dedicated funding for arts and humanities in final action on FY2020 budget

Washington, D.C. – The Council provided strong support for the arts and humanities today as it finalized the fiscal year 2020 budget with policy changes that preserve dedicated arts funding and improve the independence of the Commission on Arts and Humanities–both priorities for Councilmember David Grosso.

“The restoration of dedicated funding for the arts and humanities sends a strong signal that the Council is committed to a stable funding stream for our cultural institutions,” Grosso said. “It is especially important that we have provided a past due dedication to the humanities, which elevates the appreciation of our local history and culture.”

Last year, Councilmember Grosso worked with his colleagues to secure a dedicated funding stream for the arts and humanities in D.C.’s fiscal year 2019 budget. However, the mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 repealed that dedication

“I am also excited about the restructuring of the Commission on Arts and Humanities that we passed today,” Grosso said. “These reforms will insulate the commission from political interference, ensure more equitable and reliable funding for the arts, and provide stability through the authorization of multi-year grants.”

“I appreciate Chairman Mendelson’s partnership in these efforts that put the arts and humanities on a path to become an even greater cultural force in the District of Columbia,” Grosso said. “I’m looking forward to where we go from here. I look forward to a productive hearing on the Cultural Plan and how we can work together over the coming months to focus on elevating arts education as a policy priority across the District of Columbia.”

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Comment

Comment

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on suspension of Springboard programs at D.C. schools

For Immediate Release:
June 12, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on suspension of Springboard programs at D.C. schools

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the suspension of Springboard Education’s before- and after-care programs following a sexual abuse incident that involved a Springboard employee at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan:

“I take very seriously the issue of sexual assault and abuse, especially against our students. Youth deserve a safe environment in which to learn and incidents like what happened at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan violate their sense of security. We must redouble our efforts to prevent these violations. 

“That is why I recently introduced, passed, and fully funded the School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act. This law requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students. The bill also increases the requirements of D.C. Public Schools, charter schools, and private schools to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students, including those who provide before- and after-care. Schools must also train staff, contractors, and volunteers on preventing, detecting, and reporting sexual abuse or misconduct. 

“In just the past year, several incidences of sexual assault—whether perpetrated by students or by adults against students—have occurred here in the District of Columbia, in traditional public, public charter, and private schools. It was upsetting enough to learn of these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

“I want to commend DCPS for following the proper protocols and referring the situation to the Metropolitan Police Department when they were informed of the incident. I also applaud both DCPS and charter schools who have contracted with Springboard for acting swiftly to suspend their services. However, greater efforts must be made before employees ever step foot in our schools to guarantee that they do not intend to harm our students. I have further questions about how schools, and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education when appropriate, are ensuring that contractors like Springboard have conducted the proper screening of employees. This incident also shows the need for training and clear policies on detecting sexual abuse including red flags of potential violations.”

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Comment

Comment

Councilmember Grosso seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination by D.C. government

For Immediate Release:
May 28, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination by D.C. government

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation that would protect current or prospective District of Columbia government employees from discrimination based on their enrollment in medical marijuana programs.

“Medical marijuana is no different than any other prescription medication. Individuals who are using it to manage their personal medical conditions should not have to also worry that they will lose their job or not be hired,” Grosso said. “However, over the past several months I have heard in the press and from constituents that some D.C. agencies are willfully ignoring existing policy allowing for exceptions for these individuals.”

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

However, current and prospective employees of from several government agencies have reported treatment inconsistent with official policy.

The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employee Protection Amendment Act of 2019 would enshrine in the law a prohibition against D.C. government agencies discriminating in employment against an individual for participation in the medical marijuana program.

“Unless there is a federal law or rule that requires it, D.C. government should not refuse to hire, fire, or penalize individuals for using medical marijuana, as long as they are not consuming on the job or showing up intoxicated."

Councilmember Grosso, himself a member of the District’s Medical Marijuana Program, has corresponded with DOC Director Quincy Booth since November 2018 to resolve this issue. Grosso, along with five of his colleagues, also sent a letter to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue seeking his intervention. Both efforts were unsuccessful.

“I have tried to work with the Department of Corrections to get this fixed, but it has now become necessary to legislate and immediately correct this inconsistency,” Grosso said. “To that end, I will also be moving this bill as emergency legislation at the next legislative meeting.”

Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Vincent Gray joined Councilmember Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation. Councilmembers Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, and Charles Allen co-sponsored the bill.

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Comment

Comment

Grosso introduces bill to develop technology roadmap for D.C. Public Schools

For Immediate Release:
March 19, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces bill to develop technology roadmap for D.C. Public Schools

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, today introduced legislation to create a technology roadmap for D.C. Public Schools which will improve access to educational technology for students and create a framework to maintain and update technology into the future.

“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 hindrance to their academic pursuits,” Grosso said. “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 and advocates with Digital Equity in DC Education have raised. In 2019, this is unacceptable.”

A Michigan State University study published in 2016 found that improved access to technology had a statistically significant positive impact on student test scores in English/language arts, writing, math, and science.

The D.C. Public Schools 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 to assess the current state of education technology in DCPS, identify gaps, and develop the Comprehensive Student Technology Equity Plan–a roadmap to ensure there is one device per student in grades 3-12 in the next 5 years.

“While D.C. Public Schools has made a great first step with recently announced investments in technology for critical grades, a comprehensive multi-year technology plan and a strategy to maintain and update this education technology in DCPS is necessary,” said Grosso.

Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Anita Bonds joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Comment

Comment

Councilmember Grosso remains committed to a special Council investigation of Councilmember Evans’ behavior

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

Councilmember Grosso remains committed to a special Council investigation of Councilmember Evans’ behavior

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso on Chairman Phil Mendelson's proposed reprimand of Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Chairman Mendelson’s proposed reprimand of Councilmember Evans is merely a slap on the wrist, allowing the Council to check a box and move on. It stops short of any real accountability as Councilmember Evans will remain at the helm of the powerful Finance and Revenue Committee from which he peddled his influence using the prestige of his office. Additionally, he remains on the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, which has oversight of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. True consequences for his behavior should necessitate the reorganization of the current committee structure.

"Based on media reports over the past year, this does not appear to be an isolated incident, but rather a pattern of behavior. While I appreciate the role of the press in bringing Councilmember Evans’ actions to light, it is incumbent upon the Council to conduct its own investigation into the extent to which our colleague has violated our Code of Conduct, policies, and laws and ensure public trust in the work of this body.

“If we solely rely on the press as our investigative branch, we could be back here in a few weeks voting on another reprimand, and then another. A full Council investigation by an ad hoc committee appointed by the Chairman will provide a thorough accounting and then allow the Council to weigh its full options to hold Councilmember Evans accountable."

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Comment

Comment

Grosso expands proposal to promote retail equity for the underbanked

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

Grosso expands proposal to promote retail equity for the underbanked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Comment

Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grosso also views the legislation as an appropriate response the negative effects of congressional interference with D.C.’s local efforts to regulate marijuana.

“D.C. residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market,” Grosso said. “That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.”

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

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Comment

Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grosso re-introduces bill to modernize sealing of criminal records

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

Grosso re-introduces bill to modernize sealing of criminal records

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

“We have begun to move away from using criminal penalties as the solution to social issues, we are seeking to undo the discriminatory policies of the War on Drugs, and we are seeking to support people who go to jail or prison to be successful upon their return to the community,” Grosso said. “One significant barrier to successful reentry is a criminal record.”

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

A report from the Center for Court Excellence released in 2016 noted that the burden of criminal records falls almost exclusively on black residents—96% of people sentenced to prison in D.C. are black.

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

“It is time for us to recognize that making criminal records available does little to improve public safety and directly harms the individuals concerned, in fact hampering their ability to leave behind involvement in criminal activity,” said Grosso. “The negative impacts of criminal records harm tens of thousands of residents of our city, as do the decades of discriminatory criminal justice policies and practices, disproportionately affecting African Americans. We have an obligation to confront it and seek bold remedies.”

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

Nationally, there is a bipartisan policy trend that acknowledges the unfair premise of visible criminal records and the relationship between criminal records and recidivism. In the past several years, 21 states have passed laws that expand opportunities for sealing or expunging records.

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

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

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

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

“It is my hope that the Record Sealing Modernization Amendment Act of 2019 can help fulfill the promise to returning citizens—or even people who are arrested and nothing ever comes of it—that we support them and will not judge them forever for past mistakes,” Grosso said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on the reappointment of Hanseul Kang as Superintendent of Education

For Immediate Release:
January 7, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on the reappointment of Hanseul Kang as Superintendent of Education

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, released the following statement following the announcement by Mayor Muriel Bowser that she intends to re-appoint Hanseul Kang as the State Superintendent of Education:

“In my time working with Superintendent Kang, I have appreciated her depth of knowledge, candor, and responsiveness. Under her leadership, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education has undergone marked improvement in both action and reputation. I support the mayor’s decision to re-appoint Superintendent Kang and I look forward to continuing to work with her to improve educational outcomes for our students across the District.”

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Grosso seeks to prevent special taxpayer funding of new football stadium

For Immediate Release:
January 7, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso seeks to prevent special taxpayer funding of new football stadium

Washington, D.C. – In advance of the Council’s first legislative meeting of the new year, Councilmember David Grosso today re-introduced an interstate compact that would prohibit a race to the bottom between the District of Columbia and its neighboring jurisdictions of Maryland and Virginia to lure the Washington Football Team with taxpayer-funded giveaways.

“This compact sends a clear message to Dan Snyder: the District of Columbia and its neighbors will not be played for fools,” said Grosso. “Wealthy companies seek to pit jurisdictions against each other to see who will offer the greatest incentives–we saw this most recently with the Amazon HQ2 contest. Like Amazon, a football team worth over $1 billion should not need to rely on special government assistance to fund their facilities.”

The Washington Area Professional Football Team Franchise Facility Interstate Compact Establishment Act of 2019 creates an interstate compact that precludes members from providing or offering special public incentives or financing for the construction of facilities for the Washington Football Team.

Research shows that NFL stadiums do not generate the dramatic 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 the District of Columbia’s best interest,” Grosso said. “Furthermore, District taxpayers’ money should not be used to further the commercial use of racist and derogatory terms that dishonor indigenous peoples.”

Maryland Delegate David Moon (D-Montgomery) plans to re-introduce the compact in the Maryland House of Delegates this month. Virginia Delegate Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) re-filed his version in the Virginia House of Delegates last week.

Grosso had previously introduced the compact in 2017.

Last month, Grosso sent a letter to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton urging her to oppose efforts by Mayor Muriel Bowser, Daniel Snyder, Republicans in the House of Representatives, and the Trump Administration to slip a provision into the must-pass end of year federal spending package that would pave the way for a return of the football team to RFK, as first reported by the Washington Post. With Democrats now in control of the House, it is unlikely such a provision will pass.

During his time on the Council, Grosso has repeatedly called for the team to change their name–a racial slur against American Indians–most recently joining indigenous peoples and activists to deliver petitions to the football team. In his first term in office, Grosso introduced and secured passage of a Council resolution calling on the team to change its name. He has also been a champion of legislation to end D.C.’s recognition of Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The interstate compact bill was introduced in the Council Secretary’s office ahead of tomorrow’s legislative meeting, the first of the new Council Period. From the dais, Grosso plans to introduce legislation to protect special education rights of youth defendants; legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana sales in the District of Columbia; and overhaul the way D.C. handles records of arrests, charges, and convictions in the District of Columbia to support reintegration of people with such records into the community.


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