Norton Celebrates Home-Rule Victories in D.C. Spending Bill

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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that the House’s fiscal year (FY) 20 District of Columbia Appropriations bill, released last night, contains most of her top policy and funding priorities.  Among others, the bill contains no anti-home-rule riders, no congressional appropriation of local funds, $40 million for the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG) and a $250,000 increase in the family income eligibility limit for DCTAG.  The bill will be marked up by the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee at 7 p.m. today, June 3, 2019, in HT-2 Capitol.

Norton said, “I am grateful to Subcommittee Chairman Mike Quigley and full Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey for their continued support for D.C. home rule and for writing a historic bill that would, for the first time under the Home Rule Act of 1973, allow D.C. to spend its local funds without a congressional appropriation.  I particularly appreciate that they provided $40 million for DCTAG, my program that allows thousands of D.C. students each year to attend colleges and universities across the United States in the absence of the typical state university system in the District.”

Mayor Bowser said the “House has demonstrated that elections matter and signaled that it is finally time to respect DC’s right to self-government and fully recognize our budget autonomy.

“By removing riders that have prevented us from spending our local funds according to DC values, this bill will enable us to increase access to reproductive health care for low-income women in DC and also move forward with legalizing and regulating the sale of marijuana,” Bowser said. “I am grateful to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton for her tremendous leadership on behalf of District residents and for ensuring that critical programs like DC TAG were fully funded. As this proposal moves through Congress, we look to the DC Council to move forward with the Safe Cannabis Sales Act so that, together, we can realize the will of DC voters.”

Key Provisions:

  • The bill is free of all anti-home-rule riders.  In particular, it removes the two enacted FY 19 riders—prohibitions on the District’s use of its local funds on abortion and on recreational marijuana commercialization.
  • The bill allows the District, for the first time, to spend its local funds under the Local Budget Autonomy Act, which means that the local budget passed by the D.C. Council and signed by the mayor can take effect after a congressional review period, like all other local D.C. bills.  If enacted, this bill would be the first since the Home Rule Act that D.C. could spend its local funds without a congressional appropriation of such funds.
  • The bill provides $40 million for DCTAG, which each of the last four enacted spending bills provided, but, with Democrats in control of the House, repeals the provision in the enacted FY 19 spending bill that reduced the family income eligibility limit from $750,000 to $500,000.
  • The bill exempts D.C. from federal government shutdowns FY 21 in advance.  Norton has gotten annual shutdown exemptions enacted every year since the 2013 federal government shutdown.
  • The bill provides $8 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, the same as the enacted FY 19 level; an extra $5 million to combat HIV/AIDS in D.C., an increase of $2 million from the enacted FY 19 level; $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 as the enacted FY 19 level.

Norton is disappointed that the bill allows new students to enroll in the private school voucher program Congress imposed on the District, but is pleased that the bill requires participating voucher schools to, for the first time, comply with federal civil rights laws.  The program has failed to improve academic achievement, as measured by math and reading test scores.  Norton has tried to bring DC in line with congressional policy on vouchers. The DC voucher program is the only federally funded voucher program in the U.S.  During the last reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, amendments to create a national voucher program failed in each chamber.

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