District of Columbia Home Rule Act
|Other short titles||District of Columbia Home Rule Act|
|Long title||To 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 by||the 93rd United States Congress|
|Public law||Pub.L. 93–198|
|Statutes at Large||87 Stat. 774|
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 chairman 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.
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 the greater autonomy, such as full statehood.
The Home Rule Act specifically prohibits the Council from enacting certain laws that, among other restrictions, would:
- lend public credit for private projects;
- impose a tax on individuals who work in the District but live elsewhere;
- make any changes to the Heights of Buildings Act of 1910;
- pass any law changing the composition or jurisdiction of the local courts;
- enact a local budget that is not balanced; and
- gain any additional authority over the National Capital Planning Commission, Washington Aqueduct, or District of Columbia National Guard.
Laws blocked by Congress
The Home Rule Act gives Congress the authority to block any laws passed by the D.C. council. Since its enactment, Congress has exercised this power several times.
- 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.
- Passed by the D.C. Council in 1992, the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act, which allowed both gay and straight couples to register as domestic partners, allowing familial recognition for such things as hospital visits, and allows 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.
- In 1996, the D.C. Council passed a clean needle exchange program law. However, in 1998, Congress voted to block the law. In 2007, Congress voted to lift the ban, thus allowing the law to go into effect.
- In 1998, Congress voted to block Initiative 59 – Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 – via the Barr amendment. This also caused the result of the referendum to be withheld. 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. In 2009, Congress voted to overturn the ban on Initiative 59, allowing D.C.'s medical marijuana law to go into effect, with the first medical marijuana sale occurring in 2013.
- In 2014, Congress voted to block Initiative 71 – Legalization 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. 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.
- "Title VI: Reservation of Congressional Authority". District of Columbia Home Rule Act. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
- "Ending Congressional Interference". DCVote. July 31, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "ACT UP DC: Congress blocks DC clean needle exchange, medical marijuana again". www.glaa.org. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- Goldstein, Avram; Goldstein, Avram (December 2, 1998). "CITY BLOCKS NEEDLE EXCHANGE EFFORT". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "Letter to the House on Needle Exchange in D.C. Appropriations Bill". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- Almendrala, Anna (September 3, 2015). "Washington D.C. Is Proof That Needle Exchanges Save Lives". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "Democracy Held Hostage". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "Congress Lifts Ban on Medical Marijuana for Nation's Capitol". Americans for Safe Access. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- Project, Marijuana Policy (July 27, 2010). "D.C. Medical Marijuana Law Clears Congressional Hurdle! - MPP Blog". MPP Blog. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- 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.
- "House Committee Votes to Block D.C. Marijuana Laws".
- "Frequently Asked Questions on Implementing D.C.'s Marijuana Legalization Initiative". Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. December 12, 2014. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "Marijuana Is About to Be Legal — and Virtually Unregulated — in Washington, DC | VICE News". VICE News. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "How D.C. pot legalization has become 'the dealer-protection act of 2015'". Washington Post. Retrieved May 24, 2017.