Young would-be voters react as the D.C. Council votes Nov. 13 to table a bill that would have lowered the voting age to 16 in the District. (J. Lawler Duggan for The Washington Post)

The D.C. Council capped off its year by legalizing sports betting, banning bump stocks and taking a step toward the creation of a new hospital in Southeast Washington.

Tuesday was the last opportunity to pass legislation, meaning any unfinished bills must be reintroduced next year.

The District in recent years has enacted some of the most progressive laws in the country, including paid family and medical leave and legal assisted suicide. But other left-leaning measures had a mixed record this year.

Here’s a rundown of what the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) passed and didn’t pass in 2018.


A string of scandals that undermined confidence in D.C. Public Schools also prompted lawmakers to reconsider mayoral control of schools and increase scrutiny. The council didn’t increase the State Board of Education’s authority, but it did pass legislation establishing a research arm to provide the public with independent analysis and education data.

Karim Soumah, a server, hugs a fellow worker opposed to Initiative 77 shortly after the D.C. Council voted to overturn a ballot measure raising the minimum wage for tipped workers Oct. 2. (Fenit Nirappil/The Washington Post)

The D.C. Council also approved legislation restricting when schools may suspend students, an attempt to address racial disparities in school discipline.

The mayor also issued her first-ever — and so far, only — veto, to reject legislation that would have provided a reprieve to some students who failed to meet attendance requirements and were in danger of not graduating.

Restaurants and dining

The issue of how servers, bartenders and others who earn gratuities are paid was debated around the city, namely because of Initiative 77.

That ballot measure would have required restaurants to pay servers, bartenders and other workers the standard minimum wage, in addition to their tips. It was part of a national campaign to change labor conditions at restaurants and was cast by the local industry as a threat to Washington’s burgeoning dining scene.

Voters easily approved the measure in June, the council repealed it in October, and an attempt to put it back on the ballot collapsed.

Another bill to require restaurants and other retailers to accept cash — in response to businesses that insist customers pay with plastic — drew some attention. But introduced late in the year, the legislation never came up for a hearing or vote.

On a far less controversial note, the D.C. Council passed permanent legislation allowing dogs to join their owners on the patios of restaurants and bars.


The District also passed sweeping legislation to reduce carbon emissions by switching to entirely renewable sources for the city’s power grid by 2032.

Elections and campaign finance

District officials passed several bills to reduce the influence of money on politics, which comes after a series of ethics scandals that mired D.C. politics earlier in the decade.

The city established publicly financed campaigns, which would take effect in time for the 2020 election cycle. And the D.C. Council passed a raft of “pay-to-play” restrictions to prohibit city contractors from making campaign contributions.

But lawmakers declined to lower the voting age to 16, which would have been the lowest in the country for presidential contests. Several of the bill’s earliest supporters defected and agreed to table the legislation, effectively killing it for the year.

Health care

While the federal government eliminated penalties for not buying health insurance mandated under the Affordable Care Act, the District enacted a local mandate for its residents.

Lawmakers also raised taxes on cigarettes to nearly $5 a pack, making the District one of the most expensive places to be a smoker.


Lawmakers passed restrictions on Airbnb that bar homeowners from renting out second properties on a short-term basis and their homes for more than 90 days a year when the host is away. Airbnb has said it may try to present an alternative plan to voters.

The council also began consideration of revisions to the city’s comprehensive plan — a blueprint for future development and land use that prompted one of the longest city hall hearings on record. But the council did not vote on the plan, which has implications for housing prices and challenges to future development, pushing back debate into next year.

The city also exempted single-family houses from a law that allows renters to have the first opportunity to buy when their home goes on the market.


The District, joining lawmakers in Virginia and Maryland, agreed to provide dedicated annual funding for the Metro transit system as part of a historic deal. That included tax increases on ride-hailing trips and general sales to cover the city’s $179 million share.

The D.C. Council also decriminalized fare evasion on public transportation, which will instead be treated as a civil offense with a $50 fine.