D.C. Council legislation

Friday, May 14, 2010

Some of the initiatives the D.C. Council has approved in its current session:

-- Healthy Schools Act: The measure, adopted May 4, calls on District public and charter schools to add more fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains to the meals of about 71,000 students. It also encourages schools to buy food from organic farms in Maryland and Virginia, adds thousands of students to the free-lunch program and will eventually triple the amount of time that students have to spend exercising.

-- Legal medical marijuana: The initiative, which is undergoing congressional review, is one of the final steps in a years-long push to act on a 1998 referendum in which 69 percent of residents voted for medical marijuana. On May 4, the council authorized five medical marijuana distribution centers throughout the city, a number that could grow to eight in coming years, for residents who have HIV, glaucoma, cancer or another "chronic and lasting disease."

-- Same-sex marriage: With a vote of 11 to 2 on Dec. 1, the council approved gay nuptials, joining New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts in allowing the unions.

-- Five-cent tax on shopping bags: On June 2, the council imposed a 5 cent tax on paper and plastic bags to try to discourage their use, putting the District at the forefront of national efforts to promote reusable shopping bags. The proposal aims to limit pollution of the Anacostia River and its tributaries.

-- Health care: Only 6.2 percent of District residents lack health insurance, less than half of the national average and lagging behind only Massachusetts in total percentage of uninsured residents. The city's rate -- all but 3 percent of D.C. children are covered -- stems from recent efforts to invest tens of millions of dollars to extend coverage through Medicaid and other locally funded programs.

-- Same-day voter registration: Because of action by the council last year, District residents can register and vote on the same day, with no restrictions on early or absentee ballots.

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