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January 30, 2015

Posts in "DC Statehood"

January 20, 2015

D.C. Hoping Obama Will Address Statehood in State of the Union Address

Obama making his 2014 State of the Union address. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Obama making his 2014 State of the Union address. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s been nearly 50 years since a president mentioned District of Columbia autonomy in the State of the Union address, but D.C. activists and leaders are hoping 2015 will be the year President Barack Obama brings the D.C. statehood effort to the national stage.

“I think this is an opportunity for President Obama to stand up for what I think is a moral cause and bring national attention to it,” said Josh Burch, co-founder of Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood. Full story

January 14, 2015

Norton Introduces D.C. Statehood Bill Despite New Hurdles

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

Carper, left, with Norton at the D.C. statehood hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the face of likely opposition from the Republican-led 114th Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., reintroduced the “New Columbia Admission Act” Tuesday, which would make the District of Columbia the 51st state.

“Although residents recognize that today’s far-right Republican House and Senate will not move a District statehood bill, our citizens have shown that they will not reduce their activism for statehood,” Norton said in a statement. “The introduction of the New Columbia Admission Act is an important signal that this is the moment for building a strong statehood movement in the city and nationwide, in addition to the continuing work in Congress.” Full story

January 2, 2015

Muriel Bowser, D.C. Reps Focused on Statehood Despite GOP Congress

Norton and Bowser called for a renewed D.C. statehood effort. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Norton and Bowser called for a renewed D.C. statehood effort. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The District of Columbia has a new mayor, and she is redoubling the effort to make sure D.C. becomes the 51st state.

“I said we’d forge a new path for statehood and full democracy in the District of Columbia – and today we launch an amped up federal and regional presence from the mayor’s office,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said after she took the oath of office Friday. 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

December 4, 2014

Incoming Committee Chairmen Talk D.C. Oversight

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (right) will take over the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Chaffetz, right, will take over the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When the 114th Congress begins its first session in January, Washington residents will have two new chairmen at the top of committees with jurisdiction over the District.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, won a four-way contest for the Oversight and Government Reform gavel on Nov. 18. Two days later, he met briefly with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to lay the groundwork for a working relationship.

“I’m going to work closely with Eleanor Holmes Norton,” Chaffetz told CQ Roll Call. “I told her I need to get my feet under me a little bit, but I want to come sit down with her in December and kind of map out issues that are important to her and things that we should address.” Full story

November 25, 2014

D.C. Statehood Activists Looking Toward GOP Congress

Activists say local controversy, like alleged corruption case against Mayor Vincent Gray, shouldn't thwart cause. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Activists say local controversies, such as the case against Gray, can’t thwart cause. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If anyone understands what a “grungy game” politics can be, it’s Capitol Hill staffers.

That’s what Johnny Barnes, an attorney who spent 25 years working for members of the House, theorized when the front page of The Washington Post reported that federal prosecutors might be moving closer to indicting Mayor Vincent Gray. Barnes huddled on Nov. 18 with about a dozen D.C. residents in the lobby of the Hart Senate Office Building, preparing to pitch staffers on why the District deserves to be the 51st state.

“These folks,” Barnes said, “are less sensitive or less focused on that kind of thing, because they know what politics is about.” He chuckled during the interview, recalling his interactions with the late Ohio Democrat James Traficant, who was booted from the House for corruption. “It’s a grungy game, and they know that.” Full story

November 7, 2014

Not Everyone Loves the New Columbia Statehood Commission

D.C. Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown, right,  fears his office is being "nickeled and dimed." (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

D.C. Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown, right, fears his office is being “nickeled and dimed.” (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown fears legislation packaged as an effort to streamline the statehood movement will effectively turn the District of Columbia’s two shadow senators and shadow representative into “employees” of the D.C. government, instead of elected officials.

For the past eight years, Brown has effectively served as a pro bono statehood lobbyist with no voting power in Congress. In that time, he believes the debate has shifted from whether the District becomes the 51st state to when. Brown is proud of the progress a New Columbia statehood bill with a record number of sponsors has made in Congress, and warns “interfering with the movement is not going to help it.”

Leaders in the executive and legislative branches of the District government say they are trying to bring coherence and new resources to the unpaid statehood delegation. The trio currently works out of a small office in the basement of the John A. Wilson building, with no salary, and no formal coordination with Mayor Vincent Gray or the 13 members of the D.C. Council. Full story

November 5, 2014

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

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., with Norton. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Republican wave didn’t crash in the District of Columbia, but that doesn’t mean the victors won’t have to contend with the GOP Congress.

As local Democrat Muriel Bowser celebrated a double-digit victory in the mayoral contest over independent challenger David Catania, she also took time to speak with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., about the makeup of the House and Senate.

Bowser has promised statehood and legislative autonomy would both be priorities when working with Capitol Hill, and told CQ Roll Call she supported the D.C. Council’s attempt to force Mayor Vincent Gray and Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt to comply with the local Budget Autonomy Act via the court system.

“Well I supported the council’s action in that,” Bowser said Tuesday. “I would expect that to be my policy as well.”

That might put her at odds with the newly elected top lawyer in the District, though. Voters chose veteran attorney Karl A. Racine to serve as the city’s first elected attorney general, who said the lawsuit is “not a winning case” during an Oct. 23 debate. The former associate White House counsel under President Bill Clinton defeated Paul Zukerberg, the attorney who appealed to the courts to get the race on the ballot, and three other candidates who also ran as Democrats. Full story

October 30, 2014

‘Smitty’ Vying to Become D.C. Attorney General

Edward "Smitty" Smith is one of five candidates for D.C. attorney general. (CREDIT)

Smith is one of five DC attorney general candidates. (Courtesy Smith Campaign Flickr account)

Through the drizzling rain on a gray October morning, blue signs emblazoned with “Smitty” are visible in the windows of a three-story red brick building in Shaw. In a small office upstairs, campaign staffers are working to make sure the signs’ namesake becomes D.C.’s first elected attorney general.

Edward “Smitty” Smith, a Democrat and D.C. native, is hoping his government experience and Washington roots will resonate with voters and set him apart from the four other Democrats vying for the position.

“I’m the only person in this race who’s managed government attorneys,” Smith told CQ Roll Call in a recent interview at his campaign headquarters. “This is a government office; it’s not a law firm.”

The posters bearing his nickname can be spotted all over the city. He’s been called “Smitty” his entire life — his Aunt Barbara came up with the nickname when he was born. Smith said he was called “Smitty” so often, he did not learn his real name until he was 3 years old.

Before entering the AG race, Smith held a number of positions in the Obama administration, including chief of staff and prosecutor at the Federal Communications Commission, program director at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and adviser at the Department of Commerce. Smith’s first job with the Obama administration was as deputy general counsel for the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Full story

October 28, 2014

DC Council Looks to Streamline Statehood Efforts

Mendelson and Gray both support new Office of Statehood Delegation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Mendelson and Gray both support new statehood efforts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In the four decades since Home Rule, elected officials in the District of Columbia have created four different commissions aimed at making the city the 51st state. Looking at the current condition of those panels, it might be obvious why the flag only has 50 stars.

Each one has no members, according to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. None one of the four have been functioning for years, “if ever,” he said Monday at a briefing previewing the council’s Tuesday legislative agenda.

Included on that agenda is a complicated piece of legislation designed to streamline more than 200 mayor-appointed boards and commissions in D.C. would consolidate and bolster the statehood effort. Introduced in January 2013 as the “Boards and Commissions Reform Act,” the council recently revamped the bill by adding “New Columbia Statehood Initiative” to the title and injecting more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars into the fight.

The bill, expected to get a final vote Tuesday, would eliminate 31 panels deemed inactive or unnecessary, including the Statehood Commission, the Statehood Compact Commission, District of Columbia Statehood Delegation Fund Commission, and the 51st State Commission. It would establish two new independent agencies: the Office of Statehood Delegation, and the New Columbia Statehood Commission. Full story

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