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March 31, 2015

Posts in "Budget Autonomy"

March 16, 2015

Bowser Says D.C. Budget Autonomy Case Is Moot

Bowser said the Budget Autonomy Act is valid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bowser said the Budget Autonomy Act is valid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday said an ongoing case over a law granting D.C. control over its local budget is moot, deviating from her predecessor and throwing the future of the case into question.

Bowser filed her response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit after requesting the case be put on hold so she could solidify her position, as it began before she took office in January.

“Mayor Muriel Bowser hereby informs this court that her position differs from that of her predecessor,” Bowser’s lawyers wrote in her response. “She believes the Budget Autonomy Act is valid and, absent a judgment restraining her actions, intends to comply with its requirements. Mayor Bowser submits that, accordingly, there is no longer a live controversy between the council and the mayor.”

The case centers on a disagreement between two branches of D.C. government about the Budget Autonomy Act granting D.C. control over its locally raised funds. The act passed the council (when Bowser was a member) and was approved by District voters in April 2013. It took effect after passing a congressional review period last January, but the D.C. executive and legislative branches differed over whether it was actually legal.

Former Mayor Vincent C. Gray and then-Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan argued it could not move forward because Congress has control over D.C.’s budget. In May, a judge struck down the budget autonomy law, siding with Gray, but the council appealed the decision — that’s the case currently in question.

Though Bowser has argued the case is moot because the mayor’s office no longer disagrees with the council, Karl A. Racine, the District’s first elected attorney general, has taken the opposite position. Racine has said the act is not legal. The other party in the case, Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt, agreed, and previously warned the referendum could violate the law.

The CFO is technically member of the executive branch, but he acts independently of the mayor’s office. Racine, who represents DeWitt in the case, said in a statement Monday evening that the CFO and Racine maintain their position that the act is illegal, pointing to U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s ruling that the act was invalid.

“CFO DeWitt and I agree with Judge Sullivan and regretfully conclude that the Budget Autonomy Act is unlawful and cannot be enforced by the District,” Racie said. “Judge Sullivan, in his 47-page ruling on the case, said that, although he was very sympathetic to the Budget Autonomy Act’s purpose, the Act was simply not legally sound. My independent review of the case confirmed that Judge Sullivan’s conclusion is correct under law, and the CFO and the Office of the Attorney General look forward to a timely final decision in the case.”

In addition to stating her position, Bowser also requested permission to file a suggestion of mootness and a motion to dismiss the appeal by March 23. During the case’s oral arguments in October, Judge Patricia A. Millett questioned whether a new administration would render the case moot, which budget autonomy activists took as a positive sign that the court was open to the possibility.

Related:

Fate of D.C. Budget Autonomy Case Uncertain

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

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

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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February 21, 2015

Court Gives Bowser Budget Autonomy Deadline

Bowser filed a motion to pause the case, so she could review her position. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bowser has until March 16 to make a decision. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals has paused an ongoing case over budget autonomy, giving Mayor Muriel Bowser until March 16 to solidify her position in the case, public court documents filed Friday show.

The decision comes after Bowser filed a motion for abeyance on Feb. 13, asking the court to suspend the case she inherited from her predecessor, Vincent C. Gray, which pitted the mayor’s office against the D.C. Council. In the order filed Friday, the circuit judges granted Bowser’s motion, giving her 30 days to review her position.

Full story

February 18, 2015

Fate of D.C. Budget Autonomy Case Uncertain

Bowser filed a motion to pause the case, so she could review her position. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bowser filed a motion to pause the case, so she could review her position. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The ongoing case over a law granting the District of Columbia control over its local budget could be stalled as the mayor solidifies her position, raising questions about the future of the case.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, in conjunction with Attorney General Karl A. Racine, the District’s first elected attorney general, filed a motion with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 13 asking that the case pitting the mayor’s office against the D.C. Council be paused for 30 days so the mayor could review her position. Judges have yet to rule on the motion. Full story

February 2, 2015

Obama’s Budget Includes D.C. Marijuana, Budget Autonomy Provisions (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 5:49 p.m. | President Barack Obama waded into the debate about marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia, as well as budget and legislative autonomy, with a few provisions tucked into the fiscal 2016 budget proposal released Monday.

The proposal expands the District’s ability to set its own budget and spend local funds, rolling back sections of Congress’ 2015 spending package  that targeted social policies in D.C., particularly the city-wide initiative that would legalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana. Full story

December 9, 2014

‘Cromnibus’ Would Ban D.C. From Legalizing Recreational Pot

The District will have to grapple with a new marijuana rider. ( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The District will have to grapple with a new marijuana rider. ( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress would block the District of Columbia from legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but preserve its decriminalization law, under the spending package released Tuesday night.

In the D.C. appropriations section, which allocates $680 million of federal funds to the District, is an amendment barring federal and local funds from being used “to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or reduce penalties associated with the possession, use or distribution” of marijuana. The language would ban the city from enacting Referendum 71, a ballot initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters in November. Full story

November 5, 2014

D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan Resigns

The District of Columbia’s Attorney General, Irvin B. Nathan, tendered his resignation Wednesday, effective Nov. 17. Nathan’s resignation comes the day after D.C. voters elected attorney Karl A. Racine to succeed him.

“As this administration winds down in the six weeks after my departure, it is time for me to move on, to focus on some long neglected personal issues, and to formulate professional plans for the future,” Nathan wrote in his letter to Mayor Vincent Gray.

Gray said in a statement Wednesday that Chief Deputy Attorney General Eugene Adams will be named interim attorney general upon Nathan’s departure.

In his resignation letter, Nathan assured Gray he would help Racine transition to the office. Racine, the District’s first elected attorney general, will be sworn in in January.

“I pledge that we will make available to the full resources of our office to make a smooth transition to an elected Attorney General,” wrote Nathan, “so that the excellent team we have assembled can function for the benefit of our citizens for years to come.”

When Racine takes over the office, he will be thrust into an ongoing legal battle over the District’s attempt to achieve budget autonomy through an act passed by a voter referendum. The council, along with Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, support the Budget Autonomy Act, but Racine agreed with Nathan’s decision not to comply with the legislation. So, the District may have to turn to Congress to receive authority over its budget.

Related:

D.C. Faces Statehood, Marijuana Challenges With Republican Congress

Rand Paul: Let D.C. Legalize Marijuana, If Voters Want

Could Nov. 4 Render D.C. Budget Autonomy Fight Moot?

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October 17, 2014

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)

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

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September 15, 2014

D.C. Statehood Hearing Explores Other Options

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

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

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’

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(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

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