Congresswoman Norton Defends D.C. Appropriations Bill
For Immediate Release Contact: Sean Gralton
July 28, 1999 (202) 225-8050
Congresswoman Norton's Web Site: http://www.house.gov/norton/
NORTON ON HOUSE FLOOR SAYS PRESIDENT WILL VETO DISTRICT APPROPRIATIONS BECAUSE OF ANTI-DEMOCRATIC AMENDMENTS
URGES A "NO-VOTE" ON RULE
Statement on the Floor
July 27, 1999
I want to thank Chairman Ernest Istook and Ranking Member Jim Moran who have worked very hard and very well to bring the D.C. appropriation to the floor early this year. My thanks also to Speaker Denny Hastert and Chairman Bill Young who met with the District's new Mayor, Tony Williams, and me early this year and indicated they would work for early consideration of the city's budget. They have kept that promise. I want to say a special word of sincere appreciation to Chairman Istook in particular for his openness and communication with me and with city officials that enabled us to settle amicably the small differences that inevitably arise. His respect for the work of our new mayor and the D.C. City Council is manifested in the city's consensus budget, which came with the approval of the District's control board and to which Chairman Istook has now given his approval as well.
This hard work is now threatened by amendments that legislate on appropriations in ways that are strongly opposed by the new Mayor and all the members of the revitalized City Council. Congress has the right to make policy for the nation. You have no right to dictate policy to a local jurisdiction. Yet, four amendments that have been made in order and protected are taken straight out of the annals of authoritarianism. They would impose on the District a provision that is not only grotesquely anti-democratic, but also is moot, that prohibits local funds in a constitutional test of congressional voting rights; a prohibition on even local funds to contribute to a private lifesaving needle exchange program that has saved hundreds of residents from death and disease caused by the HIV-AIDS epidemic; a prohibition on unmarried couples jointly adopting a child despite 3000 children awaiting adoption; an entire bill penalizing the possession of tobacco by minors that Mayor Williams has asked be deferred in favor of his own approach; and an amendment that seeks to overturn local initiative on medical marijuana when no such law has been enacted. The bill itself also contains two provisions highly objectionable to city residents and elected officials that I cannot possibly support: a prohibition on the use of even local funds for abortions for poor women and a bar implementation of the city's domestic partner law.
The District has just elected a new reform-minded Mayor and revitalized City Council. They have sent us a balanced budget with a surplus, with prudent reinvestments in neglected services, and with a tax cut for residents and businesses. Their work should not be undermined by the imposition of the personal preferences of Members on a local jurisdiction to which Members are not accountable to local voters. The cumulative effect of these appendages to what is essentially a local budget is so obnoxious that a veto specifically has been threatened. I can only plead with you to save this appropriation from needless contention and veto by defeating each and every one of these autocratic and anti-democratic anti-home rule amendments. This Rule defeats the good work of the Subcommittee by drowning it with irrelevant legislation anathema to the people I represent. I must therefore ask that you vote against the Rule.
THE NATION'S CAPITAL NEW MAYOR TONY WILLIAMS,
D.C. CITY COUNCIL CHAIR LINDA CROPP
AND DELEGATE ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON ASK YOU TO PASS THE D.C. CONSENSUS BUDGET CONSISTING OF LOCALLY RAISED REVENUE WITHOUT RIDERS IMPOSED UNDEMOCRATICALLY ON LOCAL RESIDENTS
July 20, 1999
The District's new Mayor Tony Williams and the city's revitalized City Council, in this, the first year of a reform administration, are asking that you vote for a clean D.C. appropriation without riders. They believe that their work in submitting a sound budget that shows a strong surplus as approved by the control board should be respected as is and should not be used as a vehicle to overturn democratically enacted local laws. The city's efforts in allocating scarce resources after years of fiscal crisis and disinvestment, in affording tax relief to residents and businesses, and in pressing reform of the District government, deserve encouragement, not legislative attachments that local officials unanimously oppose.
The District's consensus budget as submitted remains largely unchanged, thanks to the oversight of Chairman Ernest Istook on this year's appropriation. I particularly appreciate Chairman Istook's hard and thorough work and that of Ranking Member Jim Moran and the way that Chairman Istook, Chairman Bill Young, and Speaker Dennis Hastert have cleared the decks for early consideration of the D.C. appropriation this year.
However, the social riders that have been included in the bill and others that may be proposed are totally unacceptable and are strongly opposed by Mayor Williams and the entire City Council without exception. The possible riders which we know of and oppose are:
- Prohibition on the use of locally raised D.C. funds to operate a nationally recognized private needle exchange program to which the District contributes and which has been successful in bringing addicts into treatment and saving the lives of many innocent D.C. residents (D.C. is the only jurisdiction that has a federal bar on the use of local funds for such a program)
- Language unprecedented in this country that prohibits the city from counting the votes on a 1998 ballot initiative on the use of medical marijuana in some instances
- Uniquely repressive language prohibiting city funds from being spent on a lawsuit to test voting rights for D.C. residents, even though this rider is now moot because the former corporation counsel handling the case would now do so as a private citizen, and in any case, the District's participation was minimal because a major downtown law firm is counsel in this suit
- Language that makes D.C. the only jurisdiction in the U.S. that has a federal prohibition on the use of locally raised funds for abortions for poor women
- Language that bars the use of funds for the city's domestic partner registry program
- A bill amending the D.C. Code to penalize possession of tobacco by a minor that Mayor Williams asked be dropped in favor of an approach tailored to the District he is preparing for the City Council. The public schools have already made possession of tobacco the highest or a "Level One" infraction, allowing the most severe of disciplinary sanctions
- A provision prohibiting unmarried couples from jointly adopting children
Mayor Williams and all thirteen members of the City Council ask that you oppose these riders. I join them in this request. The Administration also has indicated strong opposition to a number of the riders and, therefore, our appropriation could once again be delayed even after the very good work that has been done to move the D.C. budget earlier than usual.
District officials ask that you bear in mind that the D.C. appropriation is very different from the other appropriations bills you consider. Virtually all of the funds in this appropriation are locally raised revenues, because the federal payment was eliminated in 1997. Therefore, we ask that you treat the D.C. budget as you would want the local taxpayer-raised budget respected in your own home town.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
NO ANTI-HOME RULE RIDERS ON THE D.C. APPROPRIATION ! ! !
VOTE YES ON THE NORTON AMENDMENT STRIKING PROHIBITION ON D.C. PARTICIPATION IN VOTING RIGHTS SUIT BECAUSE:
- Congress should never seek to keep people from testing their constitutional rights in court.
- It rids the bill of language that is now moot because the case has always been carried by a pro bono law firm.
VOTE NO ON THE TIAHRT AMENDMENT PROHIBITING LOCAL FUNDS FOR NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS BECAUSE IT:
- Was soundly rejected on a bipartisan basis by the Appropriations Committee.
- Will inflame the District's growing HIV/AIDS crisis and cost lives.
- Ignores the overwhelming majority of the scientific community, among them the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the AMA, NIH, CDC who all support needle exchange programs and have shown that they reduce HIV and do not promote drug use.
VOTE NO ON THE LARGENT AMENDMENT PROHIBITING JOINT ADOPTIONS BY UNMARRIED COUPLES BECAUSE IT:
- Leaves stranded over 3,000 children in D.C. foster care awaiting adoption.
- Takes family law out of the courts, which are in the best position to determine the "best interests of the child."
VOTE NO ON THE BILBRAY AMENDMENT PROHIBITING MINORS FROM POSSESSING TOBACCO BECAUSE IT:
- Ignores anti-tobacco measures recently taken and Mayor Williams' letter that he is working on his own approach with the City Council.
VOTE NO ON THE BARR AMENDMENT PROHIBITING LOCAL FUNDS TO ENACT A MEDICINAL MARIJUANA LAW BECAUSE:
- Was soundly rejected on a bipartisan basis by the Appropriations Committee
- Is anti-democratic and prior restraint of free expression in violation of the First Amendment
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton