FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

What is a Bill?

A bill is a proposed new law or amendment to an existing law. To begin Council consideration the Chairman refers a proposed bill to a Committee to solicit public comments, and determine its fiscal impact.

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How many votes does a bill require for passage?

A bill must be approved by a majority of the Council at two public meetings, separated by at least 13 days, in substantially the same form.

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What happens to legislation after it is passed by the Council?

After the Council has passed a bill, it is transmitted to the Mayor.  The Mayor, within 10 business days, must either sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow the bill to become law without his signature.  If the bill is not vetoed, it becomes an Act and is assigned an Act number.  The Chairman then sends the new Act to Congress for the mandatory review.

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How long does the Mayor have to consider a bill passed by the Council?

The Mayor has 10 calendar days, excluding weekends and holidays to approve or disapprove an act.

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What happens if the Mayor vetoes a bill passed by the Council?

If the Mayor vetoes an adopted bill, the Council can override the Mayor's veto, within 30 days by a vote of two-thirds by the members, over-riding the veto. The bill then becomes an Act and is transmitted to Congress.

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How many days does Congress have to approve District legislation?

An Act must "lay over" in Congress for 30 legislative days - meaning days when at least one House is in session.  An act that amends the criminal code must lay over for 60 legislative days.

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Why must an Act enacted by the local elected officials be approved by Congress?

Congress imposed this requirement on the District in the Home Rule Act.  Congress must also approve the District's annual budget.

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Why does it take so long for Congress to approve District legislation?

Only days when either House is in session are counted.  If one or both of the Houses are out for 3 days or longer, then the day cannot be counted.  Holidays and weekends are also excluded from the count.  Also, Congress usually adjourns in October.  As a result, any act passed by the Council after July usually will not become law until the following year.  Therefore, it can take up to 4 months for an act to become law.

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What is an Emergency Bill?

An emergency bill is a proposed new law or an amendment to existing legislation that takes effect immediately and is effective for 90 days.  Because it does not follow the committee process, a vote of a super majority (9) is required for an emergency to be considered.

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What is a Temporary Bill?

A temporary bill is a proposed new law or an amendment to an existing law that is enacted only with an emergency and is designed to fill the gap between the expiration of an emergency act and the effective date of a permanent act. It requires Congressional review like a permanent act, but expires after 225 days

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What is a PR?

PR is short for proposed resolution.  A resolution is used to confirm Mayoral appointments, express determinations, decisions, or directions of the Council of a special or temporary nature.

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Are PR’s transmitted to Congress?

No, Proposed Resolutions (PR's) are not required to be transmitted for Congressional review.

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What is the difference between a Bill and a Proposed Resolution?

A bill requires Mayoral and Congressional approval to become effective and a resolution can be approved by one vote of the Council and is effective immediately.

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What is the purpose of a Sense of the Council Resolution?

A Sense of the Council Resolution expresses the Council’s view on an issue that does not require a change in the law.

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What is the difference between a public law and a D.C. law?

A public law is a federal law passed by Congress and signed by the President.  A D.C. law is a District law passed by the Council, and upon approval of the Mayor, and completion of the Congressional review period, becomes effective.

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What is a council period?

Council period means the legislative session of the Council that corresponds to an election cycle.

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What happens to legislation that is not passed by the end of a council period?

Legislation that has not been passed by the Council by the end of a council period dies in Committee.  Similar legislation can be introduced in the next council period.

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As a citizen, how can I voice my opinion on pending legislation?

Council Rules require a public hearing before a permanent bill can be adopted.  Also, Council rules require that notice of the hearing must be published in the D.C. Register at least 15 days in advance.   Persons wishing to speak at a hearing may sign up by contacting the appropriate committee or calling 724-8000.  If you are unable to testify you can fax or mail your comments, or you can call the Councilmember.

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How can I get a transcript of the hearings held by the Council?

An audio copy of the hearings may be obtained from the Legislative Services Division of the Council.  You must submit a written request to the Director of Legislative Services, that includes the name of the Committee that held the hearing, and the date the hearing was held.  You must also provide the appropriate number of 120-minute cassette tapes to complete the request.

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NOTE:  Please refer to R15-1, "Rules for the Council of the District of Columbia, Council Period 15 Resolution of 2003", if a more detailed explanation of the Rules of the Council is needed.