An anti-bullying bill introduced in the D.C. City Council in January 2011 is stalled in committee because its supporters haven’t been able to figure out how to pay for its implementation, according to an aide to D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).
Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff, said Wells is facilitating discussions with advocates for the legislation and with the city’s Chief Financial Officer to identify funding sources and make changes to lower the potential cost of putting the bill’s provisions in place.
Wells is chair of the Council’s Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation and Planning, one of two committees with jurisdiction over the Bullying and Intimidation Prevention Act.
The bill would require D.C. public schools, city public charter schools, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the D.C. public library system, and the University of the District of Columbia to adopt policies “prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying” at their respective facilities.
At the time it was introduced, 11 of the Council’s 13 members signed on as co-introducers or co-sponsors of the bill.
LGBT activists said the bill was needed because large numbers of LGBT youth are victims of bullying in schools, parks and other public places. They praised the introduction of the bill but called on the Council to strengthen its enforcement and implementation provisions, saying shortcomings in the bill would prevent it from having a meaningful impact on the problem of bullying.
Allen said a problem arose when the Office of the D.C. Chief Financial Officer, an agency independent of the Council and the mayor, reviewed the bill in its role of preparing a financial impact statement for all proposed city legislation. According to Allen, the Office of the CFO indicated informally that the cost would be high for implementing the anti-bullying bill and the Council would have to determine where it would obtain the funds to pay for the implementation.
He said Wells wants to make changes to the bill to reduce the potential costs before the CFO’s office issues its official financial impact statement.
“Unless there is a plan to pay for it we would be passing empty legislation,” Allen said. “We don’t want to do that. We want to make sure that whatever we pass, it is something that can be put in place and implemented.”
He said Wells was hopeful that revisions could be made in the legislation that would lower the potential costs.
Council Chair Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) serves as chair of the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which has concurrent jurisdiction over the bill in its role of overseeing the city’s public school system. Allison Abney, a spokesperson for Brown, said Brown has delegated the task of resolving the funding issue to Wells’ committee.
“We’re working with them and monitoring this very closely,” she said.
Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou
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