AG Racine Announces Major Legislative Victories that Will Protect Civil Rights, Improve Public Health and Safety

New Laws Enhance OAG’s Civil Rights Enforcement Authority, Expand MPD Recruitment Abilities & Combat Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced several legislative victories, including new bills that strengthen the Office of the Attorney General’s ability to bring civil rights cases, increase the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) ability to recruit officers who understand community needs, and help the District distribute tens of millions of dollars secured by OAG from settlements to address the opioid epidemic in the District.

“Over the past nearly 8 years, we’ve used our authority as the District’s first independent attorney general’s office to introduce and fight for legislation that makes the city a fairer, safer, and healthier place for all District residents,” said AG Racine. “I applaud the Council for passing these critical bills, which support our public interest mission and will help us combat the inequities plaguing our city.”

As an independent agency, OAG is authorized to introduce legislation for the Council’s consideration. The Council took final action to pass three pieces of legislation on issues of importance for OAG:

Strengthening OAG’s Civil Rights Enforcement

Attorney General Civil Rights Enforcement Clarification Amendment Act of 2021
AG Racine submitted legislation to permanently codify OAG’s authority under the District’s Human Rights Act (HRA), which is one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country. This legislation clarifies that OAG can investigate discriminatory practices under the HRA, bring public interest lawsuits for civil rights violations, and recover significant penalties from wrongdoers.

In recent years, OAG has won numerous civil rights victories, especially connected to fair housing. These include levying a $10 million penalty against three real estate companies that discriminated against low-income tenants—the largest housing-discrimination penalty in the nation’s history—and successful efforts to hold a developer accountable for “blockbusting,” an old-school form of discrimination in which real estate speculators attempt to lower the value of desired properties by stoking prejudices about minority groups that are moving into a neighborhood. This bill will ensure OAG can continue and expand its important civil rights work.

Read the full bill here.

Expanding MPD’s Recruitment Abilities

Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2021
AG Racine worked with the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety to add a provision to the broader police reform bill to ensure that qualified non-citizens who are legal permanent residents can serve as MPD officers. Immigrants, including many green card holders who are lawfully authorized to live and work in the United States, comprise nearly 14 percent of the District’s population. The new provision allowing qualified legal permanent residents to work as police officers will not only bring District policy in line with recruitment practices in a growing number of jurisdictions, but it will also foster a police force that is better able to connect with the diverse communities it serves.

Read the full bill here.

Improving Efforts to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

Opioid Litigation Proceeds Act of 2022
AG Racine submitted legislation designed to ensure that the funds the District will receive from settlements with companies involved in fueling the opioid epidemic will be used transparently, equitably, and effectively to combat the opioid crisis. The settlements with companies like Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma are expected to bring in tens of millions of dollars over the next 18 years. Under the settlement agreements, the bulk of the settlement funds must be used to address the effects of the opioid epidemic.

The legislation establishes an Office of Opioid Abatement and an Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission to identify and provide grants to the most promising evidence-based and evidence-informed strategies for combatting the opioid crisis in the District. The legislation also requires extensive public reporting about how the funds are used and the impact they are having, in order to ensure public transparency and accountability for these funds.

Read the full bill here.