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The statehood convention that wasn't E-mail

Longtime statehood activist, Timothy Cooper describes in an article that was published on July 13, 2016 in The Hill's blog why the Mayor's initiative did not really include a a real constitutional convention and how that shortchanged the people of the District of Columbia in having much of a say on the constitution she and the other members of the New Columbia Statehood Commission approved.

Mayor Bowser Goes to Cleveland! E-mail


The Washington Post's Aaron Davis and Rachel Kurzius of dcist reported on July 19, 2016 about D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's trip to the Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Despite efforts by D.C. Republicans to keep anti-statehood language out of the Republican platform, an anti-statehood plank was included. Nevertheless, Mayor Bowser greeted Republicans and urged them that all Americans, including the almost 700,000 living in the District of Columbia, deserve the right to self-government.

In addition to these two articles, a City Desk post by Tatiana Cirisano in the Washington City Paper about Donald Trump's comments on D.C. statehood when he was on Meet the Press in October 2015 is also printed below. To see these articles, read more.


Council's Action on Advisory Referendum on Statehood E-mail

Washington Post reporter Aaron Davis reports on the D.C. Council's July 12, 2016 action to unamiously approve the advisory referendum requiring D.C. voters to go on the November 8, 2016 presidential ballot. Click on read more to see his article.

Crisis over Language of Statehood Referendum E-mail

In the July 10, 2016 edition of the Washington Post (print edition; July 9 online), reporter Aaron Davis wrote an article on "Before it asks for statehood, D.C. already faces a constitutional crisis." The crisis concerns the wording of a referndum the D.C. Council proposes to put on the November 8, 2016 ballot as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser's effort to have a "complete package" ready for the new President and Congress in January.

The Distirct of Columbia has been asking for statehood for a long time. Our nonvoting delgates to Congress, Walter Fauntroy and Eleanor Holmes Norton, have each introduced statehood bills over the years, as have Senators on the committees with jurisdiction over D.C. The current bill in the House is H.R. 317 and has 133 cosponsors and in the Senate is S. 1688 which has 19 cosponsors. On July 7, 2016, the Ward 3 Democratic Committee urged that the referendum be limited to a vote on statehood - yes/no. For more information over the issues raised by the Council's proposed referendum language, read more.

Council's Action on Statehood Referendum E-mail

By Ann Loikow, D.C. Statehood - Yes We Can!

The Council will be considering a resolution, PR12-0839, "Advisory Referendum on the State of New Columbia Admission Act Resolution of 2016," at its legislative session on July 12. The text of the resolution can be found as a pdf at: http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/36165/PR21-0839-Introduction.pdf.  The resolution was introduced by Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Bonds, Silverman, Evans, Todd, Alexander, McDuffie, Allen, Grosso, Nadeau, Cheh, Orange, and May (i.e., by everyone) at the Legislative Meeting on Jun 28, 2016.  Instead of being referred to a committee, it was retained in the full Council for action.

Citizens who have been talking to Council staff have been led to believe that on July 12 the Council will not consider the terms of the constitution approved the New Columbia Statehood Commission on June 28, 2016, but instead will establish a process for considering it and holding hearings on it sometime in the fall. What this means is that the Council may not approve a constitution before the November referendum. It should be noted that the full text of the amendments made June 28 and the other conforming changes that will need to be made to the constitution as a result of the amendments have not been made public.

The language of the advisory referendum says that the voters' approval of this resolution "would establish that the citizens of the District of Columbia ... (2) approve a Constitution of the State of New Columbia to be adopted by the Council ...." (emphasis added) In other words, the voters are being asked to sign a blank check and in effect ratify a constitution that may not even be completely written when they are asked to vote on it.

This reinforces my conviction that action on a constitution should be removed from the Council's advisory referendum resolution and thus the referendum. However, the timetable in the Statehood Commission's "Statehood Plan,' which was distributed May 6 says that the referendum language must be filed with the Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) by Friday, July 8. I have heard that the Council may have actually already approved the resolution on the referendum language and either has, or soon will, file it with the BOEE. In other words, the referendum language may be a done deal. I'm trying to confirm whether this has in fact happened.

The constitution can be ratified after Congress approves our statehood bill. To see the provisions of The New Columbia Admission Act, H.R. 317, go to: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/317/text?format=txt. Section 102(a)(1) provides for ratification of the constitution (in the current bill, ratification of the 1987 constitution and having it replace the already ratified 1982 constitution). To see similar provisions in the case of Alaska, go to: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Alaska_Statehood Act, section 7-9.

In addition, the Council's resolution on the referendum language would have the voters approve the boundaries of the new state, as approved by the Statehood Commission on June 28, 2016, which are slightly different from those of the National Capital Service Area, which Congress created in the Home Rule Act. It is these boundaries that have been and are in the statehood bills before Congress, including HR. 317. Ultimately, this is something that will need to be negotiated with the Federal government and Congress in particular. Our Delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, also needs to be consulted as she is the one who has authored the statehood bills introduced in Congress. In any case, this means that it may be premature for the voters to approve them in November.

Finally, the resolution says the citizens of D.C. "agree that the State of New Columbia shall guarantee an elected representative form of government." (emphasis added) The term of art in the Constitution (Article IV, Section 4) is "a Republican Form of Government." (emphasis added) That is what the United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union. The Council should follow the constitutional language. Section 1 of the enabling or admission acts (H.R. 317 for New Columbia and Public Law 85-807, the Alaska Statehood Act) contain the language: "The State Constitution shall always be republican in form and shall not be repugnant to the Constitution of the United States and the principles of the Declaration of Independence." (emphasis added)


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