District Digest: Fighting against the government shutdown

Shut it down in the District

On Tuesday morning, District officials discussed the impending federal shutdown and whether or not to ignore Congress and keep the city government open.

The Republican-controlled House passed a bill earlier this week which would continue to fund the federal government, but would not allocate any money for the Affordable Care Act. This bill is not expected to pass the majority-Democrat Senate, however, and, without a spending agreement reached by September 30, the federal government will shutdown.

Legally, the city is bound by the federal Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits government agencies and officials from spending money that was not properly appropriated to them.

District Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan advised District leaders on Tuesday meeting for the District leaders to be wary of “significant adverse consequences” from violating the law. At-Large Councilmember Vincent B. Orange proposed another option and suggested that the mayor should declare all of the city’s employees to be essential to the government.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray is prepared to pull-off an act of defiance, according to the Washington Post. It is not known if city workers will face prosecution for violating the law or how they will be paid if they do continue working in the face of a shutdown.

A government shutdown would affect Georgetown students in particular because trash pick up would be suspended for a week. Other closed or suspended services include the Department of Motor Vehicles, D.C. public libraries, recreation centers, the Circulator, and parking enforcement.

HIV diagnoses down 46 percent

In 2011, 2.4 percent of the population of Washington, D.C., or 15,056 residents, were living with HIV or AIDS, according to 2012 District of Columbia HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Epidemiology Annual Report released by the mayor’s office on September 23.

There were 718 newly diagnosed cases of HIV, which, compared to 1,333 cases in 2007 is a 46 percent decrease and an improvement in a city that has historically had the worst rates of HIV and AIDS in the nation.

The report also stated that the leading cause of transmission is sexual contact and that there was an 80 percent decrease in cases of HIV caused by infected needles. In 2007, before the DC Needle Exchange Program was enacted, there were 149 cases, compared to the 30 cases in 2011.

The highest prevalence of HIV was seen in the 20001 area code, which includes the Shaw and Bloomingdale neighborhoods.

The poor, poor panda cam

In the event of a federal government shutdown, a decision will be made whether or not to continue the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, which has allowed panda lovers across the world to watch Mei Xiang‘s pregnancy, labor, and her cub’s life thus far.

A federal shutdown will close the zoo to the public, but staff would still take care of the animals and make sure all the animals, including the panda cub will be properly cared for.

The video is run by volunteers, but it is unknown if they will continue in the event of a shutdown. “They have not decided on the Panda Cam,” said Linda St. Thomas, spokesperson at the Smithsonian Institution, according to City Paper.

Photo: Natalie Maynor via Flickr

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