Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 29, 2014

July 29, 2014

Judge Stays D.C. Handgun Ruling for 90 Days

A federal judge on Tuesday put a hold on the ruling that overturned the District’s ban on carrying handguns in public, effectively giving D.C. police and law enforcement some space to figure out how to respond.

The July 26 ruling by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. declaring the gun law unconstitutional threw Metropolitan Police Department and legal officials into rapid, confusing response. D.C. police were ordered on Sunday not to arrest people for carrying registered pistols and deadly weapons in public — a directive that effectively put them in the position of recognizing all other jurisdiction’s handgun permits.

MPD Chief Cathy L. Lanier and District officials requested the stay on Monday evening, saying it would allow them to pursue an appeal and enact a “licensing mechanism” consistent with the ruling and the Second Amendment. Full story

Protest Raises Questions About Contract Workers of Legislative Branch

nortonellison 330x330 Protest Raises Questions About Contract Workers of Legislative Branch

Norton and Ellison rally with federal contractors who work at Union Station, the National Zoo and other D.C. sites. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Labor issues came to Capitol Hill Tuesday, as federal contractors protested wages at Union Station and members of Congress used the opportunity to discuss workers’ rights among contractors and employees in the legislative branch.

About 100 federal contractors who work minimum wage jobs at Union Station, Ronald Reagan National Airport, the National Zoo and the Pentagon marched through Columbus Circle on Tuesday morning waving picket signs and flags.

Halting the flow of Union Station’s taxis and tour buses, they protested the White House’s executive order to increase hourly pay on new government contracts to $10.10 as “not enough” and demanded the right to unionize.

“These courageous workers have gone on strike nine times,” said Rev. Michael Livingston, national policy director and head of the Washington, D.C., office for Interfaith Worker Justice. The people waving white and blue flags behind his lectern were predominantly women, many dressed like Rosie the Riveter in red bandanas and starched blue shirts and holding the hands of toddlers who marched alongside their working moms. Full story

July 28, 2014

In D.C., Response to Judge’s Handgun Ruling Is Mixed and Muddled (Updated)

Updated 6:01 p.m. | For all practical purposes, a federal judge’s weekend ruling that overturned local laws prohibiting District of Columbia residents from carrying guns outside of their homes has opened the door for non-residents to tote handguns into the city and has made it potentially easier for members and staffers to transport firearms across the District to the Capitol.

D.C. police have been ordered not to arrest people for carrying pistols and deadly weapons in public. Washingtonians can still face criminal charges for carrying unregistered firearms and ammunition, but the millions of people who visit the nation’s capital are exempt from those provisions under an order from Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. The chief’s guidance effectively put the District’s firearm regulations, at least for non-residents, on a par with the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the country. D.C. police got additional guidance from Lanier on Monday afternoon. She clarified that the ruling applies only to handguns, not long guns or shotguns that are still illegal, and that committing crimes with handguns remains illegal.

For non-residents, legal possession of a handgun in D.C. is based on the laws of their home jurisdiction, meaning D.C. police will be responsible for knowing and enforcing licensing and permitting restrictions from around the country. Lanier noted that additional information on gun laws in other states will be forthcoming and said that in the meantime, officers can call a 24-hour information line.

Lanier’s orders came in response to Judge Frederick Scullin Jr.’s July 26 ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia that D.C.’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. In the 19-page decision, Scullin wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.

In her follow-up guidance to officers, Lanier nodded to the confusion. “Unfortunately, this ruling has left many unanswered legal questions that are currently being reviewed by the [Office of the Attorney General],” she stated.

Federal laws and a portion of D.C. code still prohibit people from carrying weapons on Capitol grounds, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider. But members and staffers already have weapons privileges for the Capitol campus dating back decades.  Full story

Charges in Campus Handgun Cases Could Change in Wake of D.C. Handgun Ruling

Charges against two men whom Capitol Police allegedly stopped from bringing 9 mm handguns to Capitol Hill could change, as attorneys scramble to interpret the effect of a federal judge overturning the District’s handgun ban.

On July 26, Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. ruled in Palmer v. District of Columbia that D.C.’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. In the 19-page decision, Scullin wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.

D.C. police were subsequently instructed not to enforce the law against carrying pistols in public. In two separate incidents that are raising questions about campus security, Hill staffer Ryan Shucard and pork executive Ronald William Prestage were charged with violating that law when police uncovered handguns and magazines during administrative searches at the Cannon House Office building. Full story

July 25, 2014

Former House Staffer Pleads Guilty to Theft

A former House staffer, Brian Prokes, pleaded guilty Friday to theft of government property while serving as an office manager, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell announced in a press release.

According to Legistorm, Prokes, 28, worked for Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., at the time of the theft and previously worked as a scheduler for then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Full story

House Natural Resources Republicans Slam Ike Memorial Commission

Memorial 37 032510 440x292 House Natural Resources Republicans Slam Ike Memorial Commission

Gehry, David and Anne Eisenhower, and Rocco Siciliano talk after a press conference about the memorial back in March 2010. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The federal government has poured more than $65 million into creating a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to a new congressional report that alleges mismanagement by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and slams architect Frank Gehry’s plan.

Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee, which previously backed a bill to sunset the EMC, on Friday released a report declaring the proposed memorial a “Five-Star Folly,” and detailing the many delays and unanticipated costs in the 15 years since President Bill Clinton signed off on its creation.

The 58-page document, based on an investigation launched by the committee in 2012, states that more than $16.4 million has been spent on the memorial design, and another $13.3 million on design contract management, including expenses such as parking and broadband internet for the executive architect, Daniel Feil. Additionally, citing data from the General Services Administration, the report claims almost every contract the EMC has entered into for work on the memorial has been modified multiple times, reflecting millions of dollars in additional costs. Full story

Members of Congress Acknowledge Major Security Gap at House Garages

photo 4 247x330 Members of Congress Acknowledge Major Security Gap at House Garages

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Over the course of four workdays, Capitol Police spotted two 9 mm handguns during the security searches that are standard protocol for visitors and staffers entering congressional office buildings. Meanwhile, the Capitol community paid tribute to two Capitol Police officers killed in a gun battle in the Capitol 16 years earlier.

Nothing indicates the two men arrested for entering the Cannon House Office Building were intent on doing harm, but the timing of the grim anniversary of the deaths of Detective John Gibson and Officer Jacob J. Chestnut on July 24, 1998, framed some of the concerns of members and staffers with a massive security loophole in the House garages.

On July 18 and 23, the security protocol at the Cannon doors worked. But, if someone with access to the House parking garages carried a gun, as staffer Ryan Shucard allegedly did, members believe he or she could enter office buildings without a bag check or metal detector screening. Full story

July 24, 2014

Pork Executive Was Carrying ‘Fully Functional’ Pistol, Police Say

photo 4 247x330 Pork Executive Was Carrying Fully Functional Pistol, Police Say

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

The South Carolina man arrested Wednesday after carrying a firearm into the Cannon House Office building had a loaded Ruger LC9 semi-automatic pistol and a magazine with six rounds of ammunition, court documents state.

At the time of the arrest, the weapon appeared to be “fully functional” and “capable of being fired by a single hand,” according to hand-written comments on the charges.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Karen Howze ordered Ronald William Prestage, of Camden, S.C., the president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, released from custody pending a preliminary hearing on Aug. 13. The 59-year-old pork executive is charged with a single count of possessing a gun outside a home or office, a felony that carries up to five years in prison.

Prestage was arrested at about 9:40 a.m. Wednesday, after Capitol Police found the concealed weapon as he went through security screening. The court documents, providing a detailed account of the arrest, say Prestage put a briefcase on the X-ray belt at the Rotunda door of the building. An officer spotted the handgun, inspected the bag and found a black Uncle Mike’s ankle holster containing the weapon, according to the documents filed in D.C. Superior Court.

Police said Prestage stated he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in South Carolina. He does not have a permit to carry in D.C.

Inside the handgun was a magazine, containing six rounds of 9 mm ammunition. Further inspection by the crime scene lab uncovered one round in the chamber. Additional handwritten notes on the court document state that the gun had a barrel length of less than 12 inches.

Prestage has hired attorney Robert J. Spagnoletti, a former attorney general for the District of Columbia, who did not immediately respond to questions from CQ Roll Call.

D.C. Activists Enlist Andy Harris for Help With Porta-Potty

dcvote 258 072414 440x297 D.C. Activists Enlist Andy Harris for Help With Porta Potty

DC Vote’s James Jones, holds a “DC Constituent Service Day” sign as he stands with other D.C. residents outside Harris’s office on Capitol Hill to protest Harris’ actions against D.C.’s marijuana laws on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Activists from the District of Columbia crowded the hallway outside Rep. Andy Harris’ office on Thursday to lobby the Maryland Republican for help with local issues.

They say Harris should welcome their thoughts and concerns, given his keen interest in D.C.’s drug policy. The “DC Constituent Service Day” staged by DC Vote was organized a week after the House passed a spending bill that included a measure Harris proposed to target the District’s marijuana decriminalization law.

“This is a porta-potty outside my house,” said Ramin Catirai, a 31-year-old who lives near the intersection of 11th and T streets in Northwest D.C. “It’s been there for about two weeks,” he said, offering a black-and-white photo of the sidewalk outside his front door. “You can smell it.” Full story

July 23, 2014

For D.C. Statehood Activists, Obama’s Actions Leave ‘a Lot to Be Desired’

dcvote 08 033011 1 440x294 For D.C. Statehood Activists, Obamas Actions Leave a Lot to Be Desired

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When voters elected Barack Obama in 2008, District of Columbia residents were thrilled to see a senator who backed a bill to give them voting rights in Congress head to the White House.

Midway through his second term, however, many ardent supporters of the D.C.’s longtime quest for greater autonomy are less optimistic about the prospects of Obama aiding their cause. The District still doesn’t have budget autonomy or legislative autonomy, meaning local laws are still vulnerable to interference from members of Congress.

“His actions over the last six years leave a lot to be desired,” Josh Burch, a Brookland resident who heads the group Neighbors United for DC Statehood, said in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call. Burch and other activists were pleased to hear the president declare his full-fledged support for D.C. statehood during a town hall meeting in Northwest Washington, but there is still a gap between the sentiment and concrete steps toward statehood. Full story

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