Mayor Walter Washington has signed a bill giving him special powers to deal with winter energy shortages, and it should go into effect just in time for spring.
That is because all "permanent" D.C. City Council legislation must, under home rule regulations, sit in the halls of Congress for 30 days when both houses are in session to allow time for it to be considered and killed if necessary.
Congress goes back into session Jan. 19 and will be in and out three or four days a working week. It will take until spring for the 30 days to accumuate.
The mayor asked last April for the special powers, which will allow him to reduce city employee numbers and work hours, change city building temperatures and order businesses to curtail their operations.
It took City Council until October to pass the bill, whereupon the legislation stalled.
"We had a tremendous backlog," said general counsel Edward Webb. The 10 bills and 50 to 60 resolutions pending had to be reviewed for the accuracy of their references to previous bills, the relevance of their amendments and the correctness of their punctuation, he said. "Besides, we didn't have a legislative counsel for awhile."
When Syliva Edwards was named to that post Dec. 5, things speeded right up, Webb said, and the energy resources shortages act reached the mayor just before the first of January.
"The bill covers any energy shortage," Webb said. "It's true we had a gas shortage last winter but that doesn't mean the bill couldn't be useful if a shortage occurs this summer."