Ward 4 Council member Brandon Todd got off to a fast start at the D.C. Council’s first legislative meeting of the new year, introducing a myriad of bills aimed at moving the District forward on a variety of issues, ranging from animal welfare, internet accessibility and health literacy.
Todd proposed the Extreme Weather Protection for Animals Act in response to the outpour of concern in his ward for Momma the dog, a pit bull who had been left outside in the cold in the Petworth area. The legislation would amend DC Code 22-1001 by defining instances in which keeping animals outside in certain weather conditions constitutes as cruelty to animals.
Todd said the DC Code’s lack of clear definitions creates confusion regarding the Humane Rescue Alliance’s authority to take action when animals are left outdoors in extreme weather.
“It is our government’s responsibility to protect our friends who cannot protect themselves. It was truly heartwarming to see how many residents reached out yesterday with concern for Momma’s welfare,” he said. “I am pleased to start a conversation around better protecting our animals and look forward to discussing improvements to the bill with all stakeholders.”
The Wi-Fi Task Force Act would create a task force including government, business, and residents to provide comprehensive policy recommendations on how the District can efficiently provide free wireless internet access through the construction and operation of a municipality broadband network.
Todd said the legislation would help bridge the digital divide by connecting low-income residents with the vast opportunity the internet provides, and boost the economy through increased tourist and customer spending.
“The internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that is essential to everyday life,” he said. “Communities across the United States are successfully operating municipal broadband networks as a critical tool for increasing access, encouraging competition, fostering consumer choice and driving local and regional economic development.
“It is time for the District to do the same for our communities, residents, and visitors by building on our strong track record of inclusive legislation aimed at reducing income inequality,” Todd said.
Todd also introduced the Carbon Monoxide Detector Amendment Act that would amend the Smoke Detector Act of 1978 to require the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in dwelling units, hotels, motels, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and residential-custodial care facilities in the District.
“Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning,” Todd said. “Carbon monoxide poisoning is entirely preventable, and this bill would help keep District residents and workers safe.”
The bill would also provide regulations for the installation and maintenance of carbon monoxide detectors, require tenants to notify owners of an inoperable or deficient device, and prohibit tenants from removing or tampering with an installed detector.
Todd’s Heavy Backpacks Resolution aims to curb backpack-related injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 7,000 emergency room visits each year are due to such injuries, and at least 14,000 children are treated every year.
“For the safety and health of District students, schools should work with parent organizations to assess the extent to which students carry overweight backpacks and promote innovative homework strategies such as digital textbooks,” he said. “It is in the best interest of all District students if school administrators, teachers, parents and students be educated about the potential health impacts of heavy backpacks and take proactive measures to avoid injury.”
To help city residents make informed decisions about their personal health, Todd set forth the Health Literacy Council Establishment Act, which would establish a Health Literacy Council to promote the importance of understandable health information for patients.
“Only 12 percent of adults are proficient in health literacy, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, including 85,000 District residents who lack basic literacy skills,” Todd said. “The creation of a Council dedicated to health literacy would not only improve residents’ health outcomes and understanding, but would likely also aid literacy and workforce development programs in general.”