Yesterday the D.C. Council passed an ethics overhaul bill as an emergency measure, meaning that once it’s signed by Mayor Vince Gray, the city can go about setting up the new D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability and implementing new disclosure and conflict-of-interest rules without waiting for Congress to give the bill the usual 30-day look.
Two of the bill’s strongest measures, though, likely won’t take effect until much later.
As part of the bill authored by Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), an elected official convicted of a felony would lose their seat, tightening up an existing law that disqualifies them only if they actually get sent to jail. Additionally, the bill would allow the council to vote to expel a member; 11 votes would be needed to do so.
Since both measures require amending the District’s Home Rule Charter, they have to be voted on by District residents. Under existing rules, a public vote is not likely to happen by the April 3 primary — if anything, voters will have to wait until November to cast ballots on the provisions. Moreover, after the vote, the amendments are submitted to Congress, which then has 35 days to review it. That’s not 35 calendar days, though — it’s legislative days, so only those when Congress is actually in session. At best, we’d be looking at early 2013 before the process is completed.
[Continue reading Martin Austermuhle’s post at DCist.com.]