By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Much like Black Friday the day after Christmas the last legislative session of the D.C. Council seemed like a jam packed nerve racking blitz to get to the finish line. But instead of a sale, Council members and the residents were hoping major legislation was passed before the end of the year.
This year there has been plenty of historical bills passed. But some lesser known fights that have a large impact on the city and Washingtonians, were battled and won. The AFRO wanted to highlight just a few in bills that may have slipped under the radar but are no less important to the betterment of our government.
The Public Restroom Facilities Installment and Promotions ACT of 2017
It’s biology. Sooner or later everyone has to go. However finding public restrooms can be a huge hassle, and private restrooms are even harder to procure. That’s why the Public Restroom Facilities Installment and Promotion Act of 2017, (B22-0223) which was just passed in the last legislative meeting of the year is a huge win for the city.
Currently the Department of Human Services offers a list of public restrooms in or near downtown.
All seven of them.
For context, according to data from the D.C. Metrorail, the average number of weekday passengers is about 620,000.
Under the bill several department agencies have to work together to build at least 10 public restrooms in the D.C. area. That may not sound like a lot but it’s a huge difference when the distance between you and the effects of your coffee is 7 train stops to your job.
The bill also calls for the Mayor’s office to provide incentives that would encourage private companies to allow the public to use their bathroom. Cause we all just can’t run to our gym or the National Mall when nature calls.
The Wage Garnishment Fairness Amendment Act of 2017
This bill (B22-0752) offers relief for workers at or below the District’s minimum wage. Steered by the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, it requires more notification from creditors that wages are going to be garnished and also better opens to appeal.
According to a wage garnishment report created by ADP, about 1 in 10 of workers between 35 – 45 are impacted by wage garnishment in 2013. About 5 % of workers earning between $25,000 and $40,000 were impacted. The main reasons for garnishment are child support, tax liens, student loans and consumer debt.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures 14 states and the District of Columbia are among the areas that only revoke voting rights during the time of a felons incarcerations.
Once incarcerated inmates are free their rights are automatically reinstated. However because so many other states don’t reinstate voting rights, the laws can get muddled. This new act provides much needed notifications for people eligible for vote.
The Voting Rights Notification Act of 2017 (B22-0312) is going to be a game changer as 2020 elections roll around. This bill introduced by Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety lets former federal inmates know of their voting eligibility.
According to the National Reentry Resource Center, in 2016 about 6 million people were prohibited from voting due to laws impacting convicted felons. As we have seen in places all over the country during midterm elections, where a few hundred key votes are critical to a win by one party or another, having an informed voting public is an essential for everyone.
If your Christmas list had an active Council jotted down this year you can rest easy. Let’s see what next year brings.