The Council of the District of Columbia
The Office of Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 19, 2012
Communications Director: Kiara Pesante o: 202-724-8089 c: 202-701-9439
Cheh Introduces Three New Bills at Council’s First Fall Meeting
Legislation ranges from adopting nutrition standards in recreation centers to regulating self-driving vehicles
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (D–Ward 3) has introduced three bills during today’s Committee of the Whole meeting aimed at improving the quality of life in the District of Columbia. They are the “Healthy Parks Act of 2012,” the “Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012,” and the “Employee Suggestion Act of 2012.”
“I am looking forward to getting back to official Council business,” said Cheh, who worked through the summer recess preparing legislation for the fall, addressing a myriad of constituent issues, and forming a new photo traffic enforcement task force. “These bills are just the first of many that my staff and I have been working on diligently over the last several months, and I look forward to input from my colleagues and the community.”
After the success of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 – Councilmember Cheh’s landmark law that became a national model for food and nutrition standards in school meals – the “Healthy Parks Act of 2012” expands those principles to parks and recreation centers.
“Many children spend their time after school, on the weekends, and during the summer at the District’s parks and recreation centers, which provide wonderful services for them,” said Councilmember Cheh. “Building on the success of the Healthy Schools Act, I believe that we should have similarly high nutrition standards at DPR facilities. This bill seeks to do just that.”
The “Healthy Parks Act of 2012” will establish nutritional standards for food and beverages provided, offered, or sold at parks and recreation facilities; maximize the District’s participation in federal nutrition programs; and limit the marketing of unhealthy products to children at parks and recreation facilities.
To address the District’s growing need for innovative transportation options, Cheh has introduced the “Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012.” This bill would authorize the Executive to craft regulations that would allow autonomous vehicles to operate on the roadways of the District; require the Department of Motor Vehicles to create an autonomous vehicle designation; and establish safe operating protocols for such vehicles.
Earlier this year, Councilmembers Cheh test ‘drove’ an autonomous vehicle around downtown D.C. with special permission from the DMV. Councilmember Cheh noted that these vehicles can provide a safe alternative for visually impaired District residents, as well as elderly persons. Similar laws permitting self-driving cars to operate already exist in Nevada, Florida, and California.
Lastly, to encourage District employees to take a personal stake in the operation of D.C. government, the “Employee Suggestion Act of 2012” seeks to establish an Employee Suggestion Evaluation Commission, which shall evaluate and grant merit cash awards to employees who offer constructive suggestions that eliminate or reduce District expenditure, increase revenue, or otherwise contribute to economy or efficiency. The Employee Suggestion Evaluation Commission shall include three members: one appointed by the Mayor, one appointed by the Chairman of the Council, and one appointed by the Chief Financial Officer. The commission would adopt the rules that determine the suggestion criteria, the submission method, and the feedback process. A nearly identical program has existed successfully in New York City since 1946.
“District employees are an invaluable resource for ideas on how to make the D.C. government run more effectively,” said Cheh. “Encouraging District employees to watch for and suggest ways to improve operations should be a priority, as this helps both the Council and the Executive be better public servants. This bill would establish the incentives and structure needed to provide this positive encouragement.”
The “Healthy Parks Act of 2012,” the “Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012,” and the ”Employee Suggestion Act of 2012” were referred to the Committee on Libraries, Parks, and Recreation; the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation; and the Committee on Government Operations, respectively. Each bill garnered immediate co-sponsors on the dais.