On Tuesday December 20, the DC Council gave us another reason to celebrate this holiday season, voting 9-4 in favor of Paid Family Leave. Led by At-large Councilmembers Silverman and Grosso, as well as Chairman Mendelson, and joined by Councilmembers Allen, Bonds, Cheh, McDuffie, Nadeau, and Robert White, the final bill passed 9 to 4, with Councilmembers Alexander, Evans, May and Todd voting No.

The “employer mandate” amendment introduced by Councilmember Evans, which would have crippled the bill and eliminated its essential character as a social insurance program, was voted down 8-5 (the same line up as above, except for Councilmember Cheh, who voted in favor of this harmful amendment). While Mayor Bowser has said she will not sign the bill, it appears that she will not veto it, given the veto-proof vote. Read more here…

What a tremendous victory for DC workers, who will enjoy 8 weeks of paid leave for a baby, 6 weeks for a family member, and 2 weeks for personal sick leave! How heartening it is to know that a handful of large businesses, while exercising undue influence in our government, nevertheless do not enjoy a complete stranglehold when ordinary citizens are active and mobilized.

DC4D was proud to be a member of the DC Paid Family Leave Coalition, which led this campaign. We owe a particular debt of gratitude to Jews United for Justice (JUFJ), one of our consistent progressive allies, in leading this effort.

If you were one of the many DC4D members who phoned, emailed, tweeted, lobbied or were present in the Council chamber for the vote, you deserve the thanks of every DC resident. You showed that it is not sufficient to vote in elections; we must actively support good policies (and oppose bad ones). It also showed that electoral campaigns are crucial to enlightened policies. We are proud of our role in helping elect Councilmember Silverman, who was instrumental in passing this legislation, and in Councilmember Robert White’s upset victory this year.

So as you celebrate this holiday season, drink a toast to our win on Paid Family Leave!

As we continue to enjoy the holiday season by celebrating with our families, the DC Council has an opportunity to celebrate family values by voting for a strong Universal Paid Leave Act next Tuesday. We commend At-Large Councilmembers David Grosso and Elissa Silverman for championing this major progressive reform that makes a real difference in the lives of working families.

Here is a message from DC4D member and DC Paid Family Leave coalition volunteer, Linda Benesch:

“The Universal Paid Leave Act is finally coming to a vote on Tuesday, December 6! Chairman Mendelson released details of the most recent version of the bill yesterday and it is good in many respects, but it cuts out people’s right to take time off for their own illnesses - see the statement from the Paid Family Leave campaign. We need to fight to get self-care back into the bill and make sure that it isn’t weakened further.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
If you work regular hours, the most valuable thing you can do is to email or call your ward Councilmember and one or two At-Large Councilmembers.

If you have a flexible schedule, the most valuable thing you can do is to be in the Council Chamber on Tuesday, December 6th at 9:30am.

Thanks to active citizens like Linda and all of our members, we can help pass a strong Paid Family Leave act!

DC for Democracy has endorsed the following candidates for the November 8 General Election:

Robert White (D) for At-Large Council
Vincent Gray (D) for Ward 7 Council
Trayon White (D) for Ward 8 Council
Franklin Garcia (D) for US (Shadow) Representative

Detailed vote results from the October Endorsement Meeting are as follows (note we require 2/3 vote for endorsement):
Note: Trayon White and Franklin Garcia were endorsed in the June primary, and those endorsements hold as they are unchallenged.

Ward 2 Council: No Endorsement.
20.5% Evans — 7.7% Write-in — 71.8% No Endorsement

Ward 4 Council: No Endorsement.
15.1% Todd — 2.6% Write-in — 82.1% No Endorsement

Ward 7 Council: Vincent Gray endorsed.
0% Butler — 2.6% Carter — 71.1% Gray — 26.3% No Endorsement

At-Large Council: Robert White endorsed.
Note: each member was allowed to cast TWO votes in this race.
20.9% Aikin — 2.3% Celnik — 2.3% Cheeks — 62.8% Grosso — 0% Klokel
93% White — 4.7% No Endorsement

US Delegate: No Endorsement
4.6% Moulton — 56.8% Norton — 29.6% Stracuzzi — 9.1% No Endorsement.
Note: Norton got 59.2% when 2nd choice votes were counted.

Advisory Referendum on Statehood: No Endorsement.
34.1% For — 17.1% Against — 48.8% No Endorsement. Note: this vote was held before the Council amended the constitution to require a constitutional convention two years after admission.

Wow, what an unexpected victory Tuesday (October 18), when the Council voted 8 to 5 to adopt an amendment offered by Councilmembers Charles Allen, David Grosso, Kenyan McDuffie, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White to the Council Resolution “Constitution and Boundaries for the State of New Columbia Approval Resolution of 2016″ (PR 21-913). These Councilmembers were joined by Yvette Alexander and LaRuby May to pass the amendment. Please read the Washington Post article about the vote. We are also heartened to learn that Mayor Bowser supports the changes to the constitution.

We are especially grateful to At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman and her staff for their assistance throughout this campaign, together with At-Large Councilmember Robert White, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and At-Large Councilmember David Grosso.

DC for Democracy members have argued that the constitution deserves serious deliberation by a bona fide constitutional convention of elected delegates. That is why, despite numerous concerns with the constitution, we focused on changing the method by which the constitution could be amended. With this amendment, we won three of the four key provisions we pushed for, in collaboration with a broad grassroots coalition.

The three provisions we won are:

1) Ensuring the delegates to the constitutional convention would be elected (not “selected”). The constitution passed by the New Columbia Statehood Commission did not specify that the delegates would be elected, and the so-called “constitutional convention” last summer was reason to demand that this be made explicit.
2) Ensuring that the constitutional convention could change any aspect of the constitution. The original committee print had given the Legislative Assembly power to constrain the scope of what the constitutional convention could consider.
3) Ensuring that the constitutional convention had full authority to change the constitution, subject only to ratification by voters. The original version had empowered the constitutional convention to merely make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly.

We failed only to change the timing of the constitutional convention. While we had pushed to have the constitutional convention held one year after admission, the Council kept the timing to two years after admission — not a big deal.

We have more work to do on this front (i.e. initiate a constitutional convention in 2017 or 2018, so we don’t have to wait until we become a state to fix our constitution), but please take a few minutes today to feel good about what you, DC4D and our progressive allies accomplished for democracy and civic engagement!

So many DC4D members helped by contacting Councilmembers that I cannot possibly thank everyone by name, but I would like to highlight a few members: Steering Committee members Keith Ivey, Jesse Lovell, and Andrea Rosen for the key role they played in defining our strategy; Anise Jenkins, for mobilizing the members of Stand Up for Democracy/Free DC; Ann Loikow for mobilizing support of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee; Markus Batchelor, who might well be credited with in winning LaRuby May’s vote; Claudia Barragan and Walter Deleon for their work through the DC Latino Caucus; and David Schwartzman for mobilizing the Statehood Green Party.

And if you can, please also take a minute to thank the Councilmembers who voted for democracy yesterday (feel free to tweet, as well):
At-Large Councilmember David Grosso dgrosso@dccouncil.us (202) 724-8105
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman esilverman@dccouncil.us (202)-724-7772
At-Large Councilmember Robert White rwhite@dccouncil.us (202) 724-8174
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau bnadeau@dccouncil.us (202) 724-8181
Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie kmcduffie@dccouncil.us (202) 724-8028
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen callen@dccouncil.us (202)-724-8072
Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander yalexander@dccouncil.us (202) 724-8068
Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May LMay@DCCOUNCIL.US (202)724-8045

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