Michael Bindner's DC Blog

In this blog, I discuss DC politics and other issues of import to local government. I have posted several essays from my book, Musings from the Christian Left, on blog entreies dated June 2004.

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Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The National Capital Service Area - Finances, Voting Rights AND Statehood

One of the open issues in the drive for statehood is the question of "what's left." This recently came up in discussions on the Stand Up for Democracy discussion list. In 2000, I organized a workshop (along with the Committee for the Capital City) discussing strategies for the movement after a victory in Adams v. Clinton, the 20 Citizens lawsuit. Both statehood and reunion with Maryland were explored. Of course, as you all know, victory did not only not come, but the issues raised were not addressed by the Court. The discussion was valuable, even if it was premature. One of the issues raised was how to draw the boundaries for what is left in the National Capital Service Area. The 1982 Constitution ratified by the voters, as well as the now dormant proposed 1987 Constitution, used the boundaries enacted in the Home Rule Act. This is a problem, since any income earned in that area would not be subject to a non-resident income tax (which shows that this issue is a red herring as an objection to statehood as currently drawn, since most commuters work inside the NCSA). At the 2000 meeting, it was suggested by longtime D.C. Statehood Party member Lou Aronica that these boundaries be readdressed, because of the commuter tax issue.

The maintenance of the NCSA is one of the failures of the D.C. Government. The Home Rule Act allows the District to seek reimbursement from the Administrator of the NCSA for services rendered to it. President Ford named the National Capital Planning Commission as permanent administrator, yet the District has not seen fit to seek the reimbursement it so richly deserves. Doing so would reopen the question of compensating the District equitably, leading in time to an approriation for these purposes. A no-year appropriation would be best, since this would not be subject to the vagaries of partisan politics. Presumably, such an appropriation would be durable, that is, it would last even in the event of statehood for New Columbia.

This still leaves open the question of redrawing the lines of the NCSA to capture the income from as well as reimbursement for services too, the non-residents who work within it. This is a key question regardless of whether one prefers statehood or reunion with Maryland, since keeping this income out of the mix may sour the deal for Maryland, since then it would not be able to ask for commuter taxes on all of those Virginians. This is good, as it means that Maryland's congressional delegation become natural allies in any discussion on resetting the boundaries of the NCSA.

There is an even more urgent factor in this debate, the question of Presidential and congressional voting rights. How we draw these boundaries is important, not only for commuter taxes, but because under Evans v. Cornman, residents of federal enclaves have a right to vote. Currently, the ANC boundaries are drawn to include all federal land - including the Navy Yard, Bolling Air Force Base and Fort McNair. These military members and their families, who have a right to vote at home, also have a right to vote in District elections instead. ANC Commissioners represent these individuals whether they vote or not and technically military members can run for ANC.

This is a salient fact and the reason we must consider redrawing OR NOT redrawing the boundaries of the NCSA. If we redraw the boundaries to include these military members and their families within New Columbia (or Maryland), they will still vote at home and the 23rd Amendment will be a moot point. However, if we leave the NCSA boundaries as they are, these military families suddenly have a reason to register to vote in the District of Columbia. Not only that, but overseas American soldiers have an interest in changing their home addresses to one of these bases. Why is this? THREE REPUBLICAN ELECTORAL VOTES, TWO SENATORS AND A CONGRESSMAN (should voting rights pass and include senatorial representation). This might actually be the compromise needed for New Columbia to achieve statehood. Granting statehood under current law would give three electoral votes to the new state and three to those who remain - a net three for the party in power. It makes voting rights attractive in the Senate to the party in power. So attractive that the Democrats may fillibuster the measure.

Here is where the MOVEMENT needs to do a morals check. Is the movement really about self determination or is about partisan advantage? If it is about partisan advantage, the movement loses its moral focus (which the Republicans doubt it has anyway). If we are really sincere, we will take statehood under these terms, with no net Democratic gains - and even a small loss. This should not be important, since the failure of the last two Democratic presidential candidates had more to do with a bankrupt electoral strategy (win the "Blue States" rather than running a truly national candidate) than with the electoral map.

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