District of Columbia Resources

This State Guide provides an in-depth look at sources of law within the District of Columbia.

The Legislative Process

 District of Columbia Legislative ProcessThere are 13 council members - a representative from each of the eight wards and four members elected at large, and the Chair. The Council was given power to enact laws, but D.C. legislation and budgets are still subject to Congressional and presidential approval. 

Introduction of Bills

A bill is introduced by Council members. The Mayor can request the introduction of a bill and the Chair of the Council may introduce that bill as a courtesy. The Bill is given a bill number such as B15-0606, "Choice in Drug Treatment Advisory Commission Amendment Act of 2004" and assigned to the appropriate committee(s). The bill number tells us that it is the 606th bill introduced in the 15th Council Period (Each Council Period lasts for 2 years, starting January 2nd of an odd-numbered year and lasts through January 1st of the following odd-numbered year).

Committee Stage

The Council Chair assigns the bill to the appropriate committee(s). If a public hearing or roundtable is held, a notice will be published in the D.C. Register for public comment 15 days in advance of a scheduled public hearing. The committee may mark up the bill and vote to recommend that the Council approve or disapprove the bill. The committee may take no action and let the bill die. If the committee reports the bill out, the Council officers review the legislation and report to the Committee of the Whole whether the record is complete and in proper legal or technical order. Council members do not debate the bill at this stage, but can ask for clarification or explanations. The Chairman will place the bill on the legislative meeting agenda with the approval of the Committee of the Whole.

First Reading

At the legislative meeting, Members debate the bill and can offer amendments. If the majority of those present votes no, the bill dies. If the majority votes yes, the bill passes the first reading and is scheduled for a second reading at another legislative meeting. The majority may vote to table the bill or return it to committee for reconsideration.

Second Reading

Council takes a second vote. If the majority votes no, the bill dies. If the majority votes yes, the bill passes.


The Mayor has ten days to sign the bill at which point, the bill becomes an act (e.g. A15-390). If the Mayor does not take any action within ten days, the bill becomes an act. The Mayor can veto the bill and return it to the Council. Council, however, may override the Mayor's veto with a two-thirds majority vote within 30 days.


The Council chair transmits the act to the U.S. Congress to review for 30 legislative days (for criminal acts, Congress has 60 legislative days). If Congress takes no action, the act becomes a law (e.g. L15-155). Congress can pass a joint resolution disapproving the act. The joint resolution has to be approved by the President.

Further Information: