Mayor Vincent Gray persuades D.C. Council to let veto stand

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Phil Mendelson,D.C. Council,Mary Cheh,Vincent Gray,Jack Evans

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray notched a major political victory Tuesday after six members of the D.C. Council reversed their previous votes and supported his decision to veto a proposal to reform the District's controversial certified business enterprise program.

"We explained to the council that we had problems with the legislation, and they agreed," said mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro.

Lawmakers approved the measure unanimously in December, but Gray, prodded by the city's business community, announced last month he would use his mayoral veto for only the second time in his 26-month tenure.

Also Tuesday
> The D.C. Council voted to postpone long-planned cuts to the city's welfare program for another six months. The city had planned to slash benefits on April 1 for recipients who have been receiving assistance for more than five years, but Mayor Vincent Gray's administration said the city had not yet completed the steps it needed to take.
> Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh introduced a proposal Tuesday that would require gun owners in the District to carry a firearms liability insurance policy with a value of at least $250,000.

On Tuesday, only six lawmakers maintained their positions. Seven others voted to sustain Gray's veto, including one who was not a legislator at the time of the measure's initial approval. It would have taken nine votes to override the mayor's veto.

The bill that drew Gray's veto called for sweeping revisions to the notorious program, including a new minimum threshold for participation from certified subcontractors and an increase in the availability of preference points.

But the mayor said the measure was an "unworkable" proposal that could lead to widespread fraud, already a persistent issue in the program that has been a staple in the District in the 1970s.

At-large Councilman Vincent Orange, the bill's author, accused the seven lawmakers of bowing to interests beyond the District.

"Those seven have decided that they'd rather stand up for non-District-based businesses," Orange said.

But Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, one of the lawmakers who changed course, said he was acting on behalf of businesses in the city.

"They just don't support this bill," Evans said during council debate. "... I'm not in a position to take a stand against them."

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who also changed his vote, said he thought Gray's veto had given lawmakers additional time to weigh the implications of the measure, which the council amended and approved during a chaotic December session that stretched deep into the night.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner