Norton Introduces Bill Allowing D.C. to Transmit Legislation to Congress Electronically

Jan 10, 2022
Press Release

WASHINGTON  Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced a bill to amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act (HRA) to permit the Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia to transmit legislation to Congress in the form of the Chairman’s choosing, including electronic form. This bill seeks to modernize the method D.C. legislation is transmitted to Congress for the congressional review period.

The HRA requires that legislation passed by the D.C. Council be transmitted to Congress for a congressional review period before the legislation can take effect. While the HRA does not specify the method that the Chairman must use to transmit the legislation, House and Senate precedent require that the legislation be physically transmitted to Congress.

Last year, Norton introduced legislation to eliminate the congressional review period for D.C. legislation.

“When the HRA was enacted in 1973, email did not exist,” Norton said. “Physical transmittal imposes costs in terms of time on both the Council and Congress.

“After temporary fencing was installed around the Capitol following the January 6, 2021, attack, staff from the D.C. Council could not enter the Capitol, delaying the transmittal of legislation until Council staff and congressional staff developed a workaround.

“Today, when we live in the era of email, there is no reason to continue to require an increasingly ancient process when these documents can be transmitted electronically, saving a tremendous amount of time and effort for all involved.”

Norton’s introductory statement follows.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

on the Introduction of a Bill to Amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to permit the Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia to transmit Acts of the District of Columbia to Congress in electronic form

January 10, 2022

Today, I introduce a bill that would amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act (HRA) to permit the Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia to transmit legislation to Congress in the form of the Chairman’s choosing, including in electronic form. This bill seeks to modernize the method D.C. legislation is transmitted to Congress for the congressional review period.

The HRA requires that D.C. legislation be transmitted to Congress for a congressional review period before the legislation can take effect. The legislation takes effect after a review period, unless a resolution of disapproval is enacted into law during the review period. While the HRA is silent on the method that the Chairman must use to transmit the legislation, House and Senate precedent require that the legislation be physically transmitted to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. Physical transmittal imposes costs in terms of time on the Council, the House and Senate Parliamentarians, the Speaker, the President of the Senate, the House clerk, the Senate Secretary, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. When the HRA was enacted in 1973, email did not exist.

The Council engages in a 12-step process to comply with the physical transmittal requirement:

  • Step 1: Write individualized cover letters.
  • Step 2: The Chairman physically signs the cover letters.
  • Step 3: Arrange a pick-up time of the legislation and cover letters from the Chairman.
  • Step 4: Print two copies of the bill and two copies of the committee report to deliver to the Speaker and to the President of the Senate.
  • Step 5: Arrange a time for delivery to the Speaker’s office.
  • Step 6: Arrange a time for delivery to the President of the Senate’s office.
  • Step 7: Arrange for two D.C. employees to drive to the Capitol. (Two staffers are required because parking restrictions require a driver and a delivery person.)
  • Step 8: Drive to the Capitol.
  • Step 9: Deliver the legislation to the Speaker’s office and get a signed receipt.
  • Step 10: Deliver the legislation to the President of the Senate’s office and get a signed receipt.
  • Step 11: Assign the congressional review period based on the receipts.
  • Step 12: File the signed receipts.
     

The aftermath of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol highlighted the burdens of physical transmittal. After temporary fencing was installed around the Capitol, staff from the D.C. Council could not enter the Capitol, delaying the transmittal of legislation until Council staff and congressional staff developed a workaround. Council staff and congressional staff met outside the fencing so the Council staff could physically transmit the legislation.

Today, when we live in the era of e-mail, there is no reason to continue to require an increasingly ancient process, when these documents could be transmitted electronically instead, saving a tremendous amount of time and effort. I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense bill.

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