Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 22, 2014

Posts in "Budget Autonomy"

October 17, 2014

Could Nov. 4 Results Render D.C.’s Budget Autonomy Case Moot?

gun presser017 071714 440x292 Could Nov. 4 Results Render D.C.s Budget Autonomy Case Moot?

Will Gray’s successor make budget autonomy suit moot? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

More than 40 years after President Richard M. Nixon signed the Home Rule Act, legal experts in the District of Columbia are fighting about what the feds intended.

Federal appeals court judges listened to more than an hour of oral arguments Friday in the case pitting the District’s executive branch against its legislative branch. It’s round two of a legal battle launched in April.

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Patricia A. Millett pressed a politically potent question for this time of year. Will the entire suit be “moot” after Nov. 4, when the city casts ballots for a new mayor and its first elected attorney general?

If the new administration chooses to comply with the local budget autonomy law signed by Mayor Vincent Gray in February 2013, and approved by 83 percent of voters two months later, there’s “at least a possibility that what we have right now [might] no longer be what the courts call a case or controversy,” said Walter Smith, executive director of DC Appleseed.

“The court could say, ‘Well, the case is over,’ dismiss the appeal and vacate the decision,” Smith said in an interview after the arguments. As the legal architect behind the charter amendment, he supports the D.C. Council’s appeal to require Gray and Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt to comply with the law.

Budget autonomy referendum backers claim Congress provided a pathway for the District to amend the budget process via its charter. In court documents, lawyers for the D.C. Council cited House staff memos and notes from 1973 conference negotiations with the Senate to discern lawmaker’s intentions. They noted that in 1984, Congress made it easier to amend the charter.

D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan counters that Capitol Hill “put it off limits” for the council to to change its budget process. Nathan insisted the panel go “back to the merits” and uphold U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s May 19 ruling that the city does not have the right to spend its local revenues without seeking an annual appropriation from Congress. He wants “common sense” to prevail.

Both sides say they believe the District deserves budget autonomy, but the executive branch agrees with the House GOP and the Government Accountability Office: The city can’t cut its own purse strings.

Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser and independent candidate David Catania are both members of the D.C. Council, which voted unanimously to adopt the local budget autonomy law. Bowser, Catania and Carol Schwartz — another independent challenger for mayor and a former councilmember — have all expressed support for budget autonomy.

Paul Zukerberg, an attorney general contender, attended Friday’s arguments as a supporter of the D.C. Council. He told CQ Roll Call that, if elected, he would enforce the local budget autonomy law, but that might not be the end of the legal battle.

“There’s also a provision that would require the appointment of independent counsel for Jeff DeWitt or the mayor if they had different opinions,” Zukerberg said. “The CFO is independent so if he persisted there would still be an attorney representing him, so it wouldn’t necessarily mean the case is over.”

This hypothetical scenario is something Smith differed on. He said the CFO is still a member of the executive branch. A new attorney general’s opinion may be “binding on every District of Columbia official,” Smith said.

The appeals court has no set timeline to decide the appeal, but advocates of budget autonomy hope for a fresh start after Nov. 4.

DC Vote spokesman James Jones said he looks forward to having an elected attorney general who balances “the responsibility to uphold the law” with “viewing the people of the District as a client.”

Related:

D.C. Budget Autonomy Ruling Is Just the Beginning of Local Control Fight

D.C. Budget Autonomy Amicus Brief Takes Slap at Congress

D.C. Council to Mayor: See You in Court

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Warns Local Budget Autonomy Law Puts Home Rule at Risk

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

September 15, 2014

D.C. Statehood Hearing Explores Other Options

norton carper 175 091514 440x292 D.C. Statehood Hearing Explores Other Options

Carper, left, chaired Monday’s hearing on D.C. statehood options. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Washington, D.C. residents crowded into a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Monday to witness the first hearing on D.C. statehood in two decades, though enacting statehood in the 113th Congress is not likely anytime soon.

Sen. Thomas R. Carper, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, facilitated the hearing, fulfilling a promise that the Senate would consider D.C. statehood in the fall.

But at the end of the hearing, Carper searched for viable solutions other than statehood, asking the second round of panelists, “What should we be able to agree to?” Full story

September 10, 2014

D.C. Marijuana, Gun Riders Left Out of House CR

norton 136 121712 440x280 D.C. Marijuana, Gun Riders Left Out of House CR

Norton characterized the CR as an “important step in our efforts to protect the District’s right to self-government.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans unveiled what they’re calling a “clean” continuing resolution on Tuesday night, to the delight of budget autonomy advocates in the District of Columbia.

Two divisive provisions in the House-passed spending bill that opponents said intruded on D.C.’s right to Home Rule were left out of the legislation that would keep the government functioning through Dec. 11. Full story

July 23, 2014

For D.C. Statehood Activists, Obama’s Actions Leave ‘a Lot to Be Desired’

dcvote 08 033011 1 440x294 For D.C. Statehood Activists, Obamas Actions Leave a Lot to Be Desired

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

Norton Challenger Thinks a Transformed District Deserves a New Delegate

krepp009 060414 440x292 Norton Challenger Thinks a Transformed District Deserves a New Delegate

Krepp is an independent candidate to be the District’s congressional delegate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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

Advocates Fired Up as D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Avoids Appropriations Rider

weed 7 120408 302x330 Advocates Fired Up as D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Avoids Appropriations Rider

Appropriations riders were not used as a blunt instrument — this time. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

Budget Autonomy Backers Celebrate D.C. Appeals Court Ruling on Attorney General Case

dcvote 08 033011 440x294 Budget Autonomy Backers Celebrate D.C. Appeals Court Ruling on Attorney General Case

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

DC Vote Presses Senators on Autonomy, Citing Support for NFL Name Change

marchonwashington 004 082313 440x287 DC Vote Presses Senators on Autonomy, Citing Support for NFL Name Change

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

D.C. Budget Autonomy Ruling Is Just the Beginning of Local Control Fight

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.

norton015 051914 440x292 D.C. Budget Autonomy Ruling Is Just the Beginning of Local Control Fight

Norton said she would continue to fight for D.C. budget autonomy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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

Federal Judge Strikes Down D.C. Budget Autonomy Law

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.

Full story

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...