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Posts in "Budget Autonomy"
July 23, 2014
When voters elected Barack Obama in 2008, District of Columbia residents were thrilled to see a senator who backed a bill to give them voting rights in Congress head to the White House.
Midway through his second term, however, many ardent supporters of the D.C.’s longtime quest for greater autonomy are less optimistic about the prospects of Obama aiding their cause. The District still doesn’t have budget autonomy or legislative autonomy, meaning local laws are still vulnerable to interference from members of Congress.
“His actions over the last six years leave a lot to be desired,” Josh Burch, a Brookland resident who heads the group Neighbors United for DC Statehood, said in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call. Burch and other activists were pleased to hear the president declare his full-fledged support for D.C. statehood during a town hall meeting in Northwest Washington, but there is still a gap between the sentiment and concrete steps toward statehood. Full story
June 26, 2014
While Washington’s streetscape, city government and demographics have changed dramatically over the past quarter-century, its representation in Congress has stayed constant over roughly the same period of time.
District voters first elected Eleanor Holmes Norton to be their non-voting delegate to the House in 1990, as a crack epidemic and related surge of violence made the city notorious as the nation’s “murder capital.”
During the mid-1990s, she helped the city navigate a series of managerial crises that led Congress to take control of D.C.’s finances and fought against further erosion of home rule. She routinely won re-election with more than 90 percent of the vote throughout the 2000s, as she worked to soften some Capitol Hill attitudes toward the revived and growing city. This April, she began cruising toward a 13th term with 97 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.
Local tour guide and historian Tim Krepp looks at all the changes the city has undergone during Norton’s 24 years in Congress — from budget deficits to surpluses, from an exodus to the suburbs to some of the nation’s fastest urban population growth — and says it’s time for voters to re-evaluate whom they want advocating for their interests on Capitol Hill. Full story
June 18, 2014
The House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee advanced a familiar slate of social policy riders for the District’s budget on Wednesday, but one of the city’s latest local policy initiatives appears safe in fiscal 2015.
The Republican-backed bill would not block D.C. from implementing a law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The decriminalization legislation, in the midst of a 60-day congressional review period, remains intact in the spending bill now headed for the full appropriations panel.
“We have too many allies now,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said during an interview with CQ Roll Call shortly after a subcommittee voice vote to approve the spending bill. Full story
June 4, 2014
The legal architect of the District’s local budget autonomy law celebrated an order handed down by D.C.’s highest court Wednesday.
DC Appleseed Executive Director Walter Smith declared a District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling in support of holding an attorney general election in 2014 an “exciting” development for Washingtonians — and a good sign for how the court might rule on pending budget autonomy litigation.
The legal fight to put the attorney general on the November ballot in accordance with a 2010 voter referendum and the court battle over the validity of a 2013 amendment to the District’s budget process are “similar in some ways because both were [examples] where the people themselves used their authority under the Home Rule Act to advance democracy,” Smith said. Full story
May 27, 2014
The 50 senators advocating a name change for the Washington Redskins out of respect for tribal sovereignty are being asked to take a stand on behalf of the District’s quest for greater autonomy.
DC Vote sent a letter on May 23 urging each senator to support three pieces of legislation to advance D.C. autonomy, including the “New Columbia Admission Act,” a bill to grant the District statehood that is sponsored by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del.
The May 22 letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claims the city’s football team is “on the wrong side of history.”
DC Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry hopes senators recognize that a similar logic applies to the plight of the disenfranchised citizens of the District, who have no voting representation on Capitol Hill.
“Congress can put the United States on the right side of history,” Perry said in a release. “We hope the Senators who feel compelled to weigh in on this issue will also take the time to consider how the unjust denial of democracy in the capital of the United States looks to people around the world.”
The full text of the letter is below: Full story
May 19, 2014
A federal judge’s ruling on Monday that the District of Columbia does not have the power to grant itself budget autonomy quickly became new ammunition in Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s fight for greater autonomy from Capitol Hill.
When U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan — a native Washingtonian who said he was “deeply moved” by arguments that D.C. residents are entitled to spend their own locally raised revenues — ruled that the court was “powerless to provide a legal remedy and cannot implement budget autonomy for the District,” Norton took it in stride.
After decades of fighting for budget autonomy from Congress, Norton is is hoping the ruling adds new urgency to congressional effort to win District budget autonomy.
She was initially skeptical of the local attempt to amend the Home Rule Charter, but has vowed to redouble efforts to prevent any move by Congress to block or overturn the budget autonomy referendum, while fighting off new social policy riders on fiscal 2015 appropriations measures. Full story
A federal judge struck down the District’s budget autonomy law on Monday, ruling that the city does not have the right to spend its local revenues without seeking an annual appropriation from Congress.
U.S. District Judge Emmett G. Sullivan acknowledged that the policy arguments for budget autonomy are “extraordinarily powerful,” but the argument that the Home Rule Act of 1973 gives D.C. the authority to grant itself control over its own local spending “simply cannot withstand judicial scrutiny.”
Ultimately, the authority to grant D.C. budget autonomy lies with Congress, Sullivan found. His ruling reflected statements made from the bench on May 14, when both sides argued their case.
May 14, 2014
A federal judge delivered some sobering news to proponents of budget autonomy for the District of Columbia on Wednesday.
Although the city’s long and hard-fought struggle to free its locally raised funds from the congressional appropriations process “tugs at heart strings,” District Judge Emmett G. Sullivan said the courts may be “powerless to provide a legal remedy.”
Sullivan spent nearly three hours questioning attorneys on home rule, Congress’ role in budget autonomy and the politics surrounding the case that pits the D.C. Council against Mayor Vincent Gray. He carefully scrutinized the language of the Home Rule Act enacted four decades ago, but did not deliver a ruling on whether it grants local officials the power to amend the budget process — though he implied that he intends to rule as quickly as possible. Full story
May 13, 2014
Legislative attempts in Congress to give the District of Columbia budget autonomy continue to undercut the D.C. Council’s push to enforce its local budget autonomy law, according to a GOP-endorsed brief recently filed in a federal lawsuit that will be argued Wednesday.
Under the direction of Republican leaders, the Office of the House General Counsel weighed in on the side of Mayor Vincent Gray in his legal dispute with the D.C. Council over the voter-approved changes to the city’s budgeting procedure.
The 26-page brief filed with the support of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., argues that the only “constitutionally permissible manner” for D.C. to achieve the budget autonomy is by way of the normal legislative process — “and Congress has not yet done that.” Full story
May 6, 2014
Some heavy hitters are backing the D.C. Council’s strategy for gaining budget autonomy in its pending lawsuit against Mayor Vincent Gray, arguing that Congress has proved unable to address the issue.
Former two-term D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams joined former Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican who chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and senior Brookings Institution Fellow Alice Rivlin in an amicus brief supporting the District’s fiscal freedom from Congress.
“The need for congressional approval of D.C.’s budget distorts the budgeting process, costs local taxpayers millions of dollars every year, and creates a destructive uncertainty about the provision of basic services when partisan politics leaves the federal government’s own financial decisions in disarray,” they argue in a 13-page brief filed in federal court on May 2. Full story