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Legislation Clinic Highlights

Friday, June 15, 2007  
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During the Spring 2007 semester, the students in UDC-DCSL's Legislation Clinic worked with offices of the members of the D.C. Council on a variety of important legislative projects.  Yancey Burns worked with the office of Councilmember Jack Evans, Chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, on an array of legislative initiatives, including drafting an "Omnibus Domestic Partner Real Property Amendment Act” to include domestic partners in statutory standards regarding property ownership status; writing a "Senior Driver Retesting Amendment” bill to repeal certain mandatory license retesting requirements on drivers aged 75 and over; researching provisions of D.C. law that, in effect, levy a 10% tax on vehicle rental transactions and identifying exemptions to such taxes for car-sharing companies in other jurisdictions; researching, based on experience in other jurisdictions, options for limiting "formula businesses” (uniformly operated chain stores and restaurants) in historic areas in the District; reviewing D.C. regulations applicable to parking garages to determine if they address occupancy levels in such garages; and reviewing procedures used in neighboring jurisdictions to determine the placement of dog parks.

Jamie Carroll was assigned to work with the Office of the Budget Director of the D.C. Council, Mr. Eric Goulet.  She worked on emergency and temporary legislation on a "Schools Modernization Funds Submissions Requirements Waiver” to permit expedited access to funds for capital improvements to the D.C. Public Schools.  She also helped to draft and facilitate Council adoption of a series of resolutions disapproving contracts that had been submitted by construction contractors without adequate documentation of work to be done and amounts to be expended.  In addition, she prepared a draft of a bill for establishing a Debt Per-Capita Repayment fund, and drafted a "Safe Haven Act” bill for establishing protection from civil and criminal sanctions for people who relinquish unwanted newborns in certain circumstances.   

Robert JohnsonRobert Johnson worked with Councilmember Mary Cheh’s office.  Among other accomplishments, he developed a draft of a "Trans Free DC” bill to prohibit the use of trans fats in restaurants and other food service establishments and "talking points” in support of it; produced a proposal for requiring a vote of residents prior to denominating an area as an "historic district;” researched "appropriations riders” Congress has used to place restrictions on the District (some 75 since the 1970s);  developed a proposal for a commission to study and make recommendations regarding congressional use of such riders; and developed a draft "Fresh and Clean Air” bill to prohibit extended idling of large motor vehicles.    

Two Clinic students – Samuel Kanupp, working for the office of Councilmember Phil Mendelson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary; and Phillip Sherman, working with the office of Councilmember Tommy Wells and the Committee on Human Services – did extensive work on the Safe and Stable Homes for Children and Youth Amendment Act of 2007, which enables certain persons other than parents to seek custody of a child in the child’s best interest.  Each of the two students did considerable research on and analysis of the legislation, the wording of particular provisions in it, and proposals of alternative language, and relevant case law; and each of them helped to draft portions of the committee reports on the legislation for the particular Council committee with which he was working.  Sam developed research memoranda providing an overview of the origins of, and the legal framework surrounding, the legislation, and examining standards under analogous laws in other jurisdictions.  The Council enacted the legislation (Law No. L17-0021) on an emergency basis and later made it permanent.  In addition, Sam worked on several other issues, including limiting immunity for arbitrators and arbitration-providing institutions, analyzing laws and court decisions in other jurisdictions that bar the enforcement of mandatory arbitration clauses in insurance contracts, and a proposal to establish a program for providing free tuition to UDC for top D.C. Public Schools graduates who agree to teach in the public schools for a specified period upon graduation.  Phillip’s work on projects other than the Safe and Stable Homes legislation included producing memoranda examining alternatives to adjudication of delinquency under D.C. social service statutes, identifying the service mission of the D.C. Department of Disability Services, and the legal standards (including Freedom of Information Act requirements) applicable to official blogs of a Councilmember.  

Melissa MillarMelissa Millar, assigned to the office of Councilmember David Catania, Chair of the Committee on Health, was instrumental in generating and drafting a proposed "Ensuring Access to Contraception” bill to prohibit pharmacists and health care professionals and providers from refusing to administer or dispense contraception and contraceptive supplies and services.  She did in-depth research on "conscience clauses” under various state laws, and on court cases considering them and the rights at stake under them, and produced a detailed analytic memo describing the rationale for Ensuring Access to Contraception legislation. Ultimately, she drafted two alternative versions of such a bill for consideration by Councilmember Catania.  In addition, Melissa produced research memoranda on several other medical-related topics, including draft provisions for establishing a code of ethics for pharmaceutical offices, the cabinet or non-cabinet status of State Medicaid Directors in various jurisdictions, the application of the terms "adverse events” and "primary health record” under the Medical Malpractice Amendment Act of 2006, and the constitutionality of state law restrictions on pharmaceutical companies’ use or sale of patient-identifiable data.

Andre Robertson worked with the office of Councilmember Kwame Brown, Chair of the Committee on Economic Development, where he was asked to work on legislation addressing the problem of low wages paid to security officers working at private commercial buildings.  He researched this problem, developed a rationale for corrective legislation, and produced several drafts of such bills.  An "Enhanced Professional Security Amendment” bill (B17-0199) was introduced in the Council on May 2, 2007.  Andre also did research and provided information on a variety of other issues, including the D.C. Main Streets program (a program of reStore D.C. in the Department of Small and Local Business Development to provide grants to designated Main Street organizations for comprehensive business revitalization activities), water taxi legislation, and a conflict between Historic Preservation standards and disability accessibility needs. 

Ariel Shea and Kimberly StricklandKimberly Strickland was assigned to the office of Councilmember Marion Barry, where she researched ex-offender nondiscrimination laws passed in other jurisdictions, surveyed school board legislation and operations in various states, and examined the economic effects of state smoking bans.  In addition, she drafted legislative proposals regarding reporting of and restrictions on the investment of District funds in entities making loans or doing business with the Government of Sudan, and bills providing District government employees paid leave for voting in elections, and amending the Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act to clarify and strengthen tenants’ rights in conversions of rental housing property to cooperatives.

In addition to the listed activities, most students in the Clinic wrote many ceremonial resolutions and drafted many sections of committee reports.  In consulting the Council offices at the end of the semester, Professor Bob Burgdorf reported very positive feedback from the Council offices on the performance of the spring semester Clinic students.  "They generally used such terms as ‘extremely pleased,’ ‘wonderful,’ and ‘very impressive’ to describe our students’ work,” he said.  "They have contributed significantly to lawmaking in the District.”

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