D.C. Coun­cil in­creas­ingly mir­ror­ing West Coast’s lib­eral poli­cies.

Wages, as­sisted sui­cide among tenets adopted

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN M. MCDER­MOTT

In craft­ing legislation, D.C. law­mak­ers are look­ing west — to the West Coast, that is.

From min­i­mum wage to paid fam­ily leave to as­sisted sui­cide, the D.C. Coun­cil in­creas­ingly is mod­el­ing its legislation on laws in pro­gres­sive ju­ris­dic­tions in Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton state.

The most re­cent ex­am­ple: The coun­cil is set to give fi­nal ap­proval to a bill that would bar land­lords from au­to­mat­i­cally deny­ing hous­ing to ex-con­victs, mir­ror­ing pro­grams in Cal­i­for­nia cities.

The Fair Crim­i­nal Record Screen­ing for Hous­ing Act would pre­clude a land­lord from ask­ing for an ap­pli­cant’s crim­i­nal history be­fore mak­ing a con­di­tional hous­ing of­fer. It fol­lows “ban the box” em­ploy­ment legislation the Dis­trict en­acted in 2014 that pro­hibits an em­ployer from ask­ing for an ap­pli­cant’s crim­i­nal records un­til af­ter a job of­fer is made.

A coun­cil re­port on the bill found that about 10 per­cent of D.C. res­i­dents have a crim­i­nal record, and that about 8,000 res­i­dents re­turn to the city from pri­son each year.

As it has in many of its leg­isla­tive ac­tions this ses­sion, the Dis­trict would be one of the few ju­ris­dic­tions to en­act such a law. Cur­rently, Los Angeles and San Fran­cisco have sim­i­lar mea­sures in place.

That con­forms to the trend of the D.C. Coun­cil seek­ing guid­ance from pro­gres­sive cities and states, start­ing this sum­mer with its ap­proval of a $15-an­hour min­i­mum wage and end­ing with the pas­sage in De­cem­ber of the most gen­er­ous paid leave bill in the coun­try.

For Ari Schwartz, an or­ga­nizer with D.C. Jobs with Jus­tice, it isn’t about a spe­cific agenda but tak­ing care of the city’s most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents.

“With the cost of liv­ing as high as it is and poverty be­ing as per­sis­tent, and more and more long­time res­i­dents be­ing pushed out, the coun­cil has to make its pri­or­ity to ad­dress that in­equal­ity gap,” Mr. Schwartz said. “Un­til those huge prob­lems in our city are be­ing fixed, I think it needs to re­main the coun­cil’s ap­proach.”

That the Dis­trict is look­ing to San Fran­cisco and Seat­tle, as well as New York City, for guid­ance makes sense, Mr. Schwartz said, be­cause all of those cities share a pair of com­mon traits — a sky­rock­et­ing cost of liv­ing and a thriv­ing economy.

As those cities at­tract more busi­ness and rent con­tin­ues to rise, those at the bot­tom of the in­come spec­trum get pushed aside, he said.

“All we’re say­ing is that, as the city be­comes more af­flu­ent, we can do a bet­ter job of every­body shar­ing in that growth,” he said. “It’s not sur­pris­ing to see D.C. men­tioned in the same breath as those cities. Our per­spec­tive is that it’s not work­ing out for work­ers who can’t af­ford to live here.”

In June the coun­cil ad­vanced its min­i­mum wage legislation to es­tab­lish an in­cre­men­tal in­crease over four years un­til 2020, when the hourly min­i­mum wage — cur­rently at $11.50 — reaches $15. The min­i­mum wage for tipped work­ers will grow to $5 per hour by 2022.

The Dis­trict joins sev­eral other U.S. cities, in­clud­ing Seat­tle and Los Angeles, that are grad­u­ally in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour. San Fran­cisco will be the first when its hourly min­i­mum rises to $15 on July 1, 2018.

The coun­cil be­came the sixth ju­ris­dic­tion in the coun­try to pass a law that would al­low ter­mi­nally ill res­i­dents to seek life-end­ing drugs from their doc­tor un­der cer­tain con­di­tions. The mea­sure was mod­eled af­ter Ore­gon’s 1997 law — the first in the na­tion.

“If I wasn’t buck­led in, I don’t think I’d be here.”

— Fair­fax County Po­lice Chief Ed­win Roessler, on hav­ing his car rear-ended by a Cen­tre­ville woman charged with drunken driv­ing

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