Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser
about Ward 4
 

Legislation: Issues

Councilmember Bowser on:

Pepco Reliability: Neighborhoods across the District and especially in Ward 4 were hit hard this past summer with persistent electrical outages due to several severe weather events. However, the reliability of the electric grid in many of these neighborhoods has been below average for some time now. In fact, many of the electrical feeders in these neighborhoods rank as some of the worst performing feeders in the District. read more

Health Care Reform: With the passage of federal health care reform legislation this spring, the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs will have a busy few years bringing the District into compliance with all of the new federal guidelines and mandates.read more

Vacant and Blighted Properties: Since joining the Council, I have focused on holding the owners of blighted buildings accountable for their neglect. The owners of blighted property in Ward 4 and across our city need strong incentives to encourage productive use. read more

Pepco Reliability

Neighborhoods across the District and especially in Ward 4 were hit hard this past summer with persistent electrical outages due to several severe weather events. However, the reliability of the electric grid in many of these neighborhoods has been below average for some time now. In fact, many of the electrical feeders in these neighborhoods rank as some of the worst performing feeders in the District.

As Chair of the Public Services and Consumer Affairs Committee, which oversees the District’s utility regulators, Councilmember Bowser has made improving the reliability of the electric grid one of her top priorities. In the last year, the Committee has held 3 public hearings on the reliability and quality of service of the electric company.

Further, Councilmember Bowser persuaded her colleagues on the Council to authorize Pepco to build out the smart grid in the District of Columbia. Due to her efforts, the District of Columbia will be one of the first cities in the nation to have smart meters installed in every home. The project will begin in October 2010, and will be completed by the end of 2011. The smart grid will not prevent outages caused by storms, but it will shorten the length of outages substantially by allowing the electric company to more quickly locate any problems and dispatched crews accordingly.

As the representative of Ward 4, Councilmember Bowser met with Pepco and raised concerns about the reliability of the electric grid both in Ward 4 and citywide. In response, Pepco developed a plan to upgrade the electric grid in areas that are deemed underperforming. These improvements will be citywide, but will include substantial upgrades to those neighborhoods hardest hit in Ward 4. Councilmember Bowser held a public meeting in the Ward in late September to announce the Pepco infrastructure upgrade plan, so that members of the community could hear firsthand what changes
were coming.

Health Care Reform

With the passage of federal health care reform legislation this spring, the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs will have a busy few years bringing the District into compliance with all of the new federal guidelines and mandates. As Chair of the Committee overseeing the private health insurance industry in the District, Councilmember Bowser is already at work implementing the federal bill. Already this year, the Committee has approved legislation providing coverage for dependents until age 26, and drafted legislation to ensure that health insurance premium rates are reasonable and that
rate-payers premium dollars are being spent more on medical care and less on administrative costs.

The Reasonable Health Insurance Rate-making and Reform Amendment Act, which will likely be approved by the Committee in October, will ensure that insurance companies do not unreasonably raise health insurance premium rates each year. The Council approved an emergency bill earlier this year to temporarily cap year-over-year rate increases. This bill represents a more comprehensive solution by requiring that health insurers pay at least 80 cents of every premium dollar collected for individual policies on medical care, and 85 cents of every dollar in group policies on medical care. It also gives more authority to the Insurance Commissioner to review rates and makes it more difficult for health
insurers to rescind coverage.

Councilmember Bowser also introduced the Health Care Reform Advisory Board Establishment Act, which would create an interagency advisory board to guide the implementation of federal health reform at the District level. The federal bill was more than 2,000 pages and contained dozens of rule-makings that will affect the District. It is important that the District’s various agencies and departments work together to implement those new requirements. Shortly after the bill was introduced, the Mayor issued an order to create an interagency committee to deal with implementation.

The Committee has also been hard at work protecting residents. Shortly after the federal bill was signed, the Council approved the Health Insurance for Dependents Act which requires insurers to offer health insurance coverage to adult dependents until their 26th birthday. This provision has been in effect since April 29th, and mirrors a similar provision in the federal bill that would not have become effective until the fall. Also pending in the Committee and expected to be approved this fall is a bill that would prohibit insurance companies from dropping coverage from an entire group of policyholders in order to avoid covering one high cost individual, and bills that prohibit insurance companies from charging higher rates due to an individual’s gender or status as a victim of domestic violence.

Foreclosure Laws

Councilmember Bowser is spearheading the effort to update the foreclosure laws in the District in response to the foreclosure crisis still affecting the country. Under the District’s current foreclosure laws, a foreclosure sale may occur 30 days after a lender gives a homeowner the statutory “notice of foreclosure sale of real property or condominium unit” (foreclosure notice) pursuant to D.C. Code 42-815.

The proposed new foreclosure laws are derived from Bill 18-691, the “Saving D.C.
Homes from Foreclosure Act of 2010,” which was introduced on March 2, 2010 by
Councilmembers Bowser, Mendelson, Alexander, Thomas and Gray. As introduced,
B18-691 included two primary provisions: a foreclosure mediation for residential
mortgages provision, and a right to rent provision.

The mediation provision of B18-691, as introduced, stipulates that before a foreclosure
notice can be issued, a bank is required to engage in mediation with the homeowner to discuss options that are available in lieu of foreclosure, such as a loan modification.
Under the right to rent provision, if a homeowner and a bank are not able to work out a successful settlement, and the property is sold at a foreclosure sale, the lender must offer the foreclosed property to the existing homeowner for rent. The primary goal of the “right to rent” requirement is to minimize the disruption of families – especially those with young children – by providing a transition period allowing them the time necessary to plan and prepare for their future move, with hopefully minimal disruption.

After considerable deliberations, the Committee decided to recommend including only the mediation provision in the new foreclosure laws, and not to include the right to rent provision. Therefore, the proposed new law includes a requirement that a lender must engage in mediation before it can foreclose on a residential mortgage loan. Upon completing mediation, the District’s Department of Insurance, Securities, and
Banking (DISB) will issue a mediation certificate to the lender. Only after receiving the
foreclosure mediation certificate can a lender foreclose.

The foreclosure mediation program will be operated and enforced by DISB. Mediators
will be trained independent third-party contractors who have experience conducting
foreclosure mediations.

Banks will have to pay a fee for each case that is referred to mediation; however, at this time, that amount has not been determined. Homeowners will not have to pay to
participate in foreclosure mediation. The proposed new law will have no impact on non-residential foreclosure in the District.

The Committee anticipates the Council will vote on the new law by this fall.

 

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1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 110, Washington DC 20004 | Phone: 202-724-8052 | Fax: 202-741-0908 | mbowser@dccouncil.us