It wasn’t until 10:13 p.m. that D.C. Council members cast their final vote in Tuesday’s session.
The marathon 13-hour meeting included votes on measures for lower traffic fines, stricter drug laws, a surcharge on water bills and a tax break for a developer looking to build hundreds of housing units near Howard University. The council decided not to extend employment non-discrimination protections to offenders and rejected a bill to authorize red top meters reserved for handicapped motorists.
For residents and voters in the District, it’s not easy to research how specific council members voted on legislation.
To find the answer, one has to embark on the cumbersome process of looking up specific bills on the council Web site. And that requires knowing the bill number or the search term that will generate a specific piece of legislation in the search engine. Even then, however, it will likely be days or weeks before the vote tallies are uploaded online.
D.C. Wire, however, attempted to keep track of which members voted for which bill Tuesday. Below is a rundown of how members voted on several of the more controversial decisions.
Barry’s amendment to extend employment protections to ex-offenders was defeated by a vote of 7 to 5.
Barry and council members Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) all voted for the bill, which would have forbid an employer from asking about a prior arrest record until late in the interview process.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), David Catania (I-At Large), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) all voted against the bill.
The red top meter bill, which would have also required disabled motorists to pay for parking, died on a tie vote of 6 to 6.
Barry, Bowser, Brown, Evans, Graham and Orange all voted no. Alexander, Catania, Cheh, McDuffie, Mendelson and Wells voted for the bill.
As part of a comprehensive rewrite of alcohol regulations, Cheh sponsored an amendment that would have clarified that only “full service” grocery stores can sell alcohol, excluding pharmacies with low volumes of food sales.
The bill follows an intense neighborhood dispute in Woodley Park because a new CVS store on Connecticut Avenue seeks a permit to sell beer and wine. Some residents claim that the store is abusing a provision in the alcohol code that allows full-service grocery stores like Whole Foods to get around existing moratoriums on liquor stores.
The vote on Cheh’s amendment was shelved after Evans, Graham and Alexander raised concerns about voting on such a matter without a hearing and more time for consideration.
Another Cheh amendment was defeated outright. It would have strengthened the ability of five or more residents to protest a neighborhood liquor license but was voted down by a vote of 7 to 5.
Graham, Orange, Barry, Graham Brown, Evans and Wells voted against the amendment.
Alexander, Bowser, Cheh, McDuffie and Mendelson voted for it.
The council also tentatively approved an omnibus crime bill sponsored by Mendelson unanimously.
But the bill may be modified before the final vote on the matter in two weeks, after Barry and Graham raised questions about provisions that stiffen penalties for possession of synthetic marijuana.
Both argued that the bill should be amended to put more focus on drug treatment, especially as other states are reducing penalties or decriminalizing possession of marijuana. Mendelson vowed to work with Graham on the matter over the next two weeks.
The council also gave initial approval for a $11 million tax break for developers of Howard Town Center, a residential and retail project slated for the intersection of Georgia Avenue and V streets NW near Howard University. The liberal D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute opposed the tax break, as did Mendelson. But the council voted 8 to 4 to approve it.
McDuffie, Orange, Wells, Alexander, Barry, Bowser, Evans and Graham all supported the tax break.
Brown, Catania and Cheh joined Mendelson in opposing it.
The council also approved creation of a $1 million fund to reimburse residents of Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park for recent flood damage and sewer backups. To pay for it, the body approved a surcharge on D.C. Water bills that members said would total about 30 cents per month for the average household.
All members supported the bill, except Bowser, who voted no.