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A Real Plan for DC Voting Rights and Home Rule

  • We believe that residents of the District of Columbia should have voting rights in the US Senate and House of Representatives equal to those of all other Americans.
  • We support Maryland-based solutions that provide full voting rights in the House and Senate and real home-rule for the residents of the District of Columbia.
  • Our two-part plan calls for Congress to restore the right of DC residents to vote as part of the Maryland electorate for congressional representation, and to support Washington becoming a new home-rule city in Maryland.

Contact Us

Committee for the Capital City
PO Box 77443
Washington, DC 20013-8443
202-265-0200
info@cityhoodfordc.dev
Written Testimony of Betty Ann Kane, 5/23/2002 PDF Print E-mail
Betty Ann Kane, Spokesperson, Committee for the Capital City, to the Senate Committee on Government Affairs concerning Voting Representation in Congress for Citizens of the District of Columbia 5/23/2002

Written Testimony of the Committee for the Capital City To the Senate Committee on Government Affairs

Voting Representation in Congress for Citizens of the District of Columbia

May 23, 2002

Betty Ann Kane, spokesperson Board of Directors

Senator Lieberman and members of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs, my name is Betty Ann Kane. I am pleased to present this written testimony on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Committee for the Capital City concerning options for restoring voting rights for residents of the District of Columbia. I have been a resident of the District of Columbia for 34 years and, as you know, was honored to serve for 16 years as an elected official on the Board of Education and the D.C. Council.

The Committee for the Capital City is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization formed in 1995 by a group of civic-minded residents of the District, Maryland and Virginia who are united by a common desire to preserve and protect the unique character of the nation's capital city while achieving full democratic rights for its citizens. We are devoted to researching and increasing public awareness of a just and practical solution to the injustice daily faced by District residents: that in the capital city of the world's greatest democratic nation, its residents lack fundamental voting rights, including the right to participate fully in their own governance. The Committee believes that any solution to this injustice that still leaves citizens of the city of Washington with fewer political rights than other Americans cannot be accepted. Whatever form of government is established, we must have full political rights, including the right to a local elected government with real municipal power, the right to voting representation in a state government that has sovereign taxing authority, and the right to voting representatives in both houses of Congress.

After examining four types of governmental structures that could meet the criteria of fiscal stability and full political rights, including stand alone statehood, creation of an expanded state, and annexation by another state, the Committee believes that the most just solution is reunion of the District of Columbia with its original territory, the State of Maryland, and the establishment of Washington as a home rule jurisdiction within the State of Maryland system. Our testimony today will focus on that option, and in particular will address some of the misunderstandings of reunion.

We believe that reunion of most of the territory of the District of Columbia with the State of Maryland is the most just and practical solution for full democracy for District residents for several reasons. First, history is on our side. As you know, the District was originally created with land ceded for that purpose from the states of Maryland and Virginia. The portion ceded by Virginia was returned to that state in 1846. The reason given for that retrocession was that it "was not needed" by the national government. It is difficult to see in the year 2002 how any continuing national interest is served by Congress retaining ultimate sovereignty over anything other than a small federal enclave in the remaining portion of the District.

Second, while we do not underestimate the political challenges, the process of reunion would be relatively simple. As was the case with the Virginia portion, no Constitutional amendment would be required, and no prolonged process of ratification by multiple state legislatures. The Constitution requires only that there be a District "not exceeding ten miles square" as the seat of the federal government. As long as there remained a small federal enclave, the change in legal status could be brought about by a simple act of Congress returning the Maryland portion to that state, and by a simple act of the Maryland legislature accepting the return of the territory. Although not required, at the time of the Virginia reunion a referendum was held among the citizens of Alexandria to determine that they wished to be reunited with Virginia, and such a referendum would undoubtedly be desirable to the current District citizens.

As a matter of fact, legislation to achieve reunion is currently pending in Congress. For the seventh consecutive session, on March 1 of 2001, a senior Republican Congressman, Ralph Regula, representing the 16th District in Ohio since 1972 and a member of the House Appropriations Committee and its Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Subcommittee, introduced H.R. 810, the District of Columbia Retrocession Act. The bill has five co-sponsors. One co-sponsor, Congressman Stephen Horn (R-CA), noted on the House floor that since 1961, "there have been endless and fruitless talks about either statehood for the district or some other means to provide full and permanent representation in the House and with the Senate. The legislation we are offering today would cut through this logjam by retrocession of a part of the current District [retaining] as a Federal enclave containing the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and most of the executive agencies. The rest of the current District would be returned to the State of Maryland." He closed by referring to his great-grandfather, an immigrant from Ireland to the District of Columbia, who "for about 3 years," this being the brief period in the 1870's when District residents could vote, "marched down there with top hat and tails because he was so proud to have the franchise." The Congressman concluded: "We do not have that franchise and we need to do it for the people that live within the District of Columbia."

HR 810 has been referred to both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Government Reform Committee. A copy of the bill is attached. Similar in concept to legislation introduced in prior years by Congressman Regula, the current bill is more detailed in that it includes a detailed description of the National Capital Service Area that would remain under Congressional control, makes Maryland legislation accepting the District a requirement, and provides that until the next reapportionment, Maryland would receive one more seat in the House and "the individual serving as the Delegate to the House of Representatives from the District of Columbia shall serve as a member of the House of Representatives from the State of Maryland" with full voting privileges. As Maryland matches Congressional districts with urban jurisdictions, the District would retain its own Representative after the 2010 census.

Third, the Committee believes that District residents never actually lost the right to vote in Maryland. In our amici brief filed in the case of Adams v. Clinton, 90 F. Supp. 2d 35 (2000), affirmed, U.S. Supreme Court by Summary Disposition (October 16, 2000), we argued that no law or Constitutional amendment has ever revoked our right to vote in Maryland's Congressional elections. While the court did not grant the remedy we suggested- ordering that District residents be allowed to vote for Representatives and Senators in Maryland elections-- we continue to believe that the legal arguments are valid. Citizens who live on other federal territory such as military bases and in national parks retain full voting rights in the state the territory was created from, and so do we.

Fourth, reunion with Maryland would not only provide full voting representation in Congress, it would also restore full political rights on every other level. By becoming part of Maryland, we would gain our own four elected state senators and 12 elected delegates to the Maryland legislature. This would double the number of elected positions for Washington residents and make the District an important force in the Maryland state government. Full democratic rights would also be restored by removing Congress from authority over District laws, the District budget, District taxing authority, and all other District policy. Some have objected that reunion with Maryland would dilute District authority. I strongly disagree: it would greatly increase our democratic rights. I would much rather have Maryland be my state than have a Congress we have no vote in constantly interfering and imposing its un-elected will on our local officials and residents.

In that vein, let me conclude by addressing some of the common misunderstandings of the reunion option.

It is thought by some that by becoming part of Maryland, the District would lose political identity. This is not true. Politically, the District would be a home-rule county under the Maryland Constitution, the same as Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Baltimore City and three other urban counties in Maryland. As a home rule jurisdiction, we would retain our current system of locally elected City Council and Mayor. Or we could alter it if our voters - I say, our voters, not the Maryland legislature - so chose. Like other Maryland home rule counties, local matters would come under our exclusive control. This includes police, fire protection, land use and zoning, community development, economic development, and the regulation of taxis. In Maryland welfare services are administered by the state, but both the state and the local government have a mutual veto over the selection of the local social services director. The same situation would prevail for public health services.

In education, the District's current structure of a mixed elected and appointed local board of education would also remain. Oversight and total budget control by the Mayor and the City Council would remain. Supervision by the Maryland State Board of Education is rather light. They administer state-wide testing, and students rights, and can intervene in cases of failed schools, but that's about it.

The State of Maryland would assume certain functions now performed by the District that are normal state responsibilities. These would include supervision of banking, insurance, the professions, and driver's licenses. It would include the prison system, other than the DC jail for pre-trial and short-term incarcerations. In addition, state functions taken over by the federal government for fiscal reasons could be restored to the control of persons elected by District residents-- another win for full democracy.

The fiscal picture is more complex. There would certainly be efficiencies created by combing duplicative state functions. Revenue options would increase, including the authority to tax income by all persons working in the District. The tax burden on District residents would probably decrease slightly. Fiscal stability would be increased for the District and, if the facts are looked at objectively, the District could be a valued net gain for Maryland.

Would our city would lose any identity in the public eye by reunion with Maryland. Is New York City any less identifiable because it is part of New York State? Or Boston? Or Baltimore? Washington would remain the nation's capital and the world will continue to view us that way.

Mr. Chairman, you have styled the topic of this hearing options for restoring voting rights for District residents. Like other options, restoring full democratic rights through reunification with Maryland will take a serious educational as well as political strategy. We look forward to working with you and other members of Congress as you study ways to solve this problem.

District of Columbia Retrocession Act (Introduced in the House)

HR 810 IH

        107th CONGRESS
        1st Session
        H. R. 810

To provide for the retrocession of the District of Columbia to the State of Maryland, and for other purposes.

        IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
        March , 2001

Mr. REGULA (for himself, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. HOBSON, Mr. HORN, Mr. FOLEY, and Mr. DUNCAN) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Government Reform, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL

    To provide for the retrocession of the District of Columbia to the State of Maryland, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the `District of Columbia Retrocession Act'.

SEC. 2. RETROCESSION OF DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA TO MARYLAND.

    (a) IN GENERAL- Upon the issuance of a proclamation by the President under section 7 and except as provided in subsection (b), the territory ceded to Congress by the State of Maryland to serve as the District constituting the permanent seat of the Government of the United States is ceded and relinquished to the State of Maryland.
    (b) CONTINUATION OF FEDERAL CONTROL OVER NATIONAL CAPITAL SERVICE AREA- Notwithstanding subsection (a), Congress shall continue to exercise exclusive legislative authority and control over the District of Columbia, which shall consist of the National Capital Service Area described in section 4.

SEC. 3. EFFECT ON JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS IN DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

    (a) CONTINUATION OF SUITS- No writ, action, indictment, cause, or proceeding pending in any court of the District of Columbia on the effective date of this Act shall abate as a result of the enactment of this Act, but shall be transferred and shall proceed within such appropriate court of the State of Maryland as established under the laws or constitution of the State of Maryland.
    (b) APPEALS- An order or decision of any court of the District of Columbia for which no appeal has been filed as of the effective date of this Act shall be considered an order or decision of a court of the State of Maryland for purposes of appeal from and appellate review of such order or decision in an appropriate court of the State of Maryland.

SEC. 4. NATIONAL CAPITAL SERVICE AREA.

    (a) DESCRIPTION- The National Capital Service Area referred to in section 2(b) is comprised of the principal Federal monuments, the White House, the Capitol Building, the United States Supreme Court Building, and the Federal executive, legislative, and judicial office buildings located adjacent to the Mall and the Capitol Building (but shall not include the District Building), and is more particularly described as the territory located within the following boundaries:

     

    Beginning at the point on the present Virginia-District of Columbia boundary due west of the northernmost point of Theodore Roosevelt Island and running due east of the eastern shore of the Potomac River;

     

    thence generally south along the shore at the mean high water mark to the northwest corner of the Kennedy Center;
    thence east along the north side of the Kennedy Center to a point where it reaches the E Street Expressway;

     

    thence east on the expressway to E Street Northwest and thence east on E Street Northwest to Nineteenth Street Northwest;
    thence north on Nineteenth Street Northwest to F Street Northwest;

     

    thence east on F Street Northwest to Eighteenth Street Northwest;
    thence south on Eighteenth Street Northwest to Constitution Avenue Northwest;

     

    thence east on Constitution Avenue to Seventeenth Street Northwest;
    thence north on Seventeenth Street Northwest to H Street Northwest;

     

    thence east on H Street Northwest to Madison Place Northwest;
    thence south on Madison Place Northwest to Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest;

     

    thence east on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest to Fifteenth Street Northwest;
    thence south on Fifteenth Street Northwest to Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest;

     

    thence southeast on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest to Tenth Street Northwest;
    thence north on Tenth Street Northwest to E Street Northwest;

     

    thence east on E Street Northwest to Ninth Street Northwest;
    thence south on Ninth Street Northwest to Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest;

     

    thence southeast on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest to John Marshall Place Northwest;
    thence north on John Marshall Place Northwest to C Street Northwest;

     

    thence east on C Street Northwest to Third Street Northwest;
    thence north on Third Street Northwest to D Street Northwest;

     

    thence east on D Street Northwest to Second Street Northwest;
    thence south on Second Street Northwest to the intersection of Constitution Avenue Northwest and Louisiana Avenue Northwest;

     

    thence northeast on Louisiana Avenue Northwest to North Capitol Street;
    thence north on North Capitol Street to Massachusetts Avenue Northwest;

     

    thence southeast on Massachusetts Avenue Northwest so as to encompass Union Square;
    thence following Union Square to F Street Northeast;

     

    thence east on F Street Northeast to Second Street Northeast;
    thence south on Second Street Northeast to D Street Northeast;

     

    thence west on D Street Northeast to First Street Northeast;
    thence south on First Street Northeast to C Street Northeast;

     

    thence east on C Street Northeast to Third Street Northeast;
    thence south on Third Street Northeast to Maryland Avenue Northeast;

     

    thence south and west on Maryland Avenue Northeast to Constitution Avenue Northeast;
    thence west on Constitution Avenue Northeast to First Street Northeast;

     

    thence south on First Street Northeast to Maryland Avenue Northeast;
    thence generally north and east on Maryland Avenue to Second Street Northeast;

     

    thence south on Second Street Northeast to East Capitol Street;
    thence east on East Capitol Street to Third Street Northeast;

     

    thence south on Third Street Northeast to Independence Avenue Southeast;
    thence west on Independence Avenue Southeast to Second Street Southeast;

     

    thence south on Second Street Southeast to C Street Southeast;
    thence west on C Street Southeast to New Jersey Avenue Southeast;

     

    thence south on New Jersey Avenue Southeast to D Street Southeast;
    thence west on D Street Southeast to Washington Avenue Southwest;

     

    thence north and west on Washington Avenue Southwest to the intersection of Independence Avenue Southwest and Second Street Southwest;
    thence south on Second Street Southwest to Virginia Avenue Southwest;

     

    thence generally west on Virginia Avenue to Third Street Southwest;
    thence north on Third Street Southwest to C Street Southwest;

     

    thence west on C Street Southwest to Sixth Street Southwest;
    thence south on Sixth Street Southwest to E Street Southwest;

     

    thence west on E Street Southwest to Seventh Street Southwest;
    thence north on Seventh Street Southwest to Maryland Avenue Southwest;

     

    thence west on Maryland Avenue Southwest to Ninth Street Southwest;
    thence west on Ninth Street Southwest to Independence Avenue Southwest;

     

    thence west on Independence Avenue Southwest to Twelfth Street Southwest;
    thence south on Twelfth Street Southwest to D Street Southwest;

     

    thence west on D Street Southwest to Fourteenth Street Southwest;
    thence south on Fourteenth Street Southwest to the middle of the Washington Channel;

     

    thence generally south and east along the midchannel of the Washington Channel to a point due west of the northern boundary line of Fort Lesley McNair;
    thence due east to the side of the Washington Channel;

     

    thence following generally south and east along the side of the Washington Channel at the mean high water mark, to the point of confluence with the Anacostia River, and along the northern shore at the mean high water mark to the northernmost point of the Eleventh Street Bridge;
    thence generally south and west along such shore at the mean high water mark to the point of confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers;

     

    thence generally south and east along the northern side of the Eleventh Street Bridge to the eastern shore of the Anacostia River;
    thence generally south along the eastern shore at the mean high water mark of the Potomac River to the point where it meets the present southeastern boundary line of the District of Columbia;

     

    thence south and west along such southeastern boundary line to the point where it meets the present Virginia-District of Columbia boundary;
    thence generally north and west up the Potomac River along the Virginia-District of Columbia boundary to the point of beginning.

(b) STREETS AND SIDEWALKS- The National Capital Service Area shall include any street (and sidewalk thereof) that bounds such Area.

(c) AFFRONTING OR ABUTTING FEDERAL REAL PROPERTY-

    (1) IN GENERAL- The National Capital Service Area shall include any Federal real property affronting or abutting such Area as of the effective date of this Act.
    (2) PROPERTY INCLUDED- For purposes of paragraph (1), Federal real property affronting or abutting the National Capital Service Area shall--

     

        (A) include the Department of Housing and Urban Development Building, the Department of Energy Building, Fort Lesley McNair, the Washington Navy Yard, the Anacostia Naval Annex, the United States Naval Station, Bolling Air Force Base, and the Naval Research Laboratory; and
        (B) not include any portion of Rock Creek Park, any portion of Anacostia Park east of the northern side of the Eleventh Street Bridge, or any territory not located in the District of Columbia on the day before the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 5. TRANSITION PROVISIONS RELATING TO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

    (a) TEMPORARY INCREASE IN APPORTIONMENT-
    (1) IN GENERAL- Until the taking effect of the first reapportionment occurring after the effective date of this Act--

        (A) the individual serving as the Delegate to the House of Representatives from the District of Columbia shall serve as a member of the House of Representatives from the State of Maryland;
        (B) the State of Maryland shall be entitled to 1 additional Representative until the taking effect of such reapportionment; and
        (C) such Representative shall be in addition to the membership of the House of Representatives as now prescribed by law.

    (2) INCREASE NOT COUNTED AGAINST TOTAL NUMBER OF MEMBERS- The temporary increase in the membership of the House of Representatives provided under paragraph (1) shall not operate to either increase or decrease the permanent membership of the House of Representatives as prescribed in the Act of August 8, 1911 (37 Stat. 13; 2 U.S.C. 2), nor shall such temporary increase affect the basis of reapportionment established by the Act of November 15, 1941 (55 Stat. 761; 2 U.S.C. 2a), for the 82nd Congress and each Congress thereafter.
    (b) REPEAL OF LAWS PROVIDING FOR DELEGATE FROM THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA- Sections 202 and 204 of the District of Columbia Delegate Act (Public Law 91-405; sections 1-401 and 1-402, D.C. Code) are repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such sections are restored or revived as if such sections had not been enacted.

SEC. 6. EFFECT ON OTHER LAWS.

    No law or regulation which is in force on the effective date of this Act shall be deemed amended or repealed by this Act except to the extent specifically provided in this Act, or to the extent that such law or regulation is inconsistent with this Act.

SEC. 7. PROCLAMATION REGARDING ACCEPTANCE OF RETROCESSION BY MARYLAND.

    Not later than 30 days after the State of Maryland enacts legislation accepting the retrocession described in section 2(a), the President shall issue a proclamation announcing such acceptance and declaring that the territory ceded to Congress by the State of Maryland to serve as the District constituting the permanent seat of the Government of the United States has been ceded back to the State of Maryland.

SEC. 8. EFFECTIVE DATE.

    The provisions of this Act and the amendments made by this Act shall take effect on the date the President issues a proclamation under section 7 or the date of the ratification of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States repealing the twenty-third article of amendment to the Constitution, whichever comes later.