Jump to content

District of Columbia Home Rule Act

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesDistrict of Columbia Home Rule Act
Long titleTo reorganize the governmental structure of the District of Columbia, to provide a charter for local government in the District of Columbia subject to acceptance by a majority of the registered qualified electors in the District of Columbia, to delegate certain legislative powers to the local government, to implement certain recommendations of the Commission on the Organization of the Government of the District of Columbia, and for other purposes.
Enacted bythe 93rd United States Congress
Public lawPub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 93–198
Statutes at Large87 Stat. 774
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as S.1435 by Thomas Eagleton (DMO) on April 2, 1973
  • Committee consideration by Senate Committee on the District of Columbia
  • Passed the Senate on July 10, 1973 (69-17)
  • Passed the House on October 10, 1973 (Voice vote)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on December 6, 1973; agreed to by the House on December 17, 1973 (272-74) and by the Senate on December 19, 1973 (77-13)
  • Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 24, 1973

The District of Columbia Home Rule Act is a United States federal law passed on December 24, 1973, which devolved certain congressional powers of the District of Columbia to local government, furthering District of Columbia home rule. In particular, it includes the District Charter (also called the Home Rule Charter), which provides for an elected mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia. The council is composed of a chair elected at large and twelve members, four of whom are elected at large, and one from each of the District's eight wards. Council members are elected to four-year terms.

Pin-back badge in support of the Home Rule Charter, 1974.

Under the "Home Rule" government, Congress reviews all legislation passed by the council before it can become law and retains authority over the District's budget. Also, the President appoints the District's judges, and the District still has no voting representation in Congress. Because of these and other limitations on local government, many citizens of the District continue to lobby for greater autonomy, such as complete statehood.

The Home Rule Act specifically prohibits the council from enacting certain laws that, among other restrictions, would:[1]

Laws blocked by Congress[edit]

The Home Rule Act allows Congress to block any laws passed by the D.C. council. Since its enactment, Congress has exercised this power several times.[2]

  • In 1988, Congress voted to block D.C. from expending local funds to cover abortion services through Medicaid. This was repealed in 2009 but then reinstated in 2011.[2]
  • Passed by the D.C. Council in 1992, the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act allowed both gay and straight couples to register as domestic partners, allowing familial recognition for such things as hospital visits and allowing the partners of D.C. government employees to purchase private health insurance, was blocked by Congress. The act was finally allowed to go into effect in 2001.[3]
  • In 1996, the D.C. Council passed a clean needle exchange program law. However, in 1998, Congress voted to block the law.[4][3][5] In 2007, Congress voted to lift the ban, thus allowing the law to go into effect.[6]
  • In 1998, Congress voted to block Initiative 59Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 – via the Barr amendment. This also caused the result of the referendum to be withheld.[7] When this was challenged in court, it was determined that withholding the result of the referendum violated the First Amendment. In response to this, another amendment was passed in 2000 that simply overturned Initiative 59.[7] In 2009, Congress voted to overturn the ban on Initiative 59, allowing D.C.'s medical marijuana law to go into effect,[8][9] with the first medical marijuana sale occurring in 2013.[10]
  • In 2014, Congress voted to block Initiative 71Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014 – by blocking funds from being used to enact laws, rules or regulations for reducing or legalizing any Schedule I drug.[11] However, since this was passed after the results of Initiative 71 had already been announced, it did not prevent the legalization of marijuana, but had the effect of leaving marijuana legal, but without the authority to expend funds on enacting regulations or taxation.[12][13][14]
  • In 2023, Congress voted in favor of H.J.Res.26 to block the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022.[15][16] DC's Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 would have re-worked criminal justice policies in the District of Columbia. It would have also eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for many crimes. It would have also reduced the maximum penalties for many crimes like burglary, carjacking, and robbery.[17]


  1. ^ "Title VI: Reservation of Congressional Authority". District of Columbia Home Rule Act. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Ending Congressional Interference". DCVote. July 31, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "ACT UP DC: Congress blocks DC clean needle exchange, medical marijuana again". www.glaa.org. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  4. ^ Goldstein, Avram; Goldstein, Avram (December 2, 1998). "CITY BLOCKS NEEDLE EXCHANGE EFFORT". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  5. ^ "Letter to the House on Needle Exchange in D.C. Appropriations Bill". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  6. ^ Almendrala, Anna (September 3, 2015). "Washington D.C. Is Proof That Needle Exchanges Save Lives". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Democracy Held Hostage". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  8. ^ "Congress Lifts Ban on Medical Marijuana for Nation's Capitol". Americans for Safe Access. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  9. ^ Project, Marijuana Policy (July 27, 2010). "D.C. Medical Marijuana Law Clears Congressional Hurdle! - MPP Blog". MPP Blog. Retrieved May 24, 2017. {{cite news}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  10. ^ Director, Erik Altieri, NORML Executive (July 30, 2013). "First Medical Marijuana Sale Reported in Washington, DC". NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform. Retrieved May 24, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "House Committee Votes to Block D.C. Marijuana Laws".
  12. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions on Implementing D.C.'s Marijuana Legalization Initiative". Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. December 12, 2014. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  13. ^ "Marijuana Is About to Be Legal — and Virtually Unregulated — in Washington, DC | VICE News". VICE News. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  14. ^ "How D.C. pot legalization has become 'the dealer-protection act of 2015'". Washington Post. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  15. ^ Horowitch, Rose (March 21, 2023). "Biden signs measure to repeal controversial D.C. crime bill". www.nbcnews.com. Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  16. ^ "H.J.Res.26". Library of Congress. March 24, 2023.
  17. ^ "Senate votes to block DC crime laws, Biden supportive". AP NEWS. March 8, 2023. Retrieved March 24, 2023.

External links[edit]