Norton Releases Testimony Opposing All Anti-Home-Rule Riders to D.C. Appropriations Bill Ahead of Rules Committee Hearing/Markup, Tonight
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) released Norton’s testimony in support of her amendments to strike all five anti-home-rule riders from the House’s fiscal year 2019 District of Columbia Appropriations bill, as well as in opposition to three filed anti-home-rule amendments, ahead of a House Rules Committee hearing/markup scheduled for today, Monday, July 16, 2018, at 5:00 p.m., in H-313 (U.S. Capitol). Norton will testify at the hearing.
In her prepared remarks, Norton said, “This bill is the most significant abuse of congressional power over the District of Columbia since Republicans took over the House in 2011. This bill repeals two D.C. laws and prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds, consisting solely of local taxes and fees, to either carry out or enact three laws. I urge you to make in order my D.C. amendments, each of which complies with House rules, to strike these five undemocratic riders.”
The Rules Committee is considering the fiscal year 2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which contains D.C.’s appropriations bill. The bill is expected to be on the House floor this week. Norton’s amendments would strike the riders that repeal the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012, prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds on recreational marijuana commercialization, prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds on abortions for low-income women, repeal the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), and prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds to carry out the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA). Norton’s marijuana amendment has bipartisan support with Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as a cosponsor, along with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). Representatives Lee and Tim Ryan (D-OH) are cosponsors of her RHNDA amendment. Lee is a cosponsor of Norton’s abortion amendment. Representatives Blumenauer and Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) are cosponsors of her DWDA amendment.
Representative Gary Palmer (R-AL) filed amendments to prohibit D.C. from using its local funds to carry out the recent voter-passed Initiative 77, which would eliminate the tipped minimum wage, and to prohibit D.C. from using its local funds to carry out the Health Insurance Requirement Amendment Act of 2018 (HIRA), which requires D.C. residents to have health insurance and is modeled on the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA) filed an amendment to prohibit D.C. from using its local funds to seize assets as part of enforcing a HIRA tax penalty. Representatives Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) are cosponsors of Palmer’s Initiative 77 amendment, and Meadows and Representative Mark Walker (R-NC) are cosponsors of Palmer’s HIRA amendment.
Norton’s full testimony, as prepared for delivery, is below.
Testimony of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
House Committee on Rules
H.R. 6147, Fiscal Year 2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act
July 16, 2018
This bill is the most significant abuse of congressional power over the District of Columbia since Republicans took over the House in 2011. This bill repeals two D.C. laws and prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds, consisting solely of local taxes and fees, to either carry out or enact three laws. I urge you to make in order my D.C. amendments, each of which complies with House rules, to strike these five undemocratic riders.
It is the height of hypocrisy for Republicans, who claim to support local control of local affairs, to interfere with the spending and laws of a local jurisdiction. Yet, remarkably, Republicans were not satisfied with the Appropriations Committee including five D.C. riders in the bill. Instead, Representative Gary Palmer filed two amendments to prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds to carry out two more bills, and Representative Keith Rothfus filed an amendment to prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds to carry out a portion of one of those bills. Adding insult to injury, every single D.C. policy Republicans are trying to repeal or block exists in other jurisdictions, some even in the districts of the Republicans on this committee.
My first amendment, cosponsored by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, strikes the rider that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds to commercialize recreational marijuana. Nine states have legalized recreational marijuana, and eight of those states have approved commercialization.
In February 2015, D.C. legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use, after two independent studies found dramatic racial disparities in marijuana arrests in D.C. A rider to block recreational use failed due to faulty drafting, and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for recreational use is legal in D.C., but Congress has prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds to tax and regulate recreational marijuana. This rider has unintentionally benefited violent drug gangs. For that reason, some refer to it as the “Drug Dealer Protection Act.” As one marijuana dealer told the Washington Post, the rider is “a license for me to print money.” Regulating marijuana like alcohol would allow D.C., instead of drug dealers, to control production, distribution, sales and revenues.
My second amendment, cosponsored by Representatives Lee and Tim Ryan, strikes the rider that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds to carry out its Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014. One state and two other cities have similar laws. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and their families based on their reproductive health decisions. This rider permits employers to fire a woman for having an abortion due to rape, or to decline to hire a woman for using in vitro fertilization, or to fire a man for using condoms, or to reduce the salary of a parent for buying birth control for his or her child.
My third amendment, cosponsored by Representative Lee, strikes the rider that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion. Seventeen states spend their own funds on abortion. This rider effectively prevents low-income women in D.C. from exercising their constitutional right to abortion.
My fourth amendment, cosponsored by Representatives Blumenauer and Mark DeSaulnier, strikes the rider that repeals D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act of 2016 and prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds to enact laws or regulations related to medical aid in dying. D.C.’s law is similar to the laws of the six states that have legalized medical aid in dying by statute, including two represented by Republican leaders. This law allows doctors authorized to practice medicine in D.C. to prescribe self-administered lethal medication to mentally competent, terminally ill adult D.C. residents. There are now 20 years of experience with legal medical aid in dying in the U.S., and the evidence demonstrates that it has worked to end needless suffering of patients.
My fifth amendment strikes the rider that repeals D.C.’s Local Budget Autonomy Amendment Act of 2012, which allows D.C. to spend its local funds without congressional approval. The validity of the law has been challenged multiple times in local and federal court, and each time the law has been upheld on the merits or the case has been dismissed on procedural grounds. This Congress cannot balance its books while Moody's Investors Service last week said that “the District has exemplary fiscal governance” and gave D.C.’s general obligation bonds the highest rating. Moreover, Congress loses nothing under budget autonomy. Congress retains the authority to legislate on any D.C. matter, including its local budget, at any time.
I will now turn to the three anti-home-rule amendments that were filed. Representative Palmer filed an amendment to prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds to carry out the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2017, also known as Initiative 77, which has not yet even taken effect. Initiative 77 would phase out the tipped minimum wage and provide one minimum wage for all workers in D.C. Initiative 77 is a divisive issue in D.C. While Initiative 77 was approved by 56 percent of voters in last month’s election, a majority of the D.C. Council introduced legislation last week to repeal it. Consider the difference between the Council and Congress blocking Initiative 77. Councilmembers are accountable to D.C. residents. Members of Congress are not. No member of the Council, or the mayor, wants Congress to intervene in this matter, even those who oppose the vote of residents for Initiative 77.
Two amendments were filed related to D.C.’s Health Insurance Requirement Amendment Act of 2018 (Insurance Act), which also has not yet taken effect. The Insurance Act would require D.C. residents to maintain health insurance coverage. A resident who fails to maintain such coverage would incur a tax penalty. Three states have such laws. These laws are designed to ensure that all residents have access to quality, affordable health insurance by reducing the cost of health insurance for all residents. Republicans reduced the individual mandate tax penalty in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to zero in the new tax law as part of their effort to sabotage the ACA. D.C., like many states, is stepping in to provide market stability and to protect quality, affordable coverage for residents.
Representative Palmer filed an amendment to prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds to carry out the Insurance Act. Representative Rothfus filed an amendment to prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds to seize assets to enforce the tax penalty under the Insurance Act.
I will leave you with this final thought on behalf of the 700,000 American citizens I, and only I, represent in Congress. Please respect democratic self-government in the District of Columbia.