Democratic Mayor’s Veto Overruled

Democratic Mayor's Veto Overruled

( – Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) took a stand against the city’s council earlier this month when it significantly tried to overhaul the criminal code. When the bill crossed her desk on January 4, she vetoed it instead of signing the legislation. Nearly two weeks later, the council overrode her decision.

The city’s criminal code hasn’t seen any comprehensive updates since Congress enacted them more than a century ago, in 1901. In the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022, council members voted unanimously to change the criminal sentencing guidelines. It eliminates most minimum sentence requirements and lowers the maximum sentence a judge can issue, even for violent crimes. The change also gives people accused of misdemeanor offenses the right to a jury trial, a move Bowser believes could overload the court system. She vetoed the bill as a result of her concerns.

In her letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), the mayor said, “this bill does not make us safer,” a move that the chairman decried as siding with Congress’ Freedom Caucus. Mendelson explained that all laws approved by the council must undergo a mandatory 60-day Congressional review. He felt Bowser’s rhetoric would work against the new law during the review.

Still, Bowser’s veto didn’t deter the council. It immediately moved to override her decision and only needed a two-thirds majority to do so. In the end, it succeeded with a 12-1 vote.

Bowser has insisted the fight isn’t over. In a statement released by her office, the DC mayor said she would send “legislation to the Council in the next 30 days,” addressing what she believes are the weakest areas of the Revised Criminal Code Act, according to ABC News.

Some council members said they were open to suggestions on how to further amend the act before fully implementing it. The law will likely go into effect within three years to give authorities and the justice system time to prepare for the upcoming changes.

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