Forest Hills Connection contributor David Bardin is among those interested in statehood for the District of Columbia, both to replace Congress as the “state legislature” governing 670,000 people who can’t select their own voting senators or representatives, and to examine details of a proposed constitution for our new state.
Thanks to a vote by the DC Council in July, statehood will be on our ballots on Election Day, but there’s more to do between now and then. Bardin wrote the following summary of where the process stands with links to key documents. Please let him know if you would like to help draft testimony by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The DC Council will soon announce a September hearing schedule for Bill 21-0826, “To recommend to Congress a revised District of Columbia Statehood Constitution for the State of New Columbia.” Here’s background to prepare for and follow that process.
Mayor Bowser proposed a bold drive for statehood on D.C. Emancipation Day, April 15, 2016. Background and details are posted at statehood.dc.gov.
DC law established the New Columbia Statehood Commission (NCSC) a couple of years ago. Mayor Bowser and DC Council Chairman Mendelson co-chair NCSC. It also includes DC’s elected “shadow” delegation, Senators Strauss and Brown and Congressman Garcia. NCSC developed the current proposal. It published a discussion draft constitution after considering 498 public comments. It posted a redline comparison of its discussion draft and its final recommendation.
On June 28, 2016, NCSC unanimously approved a proposed Constitution, proposed boundaries between a new state and a smaller federal seat of government, and adopted the “New Columbia Statehood Commission Report” explaining these actions. That report states:
In 1980, citizens of the District voted to convene a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of creating a constitution for the “State of New Columbia” so that statehood could be pursued following [a 1796 Plan that] citizens of an area seeking admission as a state vote to approve the following four elements: (1) the desire for statehood, (2) a constitution, (3) state boundaries, and (4) a republican form of government. The constitution itself must be both consistent with the Constitution of the United States of America and embrace a republican, i.e. representative, form of government. That constitution is then sent to the President and the Congress requesting statehood. That request for statehood can be granted by the Congress through an Act of Congress.
Seven of the new states admitted to join the first 13 followed that plan, and 30 followed other plans. Congress admitted all new 37 states by ordinary Act of Congress.
Congress has never required an affirmative vote for admission as a state by three-fourths of the states. A constitutional amendment, agreed to by three-fourths of the states, would be needed only if we sought voting U.S. senators without becoming state, as we did in 1978. All 37 new states entered the union on an “equal footing” with the original 13.
On July 11, Mayor Bowser introduced B21-0826 on behalf of NCSC. Her transmittal letter (PDF) submitted the “Constitution for the State of New Columbia Approval Amendment Act of 2016.” B21-0826 has five sections; the proposed constitution in section 2 comprises almost all of the Bill (In the PDF, pages 3-54 of the transmittal or pages 1-52 of the Bill). Ancillary provisions address technical issues such as Congressional review.
On July 12, the DC Council unanimously approved “Advisory Referendum on the State of New Columbia Admission Act Resolution of 2016” (PR 21-839). It asks the Board of Elections to place an advisory referendum on our November 8 ballot. In Chairman Mendelson’s summary he states that he hopes to mark up B21-0826 and pass at least the first of two required readings before November 8.