It’s the start of a new two-year D.C. legislative session. While there is a lot to accomplish in the months and years ahead, we’d like to celebrate five major gains that our communities made last legislative session. After years of organizing, research, advocacy, and drafting, multiple bills that protect and expand civil rights and liberties passed the D.C. Council in 2022. We have a lot to be proud of, and here are these five bright highlights.
Revised Criminal Code
After 16 years of research and deliberation, the D.C. Council twice overwhelmingly passed the Revised Criminal Code Act (RCCA), which brings our criminal code into line with national standards and best practices. The RCCA significantly improves a code that has not undergone systematic review since originally codified in 1901 and, as a result, retained outdated policies and perpetuated racial inequality. We commend the D.C. Council for overwhelmingly overturning Mayor Bowser’s veto of this common-sense bill.
The Council unanimously passed the “Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2021,” which makes permanent many of the emergency reforms passed in 2020. Reforms include improvements to body-worn camera procedures, use of force, and use of chemical and non-lethal weapons at protests. ACLU-D.C. advocacy helped establish a new police misconduct database and more transparency around police disciplinary records.
D.C. Jail Oversight
The Council passed the “Corrections Oversight Improvement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2022,” strengthening oversight at the D.C. Jail. The bill gives the Corrections Information Council (CIC) unrestricted access to all Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities, including unannounced inspections and unmonitored interviews with residents, staff, contractors, and volunteers. The bill also requires DOC to provide CIC with quarterly reports about living conditions at its facilities.
In a post-Dobbs world, the Council passed the “Enhancing Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2022,” which protects people who help someone self-terminate a pregnancy. The Council also passed the “Human Rights Sanctuary Amendment Act of 2022,” which prevents the District from cooperating with interstate investigations against people who receive abortion care in D.C. This bill also protects access to gender-affirming care, reproductive health care, and marriage equality.
The Council passed the “Clean Hands Certification Equity Amendment Act of 2021,” which allows people to renew their driver’s license regardless of debt status, starting in Fiscal Year 2024. Before this law passed, people could not renew their licenses if they owed District agencies more than $100 in fines and fees. The status quo disproportionately harmed Black, brown, and low-income District residents, and we are glad to see this restriction removed.
Celebrating this progress reminds us how critical it is for D.C. to become a state. Right now, each of these laws is stalled until Congress – where D.C. residents have no voting representation – reviews and approves it. Visit dcstatehoodnow.org to learn more about statehood and to get involved in our continuing fight for justice and freedom.