Councilmember Silverman Introduces Legislation to Increase Transparency of District Fees

Talking to District residents and businesses, I often hear that it is difficult to understand what fees and regulations apply to them. Today I introduced the Fee Transparency Act of 2015, legislation to make those fees more transparent.

This legislation would require the City Administrator to publish a list of every fee charged by the District government. It has been done before, and this legislation would make it a yearly practice. In 2012 and 2013, the Gray administration published a master fee schedule that listed more than 2,500 fees across almost 40 different agencies.

These fees and charges range from building permits at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to late registration fees at the University of the District of Columbia to pharmacist licenses at the Department of Health. DCRA alone has more than 900 fees.  In FY 2014, these fees, fines, and charges earned the District almost $300 million.

Publishing a comprehensive list of what it costs to live, work, and play in the District is a simple, basic step to improve transparency. A District business should be able to easily find the cost of all the licenses or permits they need to operate in the District. District residents should also be able to quickly and simply find what it costs to receive services from the District government, whether it is renting a room at your local recreation center or getting a copy of your birth certificate.

The proposed master fee schedule would list each fee, identify its administering agency, identify the authorizing legislation or regulation, and list the total monetary amount collected. The legislation calls for the schedule to be made available in a spreadsheet format, to allow the data to be easily remixed and shared by the public. The schedule would additionally indicate what fees can be paid online. This bill would help identify where fees might be redundant, obsolete, or contrary to good public policy.

The legislation I introduced today is an important step toward making D.C. government more transparent and understandable to businesses, residents, and even the Council and Mayor.

Thank you to my co-sponsors, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh, LaRuby May, and Brianne Nadeau, for their support.