Jan 9, 2006
Press Release

December 7, 2005


Washington, DC—D.C.’s land transfer bill, sponsored by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA), made an important step toward passage with approval today by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T & I ), which has jurisdiction over the largest parcel in the bill, Reservation 13, where D.C. General Hospital and other D.C. agencies are now located.  As ranking member of the subcommittee of jurisdiction, Norton included an amendment to assure that the economic development on these parcels include “the development of the city’s human capital as a necessary ingredient.”  The Norton amendment also requires outreach to minority businesses not only for contracting, but also for equity participation. Norton said that her amendment, which D.C. supports, intends “to help the city face the anomaly of increases in jobs and increases in unemployment at the same time,” by assuring that construction job training and similar work force opportunities are available to D.C. residents through the bill.

The D.C. Real Property Act, which involves land transfers or swaps between the District and federal governments, was one of two major bills passed by T & I today with Norton as a lead sponsor.  The Gulf Coast Recovery Act, that includes unique provisions to help speed the recovery in hurricane-ravaged states, was sponsored by Norton and the chair and ranking member of the full committee and the chair of the subcommittee responsible for the bill, where Norton serves as ranking member.

The D.C. land transfer bill passed the Government Reform Committee, on which Norton also is a member, in September, but because of shared committee jurisdiction, the bill had to be considered by Norton’s T & I Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. The two major sites transferred to the District are Poplar Point and Reservation 13. In order for the federal government to receive payment, the bill swaps land that present both governments with valuable real estate development opportunities, and revenue that will be generated from the development of the land will count as partial compensation for the District’s federally imposed structural deficit, a major rationale for the bill.

The Norton Katrina recovery legislation was generated from a series of subcommittee hearings on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and their devastating affects on Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  The bill allows the federal government to assist financially distressed state and local governments in unprecedented ways because of the unprecedented crisis facing the three states.  For example, the bill allows the federal government to pay not only for overtime for employees who are essential to the response and recovery of the Gulf region, as usual, but also for their base pay.  Because these jurisdictions have lost their tax base, the bill also waives the local share (25%) for several federal programs, for example, the cost of debris removal for a period time.  Norton insisted on an extension of unemployment benefits from 26 to 52 weeks, because these areas cannot attract residents home to look for work without continuing unemployment benefits.

Norton said she was especially pleased with a major, much sought after provision allowing any U.S. jurisdiction to apply for grants to improve interoperability communication systems among jurisdictions that the Homeland Security Committee, on which Norton sits, failed to approve. She said, “The Katrina crisis finally drove home how essential such cross-jurisdictional communication is everywhere.”

In her statement at the committee hearing Norton said, “The more we learned about the effects of the damage to the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama economies and their well being, the less this bill looked like legislation for three states. With oil prices set to drive the American economy off the cliff, this bill, for starters, is about the 25 percent of the nation’s oil production provided by the Gulf states.  Many of the provisions in this bill are unusual because Katrina is easily the most costly natural disaster in our history.  In Louisiana, for example, the federal government has quickly become the source of last resort because New Orleans, the state’s greatest source of revenue—one-third of Louisiana’s economy —has lost its tax base and its population.  Thus, this bill contains some unprecedented provisions to meet this unprecedented crisis in our country.”

Norton said that she expects passage of both bills before Congress adjourns later this month. Click here to see the full statements for both bills.