It’s the first Politics Hour of 2020, and we’ll start by looking ahead to what’s in store in the District. D.C. Councilmember and Chair Pro Tempore Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) joins the show.
D.C. Council Could Give Small Businesses A Boost
- Small business owners face rising rents, high property taxes, changing consumer habits and myriad other challenges to keep their operations afloat. Three bills from two D.C. councilmembers are trying to help.
- Councilmember McDuffie introduced a bill that would offer loans or grants to small D.C. businesses that have operated continuously for at least 10 years and have made significant cultural contributions to the city or a community.
- Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) introduced two bills: One would offer a tax credit to local businesses to offset rent and property taxes. The other would offer longtime local business grants and low-interest loans to help pay for capital improvements and operating expenses.
- In July, the D.C. Council unanimously approved a 10-year tax abatement for Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, an incentive not often directed toward small businesses. (Usually, they’re reserved for corporations and developers.) Both Allen and McDuffie thought that one-off tax breaks aren’t a sustainable way for the Council to aid small businesses.
Should D.C. Councilmembers Be Allowed To Hold Second Jobs?
- Amid the ethics investigations into Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, a debate arose around councilmembers being allowed to hold a job in addition to their council position.
- In November, Councilmember McDuffie introduced a bill that would bar councilmembers from holding another job. It would also give councilmembers a pay raise from $140,000 to $185,000 per year.
- In April, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) introduced similar legislation. Hers does not include a pay raise and carves out an exception for teaching jobs. Nadeau’s bill was co-introduced by the majority of the council.
- Aside from Evans, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh is the only other member to hold an outside job: She’s a law professor at George Washington University.
- About McDuffie’s bill, Cheh told DCist: “I think it’s interesting that [this bill] comes from somebody with whom I’ve clashed occasionally on the council. I wonder what the real motivation is here, especially since there is already a bill to ban outside employment but makes an exception for teaching.”
In 2019, The District Saw Its Highest Number of Homicides In A Decade
- 2019 ended with a decade-high number of homicides in the District.
- However, police say that overall violent crime has dropped in the city.
- What’s the answer to curb homicides in the District? D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham points to access to illegal guns as a primary issue.
Virginia’s General Assembly session kicks off on January 8. Before heading to Richmond, Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) joins the show.
Will Democrats Follow Through On Creating A Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission?
- Before the 2019 elections, the Republican-led Virginia General Assembly passed a measure to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission, which aims to prevent legislators from drawing districts for political gain.
- Since it’s a constitutional amendment, the measure needs to pass through the legislature a second time, and eventually head to voters. This time around, Democrats control the General Assembly. And some of them are saying they might not support it.
- Why? If the legislature doesn’t approve maps drawn by the commission, the decision heads to the state Supreme Court. The Court has mostly Republican-appointed judges.
- Most members of the Black Legislative Caucus didn’t support the measure last year for this very reason.
- Some Republican lawmakers are calling this an act of partisanship. If the measure doesn’t pass, Gov. Ralph Northam and the Democratic-led legislature will draw legislative and congressional lines in 2021.
Virginia Will Likely Ratify The ERA
- Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Virginia is poised to become the 38th state to ratify it — and the last state needed.
- But, there could be a few hiccups for the ERA to become the 28th Constitutional Amendment. Congress originally set a ratification deadline to 1977, and then extended it to 1982. So, Virginia’s ratification would come nearly 40 years late.
- The national debate in the coming months about the ERA will largely focus on two issues: abortion and transgender rights.
- Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the ERA’s addition to the Constitution.
What Are Virginia Legislators’ Priorities Heading Into The 2020 Session?
- Virginia Democrats are prioritizing voting rights this session. Two legislators introduced bills that would get rid of the state’s requirement to show a photo ID at the polls.
- While Democratic legislators will push for stricter gun laws like universal background checks, some Republicans have introduced gun bills as well, like designating an official state firearm and requiring firearm safety education programs in public schools.
- In addition to being a co-patron on the resolution to ratify the ERA, Del. Ayala has introduced legislation that would create a Cybersecurity Advisory Council, study the use of blockchain technology to protect voter records, allow for same-day voter registration, and more.
- Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas) introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty in the commonwealth.
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Cydney Grannan