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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation's capital

by the editor of The Common Denominator

BUSINESS LICENSE LIMBO: The mayor's press release said he was vetoing the D.C. City Council's June 3 repeal of the city's controversial master business license. But what the mayor's June 24 veto really did was kill the council's attempt to extend enforcement of the June 30 deadline for obtaining the new license. Repeal of the licensing law requires a second vote by the council, scheduled for July 8.

Councilman Jack Evans, the leading proponent of scrapping the master license legislation as seriously flawed, called the mayor's veto "ridiculous."

"He's putting thousands of businesses in technical violation of the law," Evans complained last week. "He's putting into effect a law that everybody agrees is flawed."

The council was attempting to extend the enforcement deadline until the issue of whether to amend or repeal the licensing law is settled.

The mayor's veto means all D.C. businesses with incomes of at least $2,000 a year - including many previously unlicensed businesses such as babysitters, piano teachers, churches, newspapers and nonprofit organizations - must comply with the law that requires that they obtain a master business license.

A proposed amendment, upon which the council has never voted, would increase the earnings threshold for obtaining a master business license to $20,000 and exempt several classes of businesses, including churches, lawyers and real estate agents. Councilwoman Carol Schwartz, who originally co-sponsored Evans' repeal legislation but ultimately voted against it on June 3, said she wants to see the annual income threshold raised to $30,000.

Evans said he is confident that the 7-6 council margin to repeal the master business license remains intact for a second vote on July 8. However, he acknowledges that obtaining the required nine votes to override a mayoral veto is less likely at this point.

As an alternative to repeal, Evans said he is proposing that only businesses that had to be licensed under the District's previous 1908 system be required to obtain a master business license. This alternative would leave intact many management improvements mandated for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs under the law that created the master business license.

CHIEF RAMSEY'S RAISE: During a telephone conversation last week with Common Denominator reporter Erin Henk, mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock raised a previously unvoiced reason that Police Chief Charles Ramsey needs a $25,000 increase in his $150,000 annual salary. Bullock said the chief, like other parents, needs to combat the rising cost of private school tuition. The city council is expected to vote July 8 on the chief's proposed pay raise.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator