Not Just License Plates – Norton Introduces D.C. Statehood Bill


Photo by PoPville flickr user caroline.angelo

Yesterday we learned that the White House would be putting DC’s ‘Taxation without Representation’ license plates on President Obama’s Limo. Also yesterday Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a bill, the New Columbia Admission Act, to make the District of Columbia the 51st state.

From a press release:

Along with the first of the co-sponsors she is gathering, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced a bill, the New Columbia Admission Act, to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, providing the 618,000 D.C. residents full and equal citizenship.

The New Columbia Admission Act was the first bill Norton introduced after she was first sworn in to Congress during the 103rd Congress, and it is her first bill in the 113th Congress. In 1993, she got the first and only vote on statehood for the District of Columbia, with 60 percent of Democrats and one Republican voting for the bill in the House, and a hearing on the New Columbia Admission Act in the Senate.

“To be content with less is to concede the equality of citizenship that is the birthright of our residents as citizens of the United States,” Norton said in remarks introducing the bill. “It is too late for the residents of the District of Columbia to make such a concession as we approach the 212th year in our fight for equal treatment in our country.”

Norton’s full introductory statement follows. after the jump.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the New Columbia Admission Act

January 15, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the New Columbia Admission Act. The residents of our nation’s capital are and always have been citizens of the United States. Yet they are the only taxpaying Americans who are not treated as full and equal citizens. The only way for them to obtain the citizenship rights they are entitled to is through the same statehood used by other Americans. Therefore, I am introducing the New Columbia Admission Act to create a state from essentially the eight home-town wards of the District of Columbia. This 51st state, however, would have no jurisdiction over the federal territory, or enclave that now consists of the Washington that members of Congress and visitors associate with the capital of our country. The U.S. Capitol premises, the principal federal monuments, federal buildings and grounds, the National Mall and other federal property here would remain under federal jurisdiction. Our bill provides that the State of New Columbia would be equal to the other fifty states in all respects. Consequently, residents of New Columbia would have all the rights of citizenship they are entitled to as taxpaying American citizens, including two senators and, initially, one House member.

Just as the New Columbia Admission Act was the first bill I introduced after I was first sworn in as a Member of Congress in the 102nd Congress in 1991, this is my first bill in the 113th Congress. Our first try for statehood received significant support in the House. In 1993, we got the first and only vote on statehood for the District, with nearly 60% of Democrats and one Republican voting for the New Columbia Admission Act. The Senate held a hearing on its companion bill, introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy, but the committee of jurisdiction did not proceed further. Although this start was encouraging, soon thereafter, the District, which is the only U.S. city that pays for state functions, found it necessary to ask the federal government to take over the costs of some state functions, posing fiscal barriers to entry into the Union on an equal basis, and in addition, the Democrats lost control of the House. The District of Columbia recognizes that it can enter the Union only on an equal basis and is prepared to do so. I then introduced the second best option available, a bill for Senate and House representation for D.C., and later, when Republicans controlled the House, a bill for a House vote. Because these bills had strong support from Democrats, I will introduce them again as well, but with the understanding that residents will never stop short of their full citizenship rights and, therefore, of statehood.

The final analysis is that we have no alternative. To be content with less than statehood is to concede the equality of citizenship that is the birthright of our residents as citizens of the United States. It is too late for the residents of the District of Columbia to make such a concession as we approach the 212th year in our fight for equal treatment in our country. This bill is the first I file in the 113th Congress, and it reaffirms our determination to obtain each and every right enjoyed by citizens of the United States by becoming the 51st State of the Union.

36 Comment

  • I like this approach. It avoids the constitutional questions raised by previous attempts and forces critics to address the merits of granting or denying full representation to the citizens of the District.

  • I wish our elected leaders would get more radical about DC statehood. Vincent Gray getting arrested during a statehood protest is, in my opinion, his signature accomplishment to date. Eleanor Holmes Norton should stop paying her taxes, dare someone to try and collect them, and use the resulting publicity to raise awareness. She has the most to gain from DC statehood, after all.

  • What will our abbreviation be? NC is already taken…

    • Abbreviation is the least of our worries. Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi all share similar first letters and they found an abbreviation. We could be NL (so as not to confuse us with North Carolina or New Orleans abbreviations). This is the small kind of problem I’d love to have *after* we’re a state.

  • If we don’t get statehood, we should have discounted federal taxes… like 25 or 50% off. So if you tax bracket is 15%, then you pay 7.5%.

    • +1 the perfect solution

    • If that happens, DC should lose 25-50% of its federal funding.

    • If this happened…look out for property values/rents sky rocketing and everyone under upper middle class, at least, to be “pushed out”.

      So I guess if you are uber-rich then this would be a great solution.

      As to most of the citizens of DC….this solution would be a nightmare at best.

      • Why would that necessarily happen? I assume if DC is granted statehood, it would also be granted the ability to make its own laws and rules, like raising building heights (which would help alleviate the lack of space that would surely be an issue with an even larger population boom) and enforcing commuter taxes to, say, fund greater public transit to parts of town that are lacking in that area.

        • I’m pretty sure this was in response to Anonymous at 11:34, with “this” referring to discounted taxes, not to statehood.

        • Based on the assumption – that people (and companies too) normally try to maximize their income. Hence talk of loopholes, legal tax deductions, etc that decrease your tax bill aka maximize the amount of income you get to keep.

          So for people who earn millions of dollars a year – if they could 1/2 their tax bill by moving/buying in DC – then it would become a very attractive destination.

          High income earners would start to buy up property (and DC does not have much of an upper echelon niche of high-end properties like NY). Any new construction (even high rises if DC could pass a law) would be built with high net worth buyers in mind. Current housing stock would razed/converted to chase the $ of the high earners looking to buy.

          Other existing owners of property would slowly push out affordable housing people (this would take awhile – but it would eventually happen) to also chase after the high income money.

          (just my back of the envelope answer :P)

    • If we don’t have a vote in Congress, we shouldn’t be paying any federal income tax at all. Hence, no taxation without representation. I’d rather pay the taxes and get the representation/statehood, though.

  • I don’t understand why statehood is so important? Australia has a Canberra as their capital and (as far as I know) that’s not a state. I don’t hear Canberrans whining about taxation without representation.

  • The Australian Capital Territory has representation in Australia’s Federal Parliament:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Capital_Territory#Governance

  • Agreed. I would guess that we get a disproportionate amount of federal funding, so we should probably be happy

    • Plenty of states get more from the federal government than they put in.

      Also, the entire crux of the argument is that DC citizens have absolutely zero say in how congress acts, and subsequently, how congress spends the money that the taxpayers of DC provide to the federal government. Pretty simple thing to wrap your head around.

  • If she couldn’t get this done when Obama was first elected with a Democratic Senate and House, it won’t happen now.

    I’ve always thought that retrocession of the non-federal lands back to Maryland was the best solution.

    • Yeah, I remember someone at the Washington Post was advocating this as a solution. Unfortunately, I suspect the Baltimore political establishment would be strongly opposed to anything getting in the way of their existing political clout.

    • Returning the non-federally owned area back to Maryland seems, from a Constitutional standpoint, the only viable option.

      • A very common misconception. Despite the republican talking point, the constitution does not mandate a federal district. It simply gives congress the authority to create and run one. If congress chose to make D.C. a state it is perfectly constitutional.

        Here is the text from Article I section 8 (enumerated powers of congress)

        To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.

        Nothing says they have to use the power.

        • You are right…nothing says they have to use the power…but they did.

          Based on precedent…ala Virginia’s portion of the District…citizens of DC have a means and the ability to petition for re-admission to Maryland.

          • Yes, but they can uncreate it as well…they just choose not to.

          • If there is no constitutional mandate to create a separate District, there is no mandate to continue it. Congress has total power over the District per the District Clause and Congress has authority to admit new states. They can admit DC as a state by a simple majority vote in both houses.

  • You know…as a DC resident and home owner, I used to support our push for statehood. But until our local government – including our mayor and city council – can demonstrate that they are prepared to accept the responsibility that comes with statehood…why would anyone want to empower them with more of it?

    A list of our elected officials’ recent greatest hits:

    Kwame R. Brown: $2K a month in taxpayers money for fully loaded SUV

    Michael A. Brown: $14K in unpaid income taxes over 2 years

    Jack Evans: $135,897 of city budget used for professional sports tickets

    Harry Thomas Jr.: Charged with stealing more than $350,000 in government funds

    Marion Barry, Ward 8: Where to begin?

    Illustrate the ability to accept and manage responsibility, and you’ll be given more of it…

    • It’s a good thing that there’s no corruption in the states with congressional representation.

      just kidding.

    • Weak argument. There’s plenty of corruption at the local and state level all over the country, and those folks get representation.

      Also (sadly), I assume a better class of public servant would start to show up if s/he had a larger ladder to climb than the one that simply ends at “mayor.”

      • This times a billion.

        If we had a Senate seat here, the class of people attracted to electoral politics here would go up. More chance for advancement leads to folks with more bonafides jumping into the race…

    • I used to agree with this to an extent but have since changed my mind. I think it was Tom Sherwood on the Kojo Nnamdi show a few months ago talking about corruption with the DC council. His argument was that the underlying issue as to why it’s so common here is due to the fact that there is essentially a ceiling in DC politics. The highest political office you can ever hope to achieve in DC is Council Chairman (unless, I guess, if you ran for President….but that’s a stretch). There’s no real incentive for elected officials to always be ethical because there’s no chance of ever reaching a higher office. I’m not saying that if we were given statehood, this would magically resolve itself…but it’s something to think about.

      • So your argument is the only way to avoid corrupt politicians are financial incentives and opportunities for higher office? How about just being ethical???

        • Totally agree with you that they should just be ethical. I was just making sharing a viewpoint that I thought was interesting and hadn’t heard before. It makes logical sense to me that if there’s incentive for something better (like a higher office), a person may be more reluctant to engage in unethical behaviors. Just a thought…

          • I should clarify that I didn’t mention anything about financial incentives, only career-type advancement incentives. That wasn’t my argument at all.

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