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D.C. Council to start session Wednesday

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,D.C. Council

The D.C. Council is scheduled to begin its new session Wednesday with swearing-in ceremonies for about half of its members and an organizational meeting hours later.

Six lawmakers, including new member David Grosso, will take their oaths of office at the 10 a.m. ceremony at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

With Grosso, who won an at-large seat in the November general election, At-large Councilman Vincent Orange, Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander and Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry will begin four-year terms.

The council will get to work within hours when it meets at the John A. Wilson Building to vote on its rules and committees for Council Period 20, which will last for two years.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson proposed a roster for the all-important committee assignments last month, and lawmakers are expected to adopt his recommendations.

Although five legislators will head the same committees they ran in the last council period, Mendelson's proposal will bestow greater authority on other lawmakers.

At-large Councilman David Catania, whose close oversight of the city's health agencies has won him widespread praise, will take over a newly formed education committee. Previously, education issues were considered in the Committee of the Whole, a panel on which every lawmaker sits.

Alexander will take the lead on the health committee, which clears the way for Orange to oversee, with his existing portfolio of small business issues, consumer affairs.

And Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, who formerly chaired the panel with oversight of libraries, parks and recreation, will lead the judiciary committee.

Bowser, who easily won re-election in November, will assume control of the influential economic development panel, handing over her chairmanship of the government operations committee to Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie.

McDuffie, who joined the council in May after winning a special election, is also Mendelson's choice to serve as the council's chairman pro tempore, a post that is mostly ceremonial but would allow him to serve as the legislative body's leader in Mendelson's absence.

Evans will retain control of the finance committee, while Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham will continue to be chairman of the committee with oversight of human services programs and alcohol regulations.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh is poised to keep the gavel of the transportation and environment panel, and Barry will hold onto his committee that handles community affairs. Mendelson also added workforce issues to Barry's portfolio, along with parks and recreation issues that a standalone committee formerly handled.

Grosso and At-large Councilwoman Anita Bonds, who joined the council last month, are not slated to head any committees.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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