DC Statehood at the 2016 DNC

Eleanor Holmes Norton stated our case for D.C. statehood before the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Her words are not just a statement of fact but a call to actions for District citizens and our family and friends across the nation to embrace and own this cause. Please watch this video and then let us know how you’d like to help the cause.

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Email us at unitedforstatehood@gmail.com

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26 More Reasons for D.C. Statehood

The argument for D.C. statehood at its core is a about the fundamental right of American citizens to have equal representation in Congress but it is also just as important for us to gain the right to be the final arbiter of our own affairs. Congress meddles in District affairs so much that it is hard to keep track of but thanks to the staff in Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office we have list of the 26 bills or amendments offered in the 114th Congress (thus far) that aim to meddle in our local affairs, overturn our laws, or impose new laws upon us, all without our consent.

Reading through the list its evident that some in Congress are hellbent on using the District for grandstanding purposes and pandering to their base of supporters back home by offering such legislation. And Congress after Congress this happens because members of Congress cannot help themselves. It’s too easy for them to score cheap political points back home by picking on the District so they will continue to do this as long as we remain the disenfranchised federal district.

Please read, share, get mad, and let’s get even via D.C. statehood!

Non-Discrimination

D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act

*  Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Diane Black introduced a resolution of disapproval on the D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees, their spouses and their dependents based on reproductive health decisions. The House passed the resolution.
*  The House Appropriations Committee-passed fiscal year 2016 D.C. Appropriations bill would have prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds to enforce RHNDA.  The amendment in committee was sponsored by Representative Steven Palazzo.
*  The House-passed fiscal year 2017 D.C. Appropriations bill would prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds to enforce RHNDA.  The amendment on the floor was sponsored by Representative Gary Palmer.

D.C. Human Rights Amendment Act

*  Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Vicky Hartzler introduced a resolution of disapproval on the D.C. Human Rights Amendment Act, which repeals a congressionally imposed provision that permitted schools in D.C. to deny LGBT students equal access to school facilities and services.

First Amendment Defense Act

·        Senator Mike Lee and Representative Raúl Labrador introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the federal government from denying benefits, contracts and the like to individuals, non-profits and for-profits that discriminate against LGBT people, as well as individuals who engage in extramarital relations, based on a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.  The latest version, which the sponsors have publicly released but not yet introduced, applies to both the federal and District governments and defines the District government as part of the federal government.

Guns

*  Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Jim Jordan introduced the Second Amendment Enforcement Act of 2015, which would wipe out almost all of D.C.’s gun laws.
*  Senator Rand Paul introduced an amendment to the Senate’s budget reconciliation bill to wipe out, among other things, D.C.’s gun laws.  The Senate voted it down.  Senator Paul subsequently introduced it as a stand-alone bill, the Defend Our Capital Act of 2015.
*  Representative David Schweikert introduced the DC Personal Protection Reciprocity Act, which would force D.C. to recognize out-of-state permits to carry concealed guns, regardless of the standards those states use for issuing permits.
*  Amendments filed in the Rules Committee to the House’s FY 17 D.C. Appropriations bill that were not made in order:
*  Representative Thomas Massie amendment to block D.C. from using its local funds to enforce its carry laws, allowing open and concealed carry.
*  Representative Thomas Massie amendment to block D.C. from using its local funds to enforce its enhanced penalties for carrying in gun-free zones.
*  Representative David Schweikert amendment to block D.C. from using its local funds to enforce its “good reason” requirement for carrying.

Abortion

*  Senator Roger Wicker and Representative Chris Smith introduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015, which would, among other things, permanently prohibit the D.C. government from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women, prohibit D.C. government employees from providing abortions, prohibit abortions in D.C. government facilities, and define the D.C. government as part of the federal government for purposes of abortion.  The bill passed the House.

·        The House Appropriations Committee-passed FY 16 D.C. Appropriations bill would have prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women.

·        The FY 16 D.C. Appropriations bill signed into law prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women.

·        The House-passed FY 17 D.C. Appropriations bill would prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women.

Immigration

*  Representative Louie Gohmert introduced the Safer DC Act of 2015, which would overturn a D.C. law that limits the circumstances under which the District will cooperate with federal immigration officials, including detention and gathering and disseminating information about a person’s immigration status.

Labor

*  Representative Tom Price introduced the Federal Employee Rights Act, which would, among other things, prohibit the D.C. government from deducting union dues from employee paychecks.

Education

*  Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Mark Meadows introduced the Educational Freedom Accounts Act, which would require D.C. to use its local funds to pay for K-12 private school tuition.

Marijuana

·        The House Appropriations Committee-passed FY 16 D.C. Appropriations bill would have prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds on marijuana commercialization.

·        The FY 16 D.C. Appropriations bill signed into law prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds on marijuana commercialization.

·        The House-passed FY 17 D.C. Appropriations bill prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds on marijuana commercialization.

Budget Autonomy

·        Representative Mark Meadows introduced the Clarifying Congressional Intent in Providing for DC Home Rule Act of 2016, which would repeal the budget autonomy referendum and prohibit D.C. from passing similar legislation in the future.

·        The House-passed FY 17 D.C. Appropriations bill includes the text of the Clarifying Congressional Intent in Providing for DC Home Rule Act of 2016; repeals D.C.’s FY 17 local budget; and appropriates D.C.’s local funds for FY 17.

·        The Senate Appropriations Committee-passed FY 17 D.C. Appropriations bill appropriates D.C.’s local funds for FY 17.

Occupational Licensing

·        Senator Mike Lee introduced the Alternatives to Licensing that Lower Obstacles to Work Act of 2016, which would change D.C. occupational licensing rules.

Legislators from around the country have spent time, money, and effort meddling in the affairs of the people of the District of Columbia and in some cases have been successful in overturning the democratic will of the people of DC. This could not happen and would not happen if we were a state.

We must fight back against these bullies, we must let their constituents know that these members of Congress care more about the District than their district, and we must stay focused on achieving statehood. Only statehood will end this undemocratic meddling for good.  Let’s work together to end this madness and ensure our rightful place as equal partners in American democracy as the 51st state.

 

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

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Dismay, Despair, & Anger

I walked out of the Statehood Commission’s meeting to amend the draft constitution on June 28th in a state of dismay, despair, and outright anger. Those are three feelings to which I am not prone and I work hard to steer clear, yet after bearing witness to Town Halls, a faux constitutional convention,  an intellectually lazy exercise, and power hungry selfishness in amending our draft constitution, I found those feelings overcoming my mind, body, and spirit. Thus, for my own mental and emotional well-being, I walked out. I could not take sitting there anymore as members of the commission argued about how to preserve or enhance their own individual or institutional power rather than debating what should be in our Bill of Rights.

I take the pursuit of statehood seriously (maybe too seriously), but I believe it’s our democratic right and destiny to be treated fairly and equally within our union. I believe the voice and the vote of the people matter, have value, and are what hold our country and city-state together despite all of its imperfections. This is why the process facilitated by the Statehood Commission has left me dismayed, despairing, and angered.

In early April, the Mayor’s office brought together a team of lawyers to craft a draft constitution, and in mid-April, the draft constitution was unveiled along with a schedule that laid out the process for soliciting input to the constitution through online comments, in-person testimonies at Town Halls, and  a “constitutional convention.” For those who were not able to attend the Town Halls or the Constitutional Convention, there was no difference between them other than the fact that the Constitutional Convention had bands present for pep-music, had panel discussions about why statehood matters (as if we need to know that at a *constitutional convention*), and gave us “delegate” badges so we could replicate Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton in being non-voting delegates to a faux constitutional convention.

While there may not be constitutionally defined parameters for what makes up a constitutional convention, I do not believe what we have just gone through comes close to what a constitutional convention means in the hearts and minds of most Americans. Do we need a constitutional convention where every citizen can vote and amend the document? No, I don’t think so. Do we need a constitutional convention where all power to create a draft constitution lies with only 5 people in elective office? I don’t think so either. There has to be a better way to do this with elected delegates given we live in a representative democracy. The people of the District, long-denied a full voice and full vote in our national and local democracy, should surely have more of a role in creating the document that will define the structures of our state government and in enshrining within it values and principles we hold dear.

This process has not been about democracy; it has been about expediency, and that’s a shame. I walked out of the Commission meeting after hearing one of their lawyers and then the Council Chairman himself dismiss the idea that the people pf the District of Columbia should have more of a say in amending our constitution and/or creating a new one after we achieve statehood. Why are they so afraid of what the people think and believe? Why do they think that our voice and vote matter less than theirs?

I walked out of that room because I wanted to scream “this is about democracy! This is about my voice, my vote, and that of my neighbors too! Why don’t you think we matter and should have power in this process?” This Commission is simply acting like Congress by claiming to act out of duty-bound benevolence, while disregarding the voice of the people and failing to give us a true vote until the very end, and then only as a take it or leave it scenario.

When I reached home after walking out, I saw that our Council will review, hold hearings, and possibly amend the draft constitution before we hold a vote on it in November. That’s a good thing, as the participation of 13  people is better than 5, but that still has problems. Will the legislature act out of its own self-interest and consolidate its power when they consider amendments, especially since they are the last stop before the citizens vote on it? Having ONLY people in elective office with the power to change a constitution is deeply troublesome because they are prone to self-preservation and/or expansion of powers. This is why I hope that, at the very least, the Council adds an amendment to our constitution that calls for a true constitutional convention-with elected delegates-so that our process avoids real or perceived self-preservation by our elected officials and includes the voice of the people.

Finally, another reason I left feeling dismayed, despairing, and angry is because I asked myself the simple question: Will you still vote for statehood in November, despite this horribly undemocratic process and its resultant intellectually lazy and morally deficient constitution? And the answer in my head was “yes.” Despite all of my fervent objections to this top down, elitist process, I’d still rather live in a state with a crappy constitution and a dumb name than in the disenfranchised District, where we are still subject to a Congress in which we have no representation. It makes me sick that I might have to swallow this charade of a process to gain statehood, and there’s some self-loathing going on because of it.

I am dismayed, despairing, and angry at those who espouse the virtues of democracy and demand our right to be equal partners in it, yet have so little faith in “we the people.” We are better than this, we must be better than this. Now it’s in the Council’s hands to make this document better and to lead a process where issues can be debated openly and publicly about our Bill of Rights, our structure of government, and our values as a people.

I believe in statehood because I believe in the promise of America, but more importantly, I believe in statehood because I love, value, and respect the people of the District of Columbia. Any process to create our constitution should do the same. I was dismayed, despairing, and angry, but none of these feelings will gain us what we need and deserve: statehood. I know we’re better than the process imposed on us, and I’m ready to get back to work so that together we can and will create the 51st state in the union.

 

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

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I Work for the People of D.C.

The Honorable Paul Ryan,

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened and dismayed to see House Republicans obsessed with controlling the people, the laws, and the budget of the District of Columbia. With your consent Representatives Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and others are actively working to overturn the Budget Autonomy referendum which was approved by District voters with an 83% affirmative vote. The people of the District spoke with a loud and clear voice in support of budget autonomy and a court of law sided with us as well. The foundation of U.S. system of government is based on the premise that government derives its power from the consent of the people yet you now lead a House of Representatives that has sadly strayed far from that core principle. You believe that we, the free people of the District of Columbia, need to be “reined in” just because we want to control how we spend our own tax dollars.

I work for the District government. I serve the people of the District with pride and honor. There is no greater privilege to me than knowing that each day I get up and do my best to ensure that the District’s environment is cleaner, greener, and more sustainable. I believe that I am a good public servant and that public service is an honorable profession. I am proud that the place of my birth is also where my children were born and are being raised and that I spend every day trying to make it a better place for them, their friends, and our neighbors.

And yet you want to tell me that I would be breaking the law by going to work and spending locally raised dollars without your permission should you repeal budget autonomy. The D.C. Superior Court sided with the voters of the District and said budget autonomy is the law of the land and that we should be able to spend $10 billion of our own locally raised dollars without a congressional appropriation process. I fully realize that Congress has ultimate legislative control over the District (until we achieve statehood) but just because Congress has that power doesn’t mean you should use or abuse it by moving forward with a repeal.

Should Budget Autonomy be repealed I wanted to let you know that as an employee of the District of Columbia and as a servant of the people of the District I am ready and willing to go to work and spend their dollars, our dollars, to improve the city we love without your consent.

You and other House leaders have threatened legal repercussions for our Mayor and our Council should they move forward with budget autonomy. This issue affects us all not just our elected leaders. I hope and trust that my brothers and sisters in the rank and file of District government are ready to take a stand too. Are you willing to arrest and prosecute District government employees for picking up the trash, helping children cross the street, managing a recreation center, assisting the elderly, figuring out how to balance our budget once again (unlike Congress), or working to clean-up our rivers? Are you willing to arrest and prosecute over 20,000 District government employees for simply showing up to work like we do everyday? If so, you will help highlight to the entire nation that we live under an unjust and indefensible system.

I work for the people of the District of Columbia not Congress. I want to respect, honor, and abide by the voters of the District’s democratic will. I am ready to go to work like I do every day if the Mayor and Council pass a budget without congressional consent. I fully realize that violating the law has repercussions and I take them seriously. I am willing to violate an unjust law passed by those not elected to represent me but I will not violate my conscience.

 

Sincerely,
Josh Burch

Brookland, DC
P.S. I’d be happy to meet in person anytime to discuss this or our push for statehood and I’d love to help you host a Town Hall in D.C. about statehood if you’re interested in hearing what the people think.

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You Say You Want a Constitution

The DC Statehood Commission has embarked on a bold plan to both adopt a state constitution and vote on a referendum for statehood this year. I am fully supportive of a referendum on statehood but I have serious problems with what seems like a rushed and not well thought out plan to adopt a new constitution (it’s really just the Home Rule Charter which Congress wrote FOR us in 1973).

Despite my reservations about the process we are moving forward with Town Halls for comments on the draft constitution being held over the next two weeks and then the “constitutional convention” being held on June 13, 17, & 18. We all can participate either online or in person and if we want to make this constitution better we all should participate. As such I’ve put together my own thoughts on how to make this draft constitution better. If I had more time and an in-house constitutional lawyer I’d bet I’d have more recommendations and more refined changes but these are the areas that stood out most to me.

I hope my thoughts help ignite your own thoughts and thinking about how we can make our new constitution better and thus our new state the best in the union. We need to have a constitution that reflects our values, principles, and aspirations for a more just, representative, responsive, and inclusive local government.

And so, here’s how I’d change the draft constitution:

The Name: I think we need to break free of paying homage to Christopher Columbus in our name. I would prefer to being the Douglass Commonwealth thus keeping D.C. Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist, suffragist, public servant, humanitarian and the “Lion of Anacostia.” I cannot think of a better person to name our new state after than him. As he famously said “power concedes nothing without a demand” and his words should be the words that guide us in becoming a state.

Additionally, the name “District of Columbia” is a legal name not a constitutional name thus I’d say that all future statehood legislation should say that the federal district shall be name the District of Washington after our first President. Right now the New Columbia Admission Act is mute on the name of the federal district and future statehood bills should name the federal district after Washington.

The Bill of Rights: The draft constitution regurgitates the U.S. Bill of Rights which is redundant and unnecessary.  We should leave out the U.S. Bill of Rights as they already apply to us and use a scaled down version of rights from the 1982 Constitution. Here are the some proposed rights:

  1. Freedom of Assembly & Expression
  2. Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church & State
  3. Right to Vote
  4. Freedom from Discrimination
  5. Right to Privacy

 

Article I – Legislative Branch:

  • Have a bicameral legislature. The current Council composition (8 Ward CMs and 5 At-Large including the Chair) should serve as the Senate with the Chair becoming the President of the Senate. All should serve staggered 4 year terms like now (a unicameral legislature could work provided it is more representative than the current Council).
  • The lower House (House of Delegates) should be apportioned based on population determined every 10 years after the Census. In general, each delegate should represent 20-25,000 people thus making our House of Delegates at present numbers roughly 33 members. We should always have an odd number of delegates and the delegates should elect the Speaker of the House. Delegates should be elected every 2 years.
  • All vacancies should be filled by a special election ONLY.
  • The Governor should not have line item veto authority in the constitution.

Article II – Executive Branch

  • The constitution needs to include language that articulates the Attorney General’s authority to prosecute civil and criminal cases and better articulate the role of the AG in our government.
  • Planning for the statehood should be handled by either an elected Commission with 7 commissioners. Each commissioner serves a four year term.
  • The House of Delegates shall establish which educational policies the State Board of Education should have the power to approve of.

Article III – Judicial Branch

  • Get rid of the Judicial Nomination Commission unless the constitution defines who plays a role in appointing Commissioners. I could live with the JNC but the constitution would need to set parameters for who can bet on the Commission and who appoints members to it. In general, I think the Governor should appointee and the Legislature confirm which should be its own check and balance system.

Article IV – Budget and Financial Management

  • There should not be language in the constitution about reviewing contracts. The constitution should be silent on this subject. The House of Delegates has oversight responsibilities and should use them but approving contracts should be an executive function.
  • The AG’s office, SBOE, and CFO should submit their own budgets, not be part of the Governor’s Executive Branch budget.

Article V – Borrowing

  • NO COMMENT

Article VI – Initiative, Referendum, and Recall

  • NO COMMENT

Article VII – Miscellaneous

  • Should explicitly call for constitutional convention within three years after statehood so we can reassess how our new government functions post-statehood and recreate our structure of government as needed.
  • Should allow for a constitutional convention and/or amendment to the constitution to be initiated by either the legislature or by referendum.
  • Should define what minimally qualifies as a constitutional convention. Specifically, I believe that delegates should be elected to the constitutional convention.

Article VIII – Transfer of Office

  • Should add under Voting Rights: Citizens (or residents) of this state shall have the right to vote to ensure the franchise for all (or keep in the Bill of Rights)
  • All Offices should be voted on within one year after statehood admission. I think it’s important to have new elections for all officeholders within a year of statehood given everyone will have new responsibilities.

The Map

  • The existing statehood bill before Congress makes the federal enclave too big and that the federal enclave should only include the Mall, the White House, the Capitol and surrounding office buildings, and the Supreme Court. The military bases on the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers should be in the new state just like military bases across the country. In other words, the smaller the federal enclave the better.
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