The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that two of her bills to increase the city's home-rule authority will be marked up by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in SD-342. The bills would remove the District from the federal Hatch Act, allow it to pass its own Hatch Act, and give the city flexibility to set its own dates for special elections.
Norton's D.C. Hatch Act Reform Act, which is included this year in the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 (S. 2170), would remove the District, the only local jurisdiction under the federal Hatch Act, from the federal Hatch Act, allowing the city to create its own local Hatch Act. Application of the federal Hatch Act to local D.C. matters has confused federal authorities, who are unfamiliar with local circumstances in determining Hatch Act violations. Last Congress, Norton's D.C. Hatch Act Reform Act passed the House and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, before being stopped by an anonymous hold in the Senate.
Norton's District of Columbia Special Election Reform Act (H.R. 3902), which has already passed the House, would give the city flexibility in scheduling special elections. Current law requires the city to wait 114 days before holding a special election to fill a vacant elected office, but Norton, at the request of Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council, introduced the measure to provide a window between 70 and 174 days to schedule a special election. She got a similar bill passed in the House last Congress, but an anonymous hold in the Senate prevented its passage. As a result, the city could not fill the vacancy for former Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas's seat, and now must spend an additional $360,000 for a special election to fill the seat on May 15.
"Both of these bills take the Congress deep into the arcane weeds of local laws, where no national legislature belongs," Norton said. "Allowing D.C. to set its own local laws would have allowed the city to fill the Ward 5 vacancy more quickly and cheaply, and permitting a local Hatch Act, like those in every other local jurisdiction, would allow the Council, which knows local law best, to draw the line appropriately. These bills enhance the District's home-rule authority while sparing federal authorities needless trouble and wasted time on local matters outside of their expertise."