Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2014

Posts in "DC Council"

August 26, 2014

U.S. Attorney Offers Plea Deals in Capitol Hill Gun Cases

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Prestage was arrested last month for allegedly carrying a firearm into the Cannon House Office Building. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. has offered plea deals to two men who allegedly carried 9mm handguns and ammunition to Capitol Hill in July.

Both Ryan Shucard, a staffer in the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and pork and turkey executive Ronald Prestage face charges of carrying a pistol outside a home or business — a felony that carries up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine.

Court documents filed in both cases show that Machen has proposed an agreement under which each man would plead guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year of prison and a $1,000 fine. Under the terms of the nearly identical deals, filed on Aug. 15, federal prosecutors would not pursue any other weapons charges, and would reserve the right to allocution, or addressing the court, at the time of sentencing. Full story

August 19, 2014

Norton Questions Mostly White Ferguson Government

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Norton criticized racial disparities in Ferguson. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is characterizing the nearly all-white elected leadership and police force in majority-black Ferguson, Mo., as “poison.”

“Here you have mostly white police force in a mostly black community, but I’m really perplexed about why most of the elected officials are white as well,” Norton, a Democrat, said Tuesday during an interview with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart. “Is there something about the way elections are done in Missouri or in the county?”

Though members of Congress have raised the alarm about mounting violence and militarized police in the St. Louis suburb, Norton, a Yale-educated civil rights lawyer, may be among the first to raise the issue of racial disparity among Ferguson’s elected leadership.
Full story

August 8, 2014

‘House of Cards’ Film Crew Hits National Mall on Saturday

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Could more filming be coming to the Capitol grounds? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“House of Cards” is filming around the National Mall on Saturday, according to the D.C. Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.

It’s unlikely fans of the wildly popular Netflix series will spot stars Kevin Spacey or Robin Wright during the 10-hour set. Crews will be “shooting ‘drive-bys’, b-roll, and a mock-motorcade scene,” says a notice posted on the agency’s site.

Local officials would love to have the show, which shoots most of its scenes in Baltimore and other areas, do more production in the District, but filming in D.C. has its challenges — especially on the Capitol grounds. Full story

August 6, 2014

Norton Vows to Defend D.C.’s Pot Legalization Initiative From Congress

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Norton vowed to protect the legalization initiative, if passed. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As pro-marijuana advocates had hoped, the D.C. Board of Elections voted unanimously Wednesday to put legalization on the November ballot.

The DC Cannabis Campaign is now rallying residents to vote “Yes on 71,” the initiative that would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, and cultivate up to three pot plants at any time.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., vowed to fight any congressional attempt to block the District from voting on the initiative and, if it is approved by voters, implementing it.

“We will not let history repeat itself,” Norton said in a statement on Wednesday. “Republicans tried to prevent D.C. from voting on an initiative in 1998 to legalize medical marijuana, and after voters approved it, blocked its implementation with an appropriations rider for more than 10 years.”

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., confirmed that the conservative congressman would try to block legalization in the District.

Norton said many Republicans “abandon their professed support of local control of local affairs when they have an opportunity to bully the residents of the District, who cannot hold them accountable at the ballot box,” and claimed she is already working with allies to protect the will of D.C. voters.

Supporters say that if the nation’s capital follows in the steps of of Colorado and Washington by legalizing marijuana, it would be the first jurisdiction to do so on the basis of racial justice. They claim D.C. has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the country and minorities are disproportionately affected.

A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital found that, in the District of Columbia — where roughly half the population is black — blacks are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than any other racial group. The study also fount that in 2010, 91 percent of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of blacks.

If approved, the D.C. Council could look at ways to tax and regulate the drug. The ballot initiative does not legalize sales of marijuana.

August 5, 2014

D.C. Poised to Take Pot Legalization to Higher Level

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The District of Columbia will likely take a stride toward making pot legal this week, setting up a potent opportunity for Capitol Hill to weigh in.

On the agenda for Wednesday’s D.C. Board of Elections meeting is Measure 71, an initiative to legalize possession of up to two ounces of marijuana outside one’s home for personal use and allowing D.C. residents to grow their own weed inside, while restricting use for residents under 21.

“It would be a shock if we didn’t qualify for the [Nov. 4] ballot, and we would likely challenge it,” said Adam Eidinger, chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign. Pro-pot activists delivered more than 57,000 signatures to the elections board on July 7, which Eidinger noted is a “nice cushion” over the 22,600 valid D.C. voter signatures needed to qualify the measure for the ballot. Full story

July 31, 2014

Thomas Massie Says D.C. Should Look at New Hampshire or Pennsylvania Gun Laws

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

District officials have suggested Maryland’s restrictive handgun permit policy might provide the best model for their city, as they attempt to enact new gun control measures, but Rep. Thomas Massie thinks they should look to Pennsylvania or New Hampshire.

The Kentucky Republican, who wants to wipe out all of the District’s local firearm restrictions — effectively making the city one of the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the nation — said Thursday that both states have “really good constitutional concealed carry laws.”

“So I would recommend they go, since they would like to be like a state, they should go look at a state that’s got this right — or they could use Kentucky,” he added, “but frankly, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire have the better laws.” Full story

July 30, 2014

D.C. Officials Plotting New Course to Keep Gun Control Intact (Updated)

Updated 7:30 p.m. | Though they won’t yet say how far they are willing to take their fight, District of Columbia officials plan to do everything in their power to limit the carrying of handguns in the nation’s capital, arguing that despite a court’s ruling that paves the way for more permissive laws, Washington is a unique place with heightened security concerns.

“An absolute ban on [carrying handguns] may not pass constitutional muster regardless of the judge, so we’re going to prepare by working on legislation that will pass muster” said Tommy Wells, a Democrat who represents Capitol Hill on the D.C. Council.

As chairman of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Wells will play a key role in D.C.’s response to the July 26 ruling by Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. that declared the complete ban on carrying handguns in public unconstitutional. The court granted a stay of the ruling Tuesday, giving District officials 90 days to figure out how they will protect public safety while complying with the Constitution. Full story

July 29, 2014

Judge Stays D.C. Handgun Ruling for 90 Days (Updated)

Updated 7:02 p.m. | 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

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

July 17, 2014

D.C. Could Become Nation’s Most Permissive Gun Jurisdiction, Under House Proposal (Video)

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Massie is wading into the District’s gun laws. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of Congress’ most outspoken libertarians is the latest member to try to overturn the District of Columbia’s local gun laws. If successful, his proposal would make the District, home to cabinet officials, dignitaries from around the world and the president perhaps the most permissive gun jurisdiction in the country.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who in June rallied a bipartisan majority around an amendment to end warrantless collection of Americans’ online activities, attached language prohibiting D.C. from enforcing local firearm restrictions to the House bill funding the District.

“Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that struck down the D.C. handgun ban, as well as the unconstitutional gunlock provision, it is still difficult for D.C. residents to exercise their God-given right to bear arms,” Massie said Wednesday on the floor. “Congress has the authority to legislate in this area pursuant to article I, section 8, clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to ‘exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever’ over the District of Columbia.”

In a move decried as an assault on Home Rule, Massie tried to wield that authority Tuesday night with a similar amendment, but the measure was ruled out of order due to a procedural flaw. To the outrage of Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Council, he tried again on Wednesday and the House adopted the gun rider 241-181, with the support of 20 Democrats. Full story

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