WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that the Republican Senate fiscal year 2018 District of Columbia appropriations bill does not contain any anti-home-rule riders, exempts D.C. from a shutdown in fiscal year 2019, and provides funds for many of Norton’s legislative priorities. Unlike in past years, the bill was released by the Senate Appropriations Committee before being marked up by the committee, likely signaling the committee will not mark up the bill and it instead will be used as the basis for negotiations with the House on any final spending bill. Norton said that the Senate bill provides $30 million for the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG), $10 million below the $40 million fiscal year 2017 enacted level, and equal to the $30 million provided in President Trump’s budget and the House-passed fiscal year 2018 D.C. appropriations bill. However, Norton said that she will try to restore DCTAG funding to $40 million in the final spending bill, as she has done the past two fiscal years.
“Getting the D.C. Tuition Access Grant funding was necessarily our top priority, with thousands of our young people enrolled in colleges across the country and hundreds slated to go in February and September,” Norton said. “Yet again, this year getting a Senate appropriations bill free of anti-home rule riders is tangible progress that we intend to build upon. In a period known for budget cuts, we have successfully used the returns to the federal and District government by federal funds, such as DCTAG and HIV/AIDS progress, to keep these funds from being cut.”
For the third straight year, the Republican Senate D.C. appropriations bill allows the District to spend its local funds as its sees fit. In contrast, the House-passed fiscal year 2018 bill repealed D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law, the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), and blocks D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion, taxing and regulating marijuana sales, and carrying out a local D.C. anti-discrimination law, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA). Nevertheless, Norton saved RHNDA the past two fiscal years and believes she can do so again, along with saving the DWDA.
Norton said that the Senate bill again ignores the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012 (BAA), the referendum overwhelmingly passed in 2013 by D.C. voters that granted the District budget autonomy, for fiscal year 2018 by appropriating D.C.’s funds for fiscal year 2018. However, unlike the House-passed fiscal year 2018 bill, the Senate bill does not repeal the budget autonomy referendum.
Norton said that the Senate bill provides $8.5 million for the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) for ongoing work to control flooding in the city and clean up the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek, increasingly urgent as the city faces increasing flood risks on the National Mall and in downtown D.C. and city neighborhoods. The House-passed fiscal year 2018 bill did not provide any funding for DC Water.
The Senate bill provides $5 million to combat HIV/AIDS in D.C., equal to the amount in the House appropriations bill and equal to the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and the president’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, a Norton priority that has always been preserved in the final bill. The Senate bill also provides $435,000 for the Major General David F. Wherley, Jr. District of Columbia National Guard Retention and College Access Program for tuition for D.C. National Guard soldiers, the same level provided by the House-passed fiscal year 2018 bill and a small decrease from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.