Norton Introduces Bill to Repeal Unnecessary Federal Law on D.C. Bridges

Jul 26, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced the District of Columbia Bridges Home Rule Act, which would repeal a redundant 1997 federal law that makes it a crime for a person in D.C. to obstruct any bridge connecting D.C. and Virginia.  The District already had, and continues to have, its own local law prohibiting obstructing a bridge in the District.  There is no federal law that prohibits a person in Virginia from obstructing such a bridge or a person in any state from obstructing a bridge connecting two states. 

“This law is as offensive as it is redundant,” Norton said.  “The District does not need a federal law to keep our bridges clear.  This harkens back to a time when a private group attempted to block the 14th Street Bridge into Virginia, though there is no evidence that D.C. authorities failed to act.  The District’s local criminal law prohibiting obstructing a bridge takes care of any obstruction.”

The courts have long held that D.C. may repeal federal laws that predate the 1973 Home Rule Act (HRA) and apply exclusively in or to the District, but have not ruled on whether D.C. may repeal post-HRA federal laws that apply exclusively in or to the District.  This is an important step to increase home rule for the District.

Norton has introduced several bills to reduce the federal government’s control over local District matters and expand D.C. equality.  This bill is the 15th in Norton’s Free and Equal D.C. Series:

  • The District of Columbia Paperwork Reduction Act (H.R. 735) would eliminate the congressional review period for D.C. bills.
  • The District of Columbia Local Prosecutor Home Rule Act (H.R. 917) would allow the District to prosecute all crimes committed under its local laws.  Currently, the U.S. Attorney for the District prosecutes almost all crimes committed by adults under local D.C. law.
  • The District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act (H.R. 1090) would give the D.C. Mayor the authority to deploy the D.C. National Guard for local matters.  Unlike governors of the states, and even territories, the District’s chief executive officer has no authority over its local Guard.
  • A bill to require the Library of Congress to install the D.C. seal in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress (H.R. 1318).  Currently, the stained-glass windows contain the seals of all states and territories that existed when the building was constructed, except for the D.C. seal, which was readily available at the time and should have been depicted.
  • The District of Columbia Home Rule Clemency Act (H.R. 1378) would give the District exclusive authority, like the states and territories, to grant clemency to offenders convicted under its local laws.  Currently, this authority is exercised in D.C. by the President.
  • The District of Columbia Home Rule Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 1408) would eliminate the applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to the District.
  • The District of Columbia Zoning Commission Home Rule Act (H.R. 1538) would give D.C. the authority to appoint all members of the Commission.
  • The National Capital Planning Commission District of Columbia Home Rule Act (H.R. 1797) would remove the authority of the NCPC to review the development of D.C.-owned land.
  • The District of Columbia Courts Home Rule Act (H.R. 2769) would give D.C. authority over the jurisdiction and organization of the local D.C. courts.
  • The District of Columbia Police Home Rule Act (H.R. 3092) would eliminate the president’s authority to federalize the local D.C. police department.
  • A bill to permit the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff in the event of the death of the Mayor of the District (H.R. 3283).
  • The Commission of Fine Arts District of Columbia Home Rule Act (H.R. 3365) would remove the authority of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts to review development of District-owned parks and buildings, as well as development of certain private property in D.C.
  • The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment Home Rule Act (H.R. 3581) would give the District the authority to appoint all members of the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (Board), except when the Board is performing functions regarding an application by a foreign mission with respect to a chancery.
  • The District of Columbia Federal Officials Residency Equality Act (H.R. 3785) would require certain federal officials who serve the District of Columbia to live in the District.