Norton to File Amendments to Remove Anti-Home-Rule Riders as D.C. Appropriations Bill Goes to House Floor, This Week

Releases Prepared Testimony Ahead of Rules Committee Hearing, Tomorrow

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that she and her congressional allies will offer amendments to remove the anti-home-rule riders from the fiscal year 2017 District of Columbia appropriations bill when it comes before the House this week. Norton will testify on her amendments at a Rules Committee hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at 5:00 p.m.

There are currently three anti-home-rule riders in the bill—one repealing the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012 (BAA), the referendum overwhelmingly passed in 2013 by D.C. voters that granted the District budget autonomy, and two that block D.C. from spending its local funds, one on abortion services for low-income women, and another on taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) are cosponsors of Norton’s amendment to strike the abortion rider, and Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is the cosponsor of Norton’s amendment to strike the marijuana rider.

“This week, House Republicans once again look to violate their self-proclaimed principles of local control over local affairs by imposing undemocratic riders on the District of Columbia,” Norton said. “If Members want to step all over D.C. home rule and our right to self-government, I am going to force them to do it on record and in front of the American people.”

The Republican-led Rules Committee determines which amendments, if any, may be offered on the floor.

Norton’s full Rules Committee testimony, as prepared for delivery, is below.

Testimony of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
House Committee on Rules
H.R. 5485, Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2017
June 21, 2016

I urge you to make in order five amendments that strike undemocratic, harmful, big-government riders related to the District of Columbia. These riders prohibit the D.C. government from spending its local funds, which consist entirely of local taxes and fees, as it deems necessary for the nearly 700,000 American citizens who live in the District. Unlike the locally elected D.C. Mayor and Council, none of the members of the Appropriations Committee or this committee were elected by, or are accountable to, D.C. residents.

Less than a month ago, the House passed a stand-alone bill repealing D.C.’s budget autonomy referendum, which allows D.C. to transmit its local budget, like all other D.C. legislation, to Congress for a review period before it takes effect. House Republicans were not satisfied with passing that bill only once. This appropriations bill also includes the text of that stand-alone bill, in violation of the House rule prohibiting legislating on an appropriations bill, and Speaker Paul Ryan’s pledge of regular order.

I have filed three amendments on budget autonomy. One amendment repeals the referendum and instead codifies the referendum in federal law. If Members believe that the referendum is illegal because it was initiated by D.C. officials and not Congress, notwithstanding the only court opinion in effect upholding it, this committee should support this amendment, unless, of course, Members oppose local control of local budgets. I recognize that this amendment constitutes legislating on an appropriations bill, but in this case, perhaps two wrongs make a right (the other being this appropriations bill’s language repealing the referendum). Another amendment strikes the repeal of the referendum. The other strikes the repeal of the referendum and the appropriation of D.C.’s funds, thereby allowing D.C. to spend its local funds pursuant to the referendum.

Some House Republicans had long been disguising their opposition to the budget autonomy referendum with legalistic arguments until the Speaker revealed the real reason on the day the House repealed the referendum. He said: “There are real consequences. The D.C. government wants to use revenues to fund abortions in the District. House Republicans will not stand for that.”

While I appreciate the Speaker’s honesty, he was wrong about the effect of budget autonomy. Congress loses nothing under budget autonomy. Congress retains the authority to legislate on any D.C. matter, including its local budget, at any time.

Indeed, the riders in this bill that prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds on marijuana commercialization and abortion services for low-income women were changed from those in prior appropriations bills to apply whether or not D.C. has budget autonomy. Historically, D.C. riders applied only to funds included in appropriations bills because only appropriations bills authorized D.C. spending. In this bill, the riders apply to any D.C. funds, however authorized, including those in budgets passed pursuant to the referendum.

I have filed an amendment, cosponsored by Representative Dana Rohrabacher, to strike the marijuana rider. Four states have legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use, and they either have set up a tax and regulatory system or are in the process of doing so. Indeed, a Republican on this committee represents a state that has legalized marijuana for recreational use and set up a tax and regulatory system.

In February 2015, D.C. legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use, after two independent studies found shocking racial disparities in marijuana arrests in D.C. While recreational use is legal in D.C., Congress has prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds to set up a tax and regulatory system.

This rider has unintentionally benefited violent drug gangs. For that reason, some refer to the rider as the Drug Dealer Protection Act. As one marijuana dealer told the Washington Post, the rider is “a license for me to print money.” Regulating marijuana like alcohol would allow D.C., instead of drug dealers, to control marijuana production, distribution, sales and revenue collection.

I also have filed an amendment, cosponsored by Representatives Mike Quigley and Barbara Lee, to strike the abortion rider. Every state has authority to spend its own funds on abortion services for low-income women, and 17 states fund these services. A Republican on this committee represents a state that funds these services. Republicans continue to try, but have failed, to overturn Roe v. Wade. Instead, they have imposed countless barriers to abortion. This rider effectively prevents low-income women in D.C. from exercising their constitutional right to abortion by depriving them of necessary funds.

Republicans claim to support devolving federal authority to state and local governments. That support should not end at the D.C. border. The Constitution allows, but does not require, Congress to legislate on local D.C. matters. You have a choice. In our American democracy in the 21st century, that choice should not be difficult.

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