D.C. Del. Norton, Mayor Gray Fight to Protect D.C. Home-Rule
||Tuesday, May 29, 2012
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Vincent Gray joined forces with national coalition representatives to protect the District’s home-rule authority.
During a news conference on Capitol Hill, Del. Norton announced the initiation of a strategy to help deter what she called the Republicans relentless attacks “to dismantle the District of Columbia’s home-rule authority piece by piece.”
This effort comes just 10 days after Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on H.R 3803, which would restrict the District from using local funds on abortions and ban abortions after a gestation of 20-weeks.
Norton and Gray vigorously opposed H.R. 3803 and now have added support from NARAL, the Center for Reproductive Rights and DC Vote.
The District of Columbia is in a unique position – unlike the rest of America’s cities. D.C. is neither a city within a state, nor a state; therefore, it cannot govern autonomously.
When Congress passed the Home Rule Act of 1973, it granted the District the right govern itself; however that right is not absolute.
The city can pass legislation which can only become law subject to Congressional approval.
The Act also placed a number of additional restrictions on the District, including budget autonomy. Congress still has final authority to approve the city’s budget.
Some argue that Congress gave up the right to impose legislation on the District when it passed the Home Rule Act. The imposing of legislation upon the District is wholly different from the act of approving legislation sent up from the Council.
In response to repeated efforts by the Republican led House to impose legislation on the District, Del. Norton said, “We don’t accept that. We see it as a in your face violation of the Act. Above all, we don’t accept the notion that they have the right to govern for people of the District of Columbia.
“No red-blooded American would say that anybody has the right to govern anybody who is not accountable to them through the voting process.”
Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of DC Vote, said that a recently released poll, commissioned by DC Vote, found that 78 percent of Americans reject the idea that Congress should use the budget process to legislate on social issues having to do with the District of Columbia.
“They understand that local affairs need to be dealt with locally,” Zherka said.
DC Vote is working on building a coalition of 100 organizations to make that point to appropriators.
Mayor Gray called Rep. Franks efforts against the District “an illegitimate engagement and interference with the people’s rights of the District of Columbia.”
Although Gray said that discussions are ongoing, he added, “There’s no question that one of the sticking points has been the continuing effort to foreclose the right of people in the District of Columbia to make decisions around reproductive rights.”