Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today expressed her gratitude to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government for funding most of her top priorities during a difficult budget year, including the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant program (DCTAG); start-up funds to help the District of Columbia develop the East Campus at St. Elizabeths in Ward 8; new funds for the treatment of HIV/AIDS n D.C., beyond the federal grants the city currently receives; and money to assist the District in covering the cost of handling major demonstrations and other national events in the nation's capital city, including next year's presidential inauguration. Norton said that Chairwoman Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and Ranking Member Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) had shown "special insight and knowledge of our priorities, notwithstanding the pressures of the current budget environment."
A major but not unexpected provision barring the District from spending its own local funds on abortion services for low-income women, however, brought deep disappointment to city officials and residents. Norton got this provision removed for the first time last Congress, but upon reclaiming control of the House, Republicans have insisted on re-imposing this intrusion into the lives of the city's women and the city's right to govern itself and spend local tax money it alone has raised. Norton will work with her Senate allies and with a national coalition of more than 100 organizations, some of which appeared with her at a press conference last week, pledging to get their members to contact appropriators to assure D.C. has a clean appropriations bill.
Norton's top funding priority, DCTAG, received $30 million, the same amount as in the current fiscal year. Because President Obama requested $35.1 million, Norton will work with the Senate to get the full amount in the final bill. The bill also includes $24.7 million for emergency planning and security costs associated with national events and demonstrations, at least $9.8 million of which will cover costs associated with the next presidential inauguration; D.C. public and charter schools will get $20 million each; there is $375,000 for tuition for D.C. National Guard soldiers; $9.8 million to develop a center for innovation and entrepreneurship to help start D.C.'s redevelopment of the East Campus at St Elizabeths in Ward 8; and $5 million for testing and treatment of D.C. residents for HIV/AIDS, an amount for the District also received in the current fiscal year, to continue the work Norton says was made necessary because the city's HIV/AIDS rate shot up during the 10 years Congress barred the District from spending its local funds on needle exchange programs.
"We are particularly grateful for the 100 organizations nationwide working in concert to activate their members, who in turn will tell House and Senate appropriators to keep their hands off D.C.'s local budget and to respect the city's home-rule rights," Norton said. "Their efforts were felt last year when no D.C. riders were imposed, other than the abortion rider. We are deeply disappointed that the introduced version of the fiscal year 2013 D.C. appropriations bill again includes the D.C. abortion rider, but with help from the coalition and the District's friends in the Senate, we will fight back against that rider."