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

Posts in "DC Council"

September 26, 2014

‘Women Who Make a Difference’ Honored in D.C.

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(Clark Mindock/CQ Roll Call)

An audience of mostly women filled the banquet hall of the Woman’s National Democratic Club in Northwest D.C. Thursday evening to honor four women in the first Women Who Make a Difference awards, organized by the Top Ladies of Distinction D.C. chapter.

The honorees represented a spectrum of public service in the nation’s capital, from the rising political career of D.C. mayoral front-runner Muriel Bowser to the first female African American U.S. senator, former Ambassador to New Zealand Carol Moseley Braun.

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From left: Bowser, Girton-Mitchell, Moseley Braun, during the Top Ladies of Distinction awards ceremony Thursday night. (Clark Mindock/CQ Roll Call)

“It’s very humbling, because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do,” said another honoree, Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, the director of the Department of Education’s Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “To have people wanting to recognize that is very extraordinary,” she added. Full story

September 25, 2014

Yoga Community Argues ‘Yoga Tax’ Does Not Apply to Studios

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The D.C. yoga community is working to convince lawmakers that the district’s so-called “yoga tax” does not actually apply to yoga studios.

The law states the 5.75 percent sales tax, which takes effect Oct. 1, will apply to membership of a health club, defined as a “facility for the purpose of physical exercise.” Yoga instructors are arguing that physical exercise is not the purpose of yoga, and therefore a yoga studio does not qualify as a health club and would not be subject to the tax.

Members of the yoga community made their case to representatives from the Office of Tax and Revenue last week and, on Tuesday, they launched an effort to lobby D.C. council members. Full story

September 23, 2014

Norton to Congress: Hands Off D.C.’s New Gun Law

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Norton vowed to defend D.C.’s narrowly crafted gun law. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Emergency legislation legalizing the carry of concealed handguns in the District cleared the D.C. Council unanimously on Tuesday afternoon, setting up a temporary “may-issue” permitting scheme.

Under the legislation, guns are not allowed near Congress. Guns are outlawed within 1,000 feet of any foreign dignitary or high-ranking federal official. They are also banned near the White House in Northwest Washington, in an area bound by Constitution Avenue, H Street and 15th and 17th streets, and on most federal property, including the Capitol grounds. The law puts into place many other requirements and restrictions.

Opponents like Alan Gura, the lawyer who argued against the city’s ban on handguns in Palmer v. District of Columbia, argue the law gives the Metropolitan Police Department too much subjective discretion over who will be able to carry a gun. Full story

September 22, 2014

D.C. Council Considering Handgun Permit Bill

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Gray worked with law enforcement and D.C. councilmembers to craft a new gun law. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

District of Columbia officials have grudgingly taken up the task of putting in place a handgun permit system in response to a July 26 federal court ruling that struck down the local ban on carrying pistols outside the home.

Last week, during a southeast Washington memorial ceremony marking the one year anniversary of the deadly Navy Yard shooting, Mayor Vincent Gray lamented the violence that ”happened right within the view of the Capitol Dome,” and called on Congress to come up with a solution.

“We have tough gun laws in the District of Columbia, which probably will have to be relaxed to some extent because of the Palmer case,” Gray said, referring to the decision by Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. in the case against the city. Gun control laws, he said, ”are now under attack by Second Amendment advocates who believe in putting the right of gun owners before community safety.” Full story

September 12, 2014

Cynics Be Damned: Krepp Endorses Norton … on Statehood Efforts

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Krepp is backing Norton on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

Ruthless campaigner Tim Krepp emailed supporters on Friday afternoon to say he wholeheartedly supports Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and they should, too. Krepp hopes to defeat the congresswoman, who is running for her 13th term representing the District, in the November election, but he wants everyone to rally behind her on Monday. Norton will testify to a Senate panel on a cause near and dear to most Washingtonians: D.C. statehood.

“Heck, I’ll even link to her website,” the tour guide, author and former naval intelligence officer wrote in his email.

Krepp also gave considerable praise to citizen activist Josh Burch, and his group, Neighbors United for DC Statehood.

Burch mobilized much of the support on Capitol Hill, pestering staffers for meetings, and status updates on the hearing promised in June 2013 by  the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del. The Brookland resident, who squeezes in time for lobbying around his full-time job for the D.C. government, has not been invited to testify.

Krepp is counting on Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to make a solid case for why a 51st star should be added to the flag. Scholars on both sides of the issue will also be weighing in. An expanded witness list released Friday by the committee includes shadow Sens. Michael D. Brown and Paul Strauss, two men who effectively serve as pro bono statehood lobbyists to the Senate.

The “New Columbia Admission Act” would give D.C. voting representation in both chambers.

During a Friday appearance with WAMU’s Kojo Nmandi, Burch acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the GOP-controlled House, but said the hearing would be key to getting members of Congress “on the record” about their positions.

“We need to know who are friends are publicly, and we need to know who our detractors are publicly,” Burch said, “because right now, without a vote on anything, everyone can just sort of hide behind the, ‘Oh, my boss hasn’t made a decision on this legislation.’ We need to know where public officials stand on this.”

Activists hope to pack the Dirksen committee room with statehood supporters. They encourage attendees to wear red to support the cause.

Krepp is dismissing cynicism, claiming it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy to assume statehood will never happen.

“If we declare victory after Monday’s hearing and go home, we’re going to be right back here in 2034 celebrating the first hearing in twenty years all over again,” he wrote. “We need to keep this momentum going and not let it drift away like we’ve done before. The key is sustained effort and civic involvement.”

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September 10, 2014

Panelists Selected for D.C. Statehood Hearing

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Rivlin will testify on D.C. statehood. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 4:37 p.m. | Expect humanitarian and fiscal arguments for why the District of Columbia should become the 51st state during next week’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the issue.

The witness list for the first hearing on D.C. statehood in more than two decades includes local elected officials, constitutional law experts, a civil rights leader and senior Brookings Institution fellow Alice Rivlin, the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office and an expert on fiscal policy.

Full story

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.

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