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Opening Statement of Councilmember David Grosso

Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety Budget Oversight Hearing on the

Office of the Attorney General
April 22, 2019

Thank you Chairperson Allen and thank you to all of the witnesses here today to testify on the
FY20 budget for the Office of the Attorney General.

Under the leadership of Karl Racine, the Office of the Attorney General has demonstrated an
unyielding commitment to the residents of the District of Columbia, championing a host of
issues that previously fell under the radar.

One such issue is the OAG's work around student loan debt.

In 2016, I introduced and the Council passed the Student Loan Ombudsman Establishment and
Servicing Regulation Act of 2016, which created a new Student Loan Ombudsman position
within the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB), and allowed DISB to
license student loan servicers operating in the District.

The goal of the legislation was to establish a one-stop shop resource for residents to help them
address questions around their student loan debt, file complaints against their servicers, and
identify resources to reduce their debt burden. Further, as there is no comprehensive federal
statutory or regulatory framework for providing consistent, market-wide standards for student
loan servicing, a critical link between borrowers and lenders, the law empowered DISB to hold
these actors accountable to the borrowers they serve.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has continued to cripple the progress made under
the Obama Administration to prioritize the many students struggling to repay their loans and
has greatly limited states' ability to protect their residents.

In 2017, the District of Columbia was sued and, as a result of the litigation, the District is now
limited in its ability to hold student loan servicers accountable.

Given the status of the litigation, the role of the Student Loan Ombudsman is more important
than ever; however, because the current Ombudsman is also working to address foreclosure
issues, I have admittedly been disappointed with the work or lack thereof, of the Ombudsman.

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For this reason, I'm interested in hearing more from OAG about their work to address student
loan debt issues and their capacity to expand this work to better serve our student borrowers.
Specifically, I'd like to know how many full-time equivalents OAG currently has working under
their Office of Consumer Protection, if additional FTEs would be needed to better serve our
student borrowers, and how much funding might be necessary to build out a robust Borrower
Advocate office within the OAG.

Additionally, I look forward to hearing more about the Attorney General’s plans to continue
violence prevention work in the coming year, in close collaboration with the Office of
Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, and I know that OAG will continue to be a great
partner in our continuing work to address attendance and absenteeism in our schools

No small part of that is addressing the underlying causes for students missing school, including
the chronic health problems that are exacerbated or even caused by poor housing conditions,
which is importantly receiving increased emphasis from OAG.

Lastly, I want to note that Attorney General Racine worked with me and Councilmember
McDuffie in 2015 to find an arrangement that we thought would end the routine shackling of
juveniles when they appear for hearings in Superior Court.

I have since learned that this has not been as effective as we had hoped, and most young
people brought into the courtroom from detention are still shackled.

It is my hope that the OAG will again engage on this issue with me, my colleagues, and the
judges at Superior Court to solve this problem for good by transferring responsibility of
security for juveniles in the court from the U.S. Marshals to the Department of Youth
Rehabilitation Services.

Once again I want to commend Attorney General Racine and his team for their dedication,
commitment, and hard work on behalf of all District residents and I look forward to working
with the OAG throughout this budget process.


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