GLAA to Council: Oppose last-minute changes to ABC Bill
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GLAA to Council: Oppose last-minute changes to ABC Bill

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
PO Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013-5265

December 18, 2000

The Honorable Linda Cropp
Council of the District of Columbia
441 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
[by email and hand delivery]

Dear Linda:

This past Friday, I met with Rob Miller of your staff to discuss the second reading of the ABC Reform Law scheduled for tomorrow. Rob discussed several substantial changes in the bill with me that I did not find objectionable at the time. However, after consultation with other members of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, I have to withdraw GLAAís support for these amendments.

Specifically, Rob asked our opinion on three possible amendments at second reading. One would prevent nightclubs offering nude dancing from being within 500 feet of each other. Another would allow residents located within 1200 feet of such nightclubs to sign petitions protesting the issuance or continuation of its liquor license, and would require signatures from 50 percent of residents within that radius to be effective; a 600-foot radius is currently prescribed for these purposes. The third amendment would place a cap on the number of licenses allowed to be issued for such nightclubs.

These amendments are substantive and not trivial. If there is a case for these ideas, no one has made them. No one offered such proposals during the 2 years while this legislation was being carefully developed. No one suggested them during the Council hearings. No one has thought through what unexpected and undesired consequences might ensue from these last-minute changes. We believe the current bill should be passed on second reading without these or other non-technical amendments to the billís repeal of the current moratorium on the issuance of new licenses for nightclubs offering nude dancing.

As you know, GLAA is not entirely happy with every provision of the proposed bill. In particular, we have serious reservations about the vague "appropriateness" standard embedded in the legislation. But we are willing to accept the bill as is, even if it is not perfect from our or anyone elseís point of view. If experience reveals problems, we believe they should be addressed in separate legislation during the next Council session, and not be rammed through without serious deliberation tomorrow.

The Council has had an unfortunate tendency over the years to legislate from the dais, adding major amendments at the last minute without realizing what the implications might be. Obstructionists have cynically learned to exploit the Councilís weakness by creating an artificial air of panic and crisis to get their ill-considered proposals adopted. This sabotages the legitimate legislative process, rewarding those who are most reckless and irresponsible and penalizing those who patiently jump through all the hoops.

The opponents of nude dancing certainly fall into the pattern of being reckless and irresponsible. None of their complaints about the supposedly dire impact of nude dancing on the District of Columbia have been backed up by a shred of evidence. They just plain donít like that kind of entertainment, period. So be it. But please donít try to appease them by enacting arbitrary legislative "solutions" for which there are no problems. To the extent there are real concerns, they should be addressed through the regular legislative process in the future.

Thank you for your consideration.


Robert J. Summersgill

cc: All Councilmembers

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