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Committee on the Judiciary passes McDuffie’s proposed budget

Today, the Committee on the Judiciary successfully marked up Councilmember McDuffie’s (D-Ward 5) Committee Report and Recommendations on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request and Budget Support Acts (“budget”). The budget is the result of extensive agency oversight and stakeholder engagement over the past five months.

“Over the past several months, the Committee has worked tirelessly to produce a comprehensive budget that makes substantive commitments to the District’s public safety and justice programs,” said McDuffie. “This budget is aligned with my vision to make neighborhoods safer, focus on preventative measures that put a stop to our criminal justice system’s revolving door, and promote government transparency. Equally important, the budget restores major funding to public safety agencies and invests in direct services.”

Beginning February 12, Councilmember McDuffie held a series of performance and budget oversight hearings on the 36 agencies and commissions under the purview of the Committee. During those hearings, Councilmember McDuffie heard from residents, community stakeholders, advocates and directors of agencies.

The following items are highlights from the Committee’s budget recommendations:

Law Enforcement and Government Accountability

• Provides 1,200 body-worn cameras for the Metropolitan Police Department;
• Requires the Mayor to send proposed rules and regulations to the Council relating to body-worn camera recordings, including standards to promote public access to the footage while ensuring privacy;
• Promotes an ethical and transparent District Government by adding an ethics trainer and an open government attorney at the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability;
• Provides funds to improve the JUSTIS law enforcement data sharing portal at the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council; and
• Supports the implementation of the “Campaign Finance Reform and Transparency Amendment Act of 2013” by providing needed funds for the e-filing of financial reports; and
• Ensures that the Office of Campaign Finance is prepared for the upcoming 2016 election.

Holistic Approach to Public Safety

• Restores more than $900,000 in cuts to the Justice Grants Administration to support the “Show Up, Stand Out” program; and
• Expands legal services for underserved communities by providing an additional $1,000,000 in funding to the D.C. Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Initiative.

Improving the Conditions of Correctional Facilities

• Lays the groundwork for a much-needed new D.C. Jail facility by funding a study to analyze the unmet needs of its current population; and
• Promotes District inspections of correctional facilities in a timely manner by providing funding for a new Executive Director of the Corrections Information Council adding two program analysts.

Fair Administration of Justice

• Creates a dedicated fund to support and strengthen the Office of the Attorney General’s consumer protection efforts;
• Restores the staff training budget for the Department of Forensic Sciences to ensure that the Department maintains its accreditation;
• Reduces the case backlog of the Office of Administrative Hearings by creating a new clerkship program for recent law school graduates;
• Implements the “Fair Criminal Record Screening Amendment Act of 2014” by providing a mediator to the Office of Human Rights to help manage the added caseload resulting from the Act’s ban on unlawful screenings of the criminal records of job applicants; and
• Funds two investigators at the Office of Human Rights to protect the rights of the unemployed and to implement the “Unemployed Anti-Discrimination Act of 2012”.

Victims’ Services

• Restores $133,000 to the District’s Domestic Violence Hotline; and
• Provides additional funding to the Office of Victim Services for grants to support victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, homicide, child abuse, assault, and neglect.

In addition, the Committee on Judiciary was able to locate additional funds for critical Ward 5 priorities:

• Transfers $800,000 to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment to improve streetscaping, traffic flow, and pedestrian, bicycle, and bus access along New York Avenue, N.E.;
• Provides funds to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment to support youth dance programs;
• Transfers $150,000 to the Committee on Health and Human Services to support Safe Shores, a Ward 5 organization that provides intervention and healing for children and families affected by abuse, trauma and violence;
• Transfers $105,000 to the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs Funds to fund living wage increases for Clean Teams; and
• Transfers $100,000 to the Committee on Education to enhance the zeroed-out collections budget of the D.C. Public Library.

“I want to thank all of the agency directors and my colleagues on the Committee for their tireless work during this oversight process,” added McDuffie. “Above all, I want to thank the residents and public safety organizations who collaborated with our office on the budget every step of the way.”

The budget will go before the entire Council on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.

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