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Posts in "DC-Hill Relations"
August 14, 2014
Coming up with a practical plan for management of the Washington, D.C.’s courts and prisons could be a great way to sell GOP deficit hawks on making it the 51st state, advocates pitching statehood for D.C. believe.
They’ll have their chance at an upcoming Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.
Pro-statehood activist Josh Burch says they don’t yet have the answer to a “$600 million question” about how the District would take back control and payment for its criminal justice system, presently paid for by all American taxpayers and run by the federal government.
“I think it’s a really legitimate question,” Burch told CQ Roll Call.
August 8, 2014
“House of Cards” is filming around the National Mall on Saturday, according to the D.C. Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.
It’s unlikely fans of the wildly popular Netflix series will spot stars Kevin Spacey or Robin Wright during the 10-hour set. Crews will be “shooting ‘drive-bys’, b-roll, and a mock-motorcade scene,” says a notice posted on the agency’s site.
Local officials would love to have the show, which shoots most of its scenes in Baltimore and other areas, do more production in the District, but filming in D.C. has its challenges — especially on the Capitol grounds. Full story
August 6, 2014
As pro-marijuana advocates had hoped, the D.C. Board of Elections voted unanimously Wednesday to put legalization on the November ballot.
The DC Cannabis Campaign is now rallying residents to vote “Yes on 71,” the initiative that would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, and cultivate up to three pot plants at any time.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., vowed to fight any congressional attempt to block the District from voting on the initiative and, if it is approved by voters, implementing it.
“We will not let history repeat itself,” Norton said in a statement on Wednesday. “Republicans tried to prevent D.C. from voting on an initiative in 1998 to legalize medical marijuana, and after voters approved it, blocked its implementation with an appropriations rider for more than 10 years.”
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., confirmed that the conservative congressman would try to block legalization in the District.
Norton said many Republicans “abandon their professed support of local control of local affairs when they have an opportunity to bully the residents of the District, who cannot hold them accountable at the ballot box,” and claimed she is already working with allies to protect the will of D.C. voters.
Supporters say that if the nation’s capital follows in the steps of of Colorado and Washington by legalizing marijuana, it would be the first jurisdiction to do so on the basis of racial justice. They claim D.C. has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the country and minorities are disproportionately affected.
A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital found that, in the District of Columbia — where roughly half the population is black — blacks are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than any other racial group. The study also fount that in 2010, 91 percent of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of blacks.
If approved, the D.C. Council could look at ways to tax and regulate the drug. The ballot initiative does not legalize sales of marijuana.
August 5, 2014
The District of Columbia will likely take a stride toward making pot legal this week, setting up a potent opportunity for Capitol Hill to weigh in.
On the agenda for Wednesday’s D.C. Board of Elections meeting is Measure 71, an initiative to legalize possession of up to two ounces of marijuana outside one’s home for personal use and allowing D.C. residents to grow their own weed inside, while restricting use for residents under 21.
“It would be a shock if we didn’t qualify for the [Nov. 4] ballot, and we would likely challenge it,” said Adam Eidinger, chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign. Pro-pot activists delivered more than 57,000 signatures to the elections board on July 7, which Eidinger noted is a “nice cushion” over the 22,600 valid D.C. voter signatures needed to qualify the measure for the ballot. Full story
August 4, 2014
The District of Columbia’s “No Taxation Without Representation” license plates can apparently be quite jolting to tourists, but perhaps not in the way advocates hope.
An Oklahoma woman who identified herself as “Donna” called in to C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program Friday griping about a three-day family vacation to the District and the many things that “appalled” her family, including the license plates.
Donna told Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., that she saw alcoholics, people sleeping on the streets and that her family “couldn’t find a park bench to sit on” because of the large homeless population.
“The world comes to Washington, D.C., and we were embarrassed, just totally embarrassed, at what liberalism has done to Washington, D.C., and it’s only a very small place — it should be put back into the hands of Congress to manage,” Donna said. She concluded that “liberalism is just devastating our capital,” before being cut short by the host. Full story
Plastic foam food containers will be banned from use in the District of Columbia beginning in 2016, but the material still reigns supreme in House cafeterias.
Democrats who chided Republicans for reinstituting Styrofoam when they took control of the House in 2011 want to see the old standard replaced with an environmentally friendly alternative, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did when she was speaker. Pelosi’s “Green the Capitol” initiative included compostable utensils and takeout trays, but it was nixed after financial criticism and was folded into existing sustainability efforts managed by the Architect of the Capitol.
Though the local Styrofoam ban, signed into law by Mayor Vincent Gray in late July, is not applicable to the Capitol grounds, some Democrats hope it could reopen the dialogue about how House cafeterias are stocked.
“Maybe they should fine the Hill,” suggested Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., a former legislative branch appropriator who spoke out against the GOP’s choice to begin using the plastic foam packaging again in 2011. He said then that it exposed his staff, colleagues and constituents to known health risks. Full story
July 31, 2014
District officials have suggested Maryland’s restrictive handgun permit policy might provide the best model for their city, as they attempt to enact new gun control measures, but Rep. Thomas Massie thinks they should look to Pennsylvania or New Hampshire.
The Kentucky Republican, who wants to wipe out all of the District’s local firearm restrictions — effectively making the city one of the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the nation — said Thursday that both states have “really good constitutional concealed carry laws.”
“So I would recommend they go, since they would like to be like a state, they should go look at a state that’s got this right — or they could use Kentucky,” he added, “but frankly, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire have the better laws.” Full story
July 30, 2014
Updated 7:30 p.m. | Though they won’t yet say how far they are willing to take their fight, District of Columbia officials plan to do everything in their power to limit the carrying of handguns in the nation’s capital, arguing that despite a court’s ruling that paves the way for more permissive laws, Washington is a unique place with heightened security concerns.
“An absolute ban on [carrying handguns] may not pass constitutional muster regardless of the judge, so we’re going to prepare by working on legislation that will pass muster” said Tommy Wells, a Democrat who represents Capitol Hill on the D.C. Council.
As chairman of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Wells will play a key role in D.C.’s response to the July 26 ruling by Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. that declared the complete ban on carrying handguns in public unconstitutional. The court granted a stay of the ruling Tuesday, giving District officials 90 days to figure out how they will protect public safety while complying with the Constitution. Full story
July 28, 2014
Updated 6:01 p.m. | For all practical purposes, a federal judge’s weekend ruling that overturned local laws prohibiting District of Columbia residents from carrying guns outside of their homes has opened the door for non-residents to tote handguns into the city and has made it potentially easier for members and staffers to transport firearms across the District to the Capitol.
D.C. police have been ordered not to arrest people for carrying pistols and deadly weapons in public. Washingtonians can still face criminal charges for carrying unregistered firearms and ammunition, but the millions of people who visit the nation’s capital are exempt from those provisions under an order from Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. The chief’s guidance effectively put the District’s firearm regulations, at least for non-residents, on a par with the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the country. D.C. police got additional guidance from Lanier on Monday afternoon. She clarified that the ruling applies only to handguns, not long guns or shotguns that are still illegal, and that committing crimes with handguns remains illegal.
For non-residents, legal possession of a handgun in D.C. is based on the laws of their home jurisdiction, meaning D.C. police will be responsible for knowing and enforcing licensing and permitting restrictions from around the country. Lanier noted that additional information on gun laws in other states will be forthcoming and said that in the meantime, officers can call a 24-hour information line.
Lanier’s orders came in response to Judge Frederick Scullin Jr.’s July 26 ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia that D.C.’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. In the 19-page decision, Scullin wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.
In her follow-up guidance to officers, Lanier nodded to the confusion. “Unfortunately, this ruling has left many unanswered legal questions that are currently being reviewed by the [Office of the Attorney General],” she stated.
Federal laws and a portion of D.C. code still prohibit people from carrying weapons on Capitol grounds, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider. But members and staffers already have weapons privileges for the Capitol campus dating back decades. Full story
July 24, 2014
Activists from the District of Columbia crowded the hallway outside Rep. Andy Harris’ office on Thursday to lobby the Maryland Republican for help with local issues.
They say Harris should welcome their thoughts and concerns, given his keen interest in D.C.’s drug policy. The “DC Constituent Service Day” staged by DC Vote was organized a week after the House passed a spending bill that included a measure Harris proposed to target the District’s marijuana decriminalization law.
“This is a porta-potty outside my house,” said Ramin Catirai, a 31-year-old who lives near the intersection of 11th and T streets in Northwest D.C. “It’s been there for about two weeks,” he said, offering a black-and-white photo of the sidewalk outside his front door. “You can smell it.” Full story