At the first Legislative Meeting of Council Period 22, Councilmember Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4) introduced five diverse pieces of legislation aimed at moving Washington, DC forward on a variety of important issues ranging from animal welfare, to internet accessibility, to health literacy.
Councilmember Todd introduced the Extreme Weather Protection for Animals Act of 2017 in response to the outpouring of concern yesterday for Momma the dog, a pit bull who has been left outside in the cold in Petworth. This legislation would amend DC Code § 22–1001 by defining instances in which keeping animals outside in certain weather conditions constitutes cruelty to animals. Currently, the DC Code’s lack of clear definitions creates confusion regarding the Humane Rescue Alliance’s authority to take action when animals are left outdoors in extreme weather. “It is our Government’s responsibility to protect our friends who cannot protect themselves. It was truly heartwarming to see how many residents reached out yesterday with concern for Momma’s welfare,” said Councilmember Todd. “When I was sworn-in last week, I pledged to be responsive and responsible to my constituents, and that is exactly why I am introducing this legislation. I am pleased to start a conversation around better protecting our animals, and look forward to discussing improvements to the bill with all stakeholders.”
The Wi-Fi Task Force Act of 2017 would create a task force including government, business, and residents to provide comprehensive policy recommendations on how the District can efficiently provide free wireless internet access through the construction and operation of a municipality broadband network. This legislation would help bridge the digital divide by connecting low-income residents with the vast opportunity the internet provides, and boost the economy through increased tourist and customer spending. “The internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that is essential to everyday life,” said Councilmember Todd. “Communities across the United States are successfully operating municipal broadband networks as a critical tool for increasing access, encouraging competition, fostering consumer choice, and driving local and regional economic development. It is time for the District to do the same for our communities, residents, and visitors by building on our strong track record of inclusive legislation aimed at reducing income inequality.”
The Carbon Monoxide Detector Amendment Act of 2017 would amend the Smoke Detector Act of 1978 to require the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in dwelling units, hotels, motels, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and residential-custodial care facilities in the District of Columbia. The bill would also provide regulations for the installation and maintenance of carbon monoxide detectors, require tenants to notify owners of an inoperable or deficient device, and prohibit tenants from removing or tampering with an installed detector. “Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Councilmember Todd. “Carbon monoxide poisoning is entirely preventable, and this bill would help keep District residents and workers safe.”
The Health Literacy Council Establishment Act of 2017 would establish a Health Literacy Council to promote the importance of understandable health information for patients. The goal is to improve the health literacy of DC residents by building their capacity to make informed decisions about their personal health based on greater understanding of basic health information, products, and services. “Only 12 percent of adults are proficient in health literacy, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, including 85,000 District residents who lack basic literacy skills,” said Councilmember Todd. “The creation of a Council dedicated to health literacy would not only improve residents’ health outcomes and understanding, but would likely also aid literacy and workforce development programs in general.”
Finally, the Sense of the Council Regarding the Health Impacts of Heavy Backpacks Resolution of 2017 acknowledges the health risks that heavy backpacks pose to schoolchildren and recommends that certain measures be taken to avoid injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 7,000 emergency room visits each year are due to backpack-related injuries, and at least 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries every year. “For the safety and health of District students, schools should work with parent organizations to assess the extent to which students carry overweight backpacks and promote innovative homework strategies such as digital textbooks,” said Councilmember Todd. “It is in the best interest of all District students if school administrators, teachers, parents, and students be educated about the potential health impacts of heavy backpacks and take proactive measures to avoid injury.”