- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2011

A D.C. Council member is proposing a package of ethics-reform bills that would impose term limits on officeholders while raising to $170,000 the salaries of city lawmakers who are already among the most highly paid in the nation.

Vincent B. Orange proposed his “new deal for the District of Columbia” a day before the council’s first legislative session since the summer recess. Mr. Orange, at-large Democrat, said his efforts will “start the conversation” on bold reforms, even if some of his ideas prove to be unpopular among his colleagues.

“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” he said at a press conference inside the John A. Wilson Building.

The proposals are part of a hodgepodge of legislation that highlight individual council members as champions of reform after a steady drip of apparent ethical lapses in city hall this year.

Mr. Orange on Monday trumpeted an agenda that also includes a Committee on Ethics and Accountability, a city Office of the Jobs Czar and a moratorium on opening new strip clubs in Ward 5.

His ethics-related proposals add to the swelling stack of legislation to increase government oversight, mandate ethics training or prohibit specific practices among elected officials.

Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown told The Washington Times last week he wants to cull the proposals and form a comprehensive ethics bill by the end of the year.

Mr. Brown said he has tasked Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat, with sorting through these bills as the new chairperson of the Committee on Government Operations.

Ms. Bowser said she expects a “flood of reform legislation to come to my committee,” noting she has met with the city’s attorney general, inspector general, auditor and officials at the Office of Campaign Finance.

She has scheduled public hearings for Oct. 12 and Oct. 26 to allow civic associations and private citizens to comment on ethics reform.

Mr. Orange said he will work with Ms. Bowser “so we can satisfy everyone’s concerns.”

Among his key initiatives, Mr. Orange touted a term-limits bill that would restrict council members from serving more than two consecutive, four-year terms as mayor, council member, council chairman, attorney general or as a member of the Board of Education. The term limits would not be retroactive, so sitting council members would be entitled to two additional full terms if the measure passed.

Another bill would turn council members into full-time employees to prevent conflicts of interest caused by outside employment. Mr. Orange’s proposal would set the salary for each council member to within $20,000 of the chairman’s, a pay raise from about $125,000 to $170,000.

The District’s “part-time” members are already the second-highest paid city council in the nation, earning more than New York City’s legislators and trailing only those in Los Angeles, who earn an average $178,879 annually, according to a February report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, said he already feels “well-compensated,” but he would be willing to give some thought to a prohibition on outside employment.

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