Council corrects human rights jurisdiction split

Council Corrects Human Rights Jurisdiction Split

At its meeting on January 2, 1997, the DC Council corrected the Rules document governing jurisdiction assignments for Council Period Twelve to avoid splitting human rights across two different committees. This was done after GLAA sent the following letter to Chairman Clarke and the committee chairs affected under the rules as drafted in December 1996, and after GLAA President Rick Rosendall discussed apparent errors and inconsistencies in the draft document with staff of the Council's Office of General Counsel. Reinforcing GLAA's position was Gerald Draper, Director of the Department of Human Rights & Minority Business Development, who also urged the Council to avoid splitting human rights jurisdiction across two committees.

Under the new structure, both the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights portion of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Business Development will come under the oversight of the Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson. GLAA is pleased by this timely response by the Council, and looks forward to the restoration of the Office of Human Rights as an independent, cabinet-level agency.

Review Council committee assignments

Monday, December 23, 1996

The Honorable Dave Clarke, Chairman
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., 1st Floor
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Chairman Clarke:

I have reviewed your proposed new committee structure for the Council, dated December 19, and I would like to draw your attention to the area of human rights. On one hand, the Department of Human Rights and Minority Business Developent is placed under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Business Services and Economic Development (Jarvis), while on the other hand the Commission on Human Rights is placed under the Committee on Human Services (Cropp). It would seem more useful for oversight purposes to place both pieces of the District's human rights machinery, the Office and the Commission, under the jurisdiction of a single committee.

Part of the problem is that at present the Office of Human Rights is merged inappropriately with Minority Business Development. GLAA has long argued that the present Department of Human Rights & Minority Business Development should be broken up and that the Office of Human Rights should be re-established as an independent, Cabinet-level agency, as it was prior to 1989.

GLAA is finding increasing support within the Council for re-establishing OHR's independence and Cabinet-level status. We have received support from incumbents Harold Brazil, Jack Evans, and Kevin Chavous, plus incoming Councilmembers Carol Schwartz and Sandy Allen. Mrs. Jarvis called for a new look at the current arrangement without endorsing a particular position.

The sooner OHR is restored as a separate, cabinet-level agency — rather than being submerged under another department — the better off we will all be in ensuring that the District's strong Human Rights Law is properly and consistently enforced. In the meantime, we would appreciate any steps that you could take to adjust the jurisdiction assignments under the new committee structure in order to avoid splitting human rights across two different committees.

With best wishes for the New Year,

Richard J. Rosendall
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC

cc: Honorable Kevin Chavous
Honorable Linda Cropp
Honorable Charlene Drew Jarvis
Honorable Jack Evans
The Washington Blade

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