HRC writes House/Senate conferees on DC Appropriations

November 9, 2001

Dear Conferee:

Over the past few months, we have been communicating with you and your staff regarding the FY 2002 District of Columbia Appropriations bill currently being considered by your conference committee. As the process moves forward, we wish to restate our views and urge Members of the Conference Committee to ensure that the principle of local control is respected during this process. As you meet to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate-passed bills, we respectfully request that you consider the following issues.

  1. Use of local funds for implementation of the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992:

Both the House and Senate passed FY 2002 District of Columbia Appropriations bills contain a provision that will allow the District to use their locally-raised funds to implement the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992. (Section 118 of both House and Senate-passed bills) Because both the Senate and House have approved this policy change, we consider this language to be non-conferenceable and look forward to its swift approval by the conference committee.

Over one hundred other jurisdictions nation-wide have implemented domestic partnership programs that are more comprehensive than the program the District has created with the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992. Retaining the removal of the prohibition on the use of local funds for implementation of this Act merely respects the ability of the District of Columbia to use its locally-raised funds to implement policies enacted by their locally-elected leaders.

We urge you to oppose any efforts to modify this provision during the conference process.


  1. Use of local funds for implementation of the District’s needle exchange program:

The Senate-passed FY 2002 District of Columbia Appropriations bill contains a provision (Section 127(a)) that allows the District to use its locally-raised funds to implement an HIV-prevention needle-exchange program. This provision maintains a ban on the use of Federal funds for this purpose, and maintains a requirement for a separate accounting for all private funds used for this purpose by entities that receive any Federal funds. The House provision on this issue (Section 125 of the House-passed bill) maintains the prohibition on the use of both local and federal funds for this purpose.

Needle exchange programs are scientifically proven to reduce new transmissions of HIV without increasing drug use or criminal activity. The District has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the country. The prohibition on the use of local funds in the House-passed bill unnecessarily impedes the ability of the District government to combat this epidemic, and it should be removed. Almost forty other cities nationwide use their locally-raised public funds for needle exchange programs unimpeded by the Congress, and the District should be allowed to do the same.

We urge the House to recede to the Senate on this provision and to allow the District to use its locally-raised funds for a vital HIV-prevention needle exchange program.


  1. Use of funds to implement a District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights decision:

The House passed-bill contains a provision (Section 138) that prohibits the use of both federal and local funds to implement a June 2001 decision of the District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights regarding the Boy Scouts of America.

This provision purported to protect the Boy Scouts’ ability to set membership criteria by forbidding the District of Columbia from using any funds to execute a DC Commission on Human Rights order against the Boy Scouts of America for prohibiting gay men as members. The Boy Scouts right to do so, however, is not currently in question after a ruling by the Supreme Court last year in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America. Further, the Boy Scouts of America have the right to appeal the decision to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

This provision of the House-passed FY 2002 District of Columbia Appropriations bill improperly interferes with the autonomy of the District of Columbia’s judicial system and should be removed from the final conference report on this bill.

We urge the conferees to strike this language from the final version of the FY 2002 District of Columbia Appropriations bill that will be sent to the President for signature.


Thank you for your consideration of our concerns with the FY 2002 District of Columbia Appropriations bill. Should you have any questions on these issues, please do not hesitate to contact Barbara Menard of our staff at (202) 216-1540.

Sincerely,

Winnie Stachelberg
Political Director


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