McDuffie’s Legislative Priorities Move Forward in Last Weeks of Legislative Session
Bills to Support Seniors, Law Enforcement, and Rail Safety Advance Unanimously
Washington, DC – Today, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to support three bills for a first vote and another for a final vote.
Sale of Synthetic Drugs Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-261) – This legislation goes after those who would endanger our residents by enabling the District government to suspend or revoke the business license of any business engaged in the buying or selling of a synthetic drug. For a first violation, the Mayor must fine a business $10,000, and the Chief of Police would have the authority to seal the premises, or a portion of the premises, for up to 96 hours. Any business whose premises are sealed must then submit a remediation plan to the Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs that contains the business’ plan to prevent a future occurrence. If a business fails to submit a remediation plan, the Mayor must send notice of intent to revoke all licenses issued to the business. For any subsequent violations, the Mayor must issue a fine of $20,000, and the Chief of Police would have the authority to seal the premises for up to 30 days.
Councilmember McDuffie remarked upon the bill’s final vote: “With the passage of the Sale of Synthetic Drugs Amendment Act of 2016, we will give our law enforcement and regulatory agencies the tools they need to protect District residents and particularly young people from synthetic drugs. While synthetic drugs were already illegal, this legislation will make enforcement more efficient and severe, to ensure that businesses have a strong incentive not to sell them.”
Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-724) – This legislation brings together four pieces of public safety legislation. Two of these components are designed to ensure that the Metropolitan Police Department can maintain appropriate staffing levels.
The bill will raise the upper age limit for MPD’s Cadet Program from 21 to 25, widening the front door to hiring for District residents and recent high school graduates. The bill will also expand upon the Chief of Police’s existing authority to rehire retired officers without jeopardizing their retirement benefits by increasing the allowable pay scales for higher-ranking officers on a short-term basis. The Council had already passed similar legislation in the spring to allow retired officers to return to work at the Department of Forensic Sciences as crime scene investigators.
In addition, the bill makes it illegal to tamper with a GPS device (an ankle bracelet), regardless of which agency requires the individual to wear it. Prior to this legislation, some individuals required to wear GPS devices could face criminal penalties and others could not. This provision makes enforcement consistent. The final component of the bill prohibits “immigration service providers” from providing legal representation and makes it illegal for so-called “notarios” to operate in the District. These “notarios” often look and sound like lawyers to their vulnerable victims, and this bill will allow for enforcement of these deceptive practices.
Upon passage, Councilmember McDuffie commented: “This law makes MPD more nimble in its recruiting and hiring in order to maintain appropriate staffing; it outlaws one of the most predatory crimes in our Latino community; and makes sure those people who are required to wear a GPS device can be penalized for tampering with that device.”
Rail Safety and Security Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-3) – In the wake of the May 1, 2016, train derailment and spill at the railroad tracks that cross Rhode Island Avenue NE, this bill would create a District-level oversight body charged with working with the Federal Railroad Administration to ensure that the trains that travel through the District are safe. By creating a local oversight body, trains that travel in the District will be subject to more inspections and increased safety-related supervision.
On passage, Councilmember McDuffie remarked: “Trains coming through the District must travel through Ward 5, so it is critical that we have an oversight body for rail safety. This bill makes a dangerous derailment and spill more unlikely by increasing inspections and maximizing oversight with a mix of federal and local agencies.”
Notice in Case of Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-615) – This bill will allow the Office of Unified Communications, which administers the 911 system, to securely connect a resident’s medical records with their phone number for the 911 operator to see when the resident calls. The resident must register for the program and provide authorization for this profile to be created and tied to their phone number. Allowing the 911 dispatcher to securely view this important medial information can support the appropriate dispatching of first responders, who will in turn be armed with medical information before they arrive on scene.
Upon passage, Councilmember McDuffie said: “This bill is part of a package of 911 and emergency medical services reforms that I have authored this Council Period. Allowing 911 operators to see medical records immediately when a resident calls means that agency personnel can make more informed decisions while dispatching and on arrival at the scene. Because we know that District seniors may need additional support to enroll in the program, the bill requires the District’s Executive agencies to conduct special outreach to that community.”
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