The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) released her statement in advance of a "Save D.C. Home Rule" press conference today on efforts to protect D.C. home rule during the fiscal year 2015 appropriations process. In addition to Norton, the speakers are Kimberly Perry, Executive Director, DC Vote; Ezekiel Edwards, Director of the Criminal Law Reform Project, American Civil Liberties Union; Leslie McGorman, Senior Policy Representative, NARAL Pro-Choice America; Dana Singiser, Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Jon Lowy, Legal Director, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; and William McColl, Political Director, AIDS United.
In her statement, Norton said, "The progress we have made against anti-home-rule opponents in the House and Senate, with the help of those who will speak today, is visible and unmistakable. Since they have come to our aid, no new riders have been added to our appropriations bill, including abortion riders, despite several attempts By ourselves, without a vote even on bills to overturn the District's local laws, we turn to DC Vote and the allies whose missions also face risk when the Distict is used as a pawn on their issues. There is no substitute for the obligation of District residents to fight for their own democracy and liberty. There is, however, no reason for them to stand alone."
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton at "Save D.C. Home Rule' Press Conference with National Organizations
Our gratitude to the allies who step forward to our defense today to help the District of Columbia preserve and expand its right to home rule is equaled only by the continuing need for their assistance. This assistance, particularly during appropriations periods, has been manifestly effective for the District, which is denied the tools and representation of even the smallest state delegations. The organizations with us today have reached out to their members to alert the constituents of congressional appropriators of the consequences of barring the city from spending its own local funds on important local missions championed by these organizations nationwide. An increasing number of national and local organizations have come to our defense, but only six can speak today. However, they represent many more allies in our struggle for full self-government rights. We are very grateful to the organizations that have come to our aid over the years, especially those who will speak today -- American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and AIDS United. We are especially grateful to DC Vote, which has organized a great variety of other organizations as well that join us on the principle of local control of local money, regardless of any particular issue. However, the allies who will speak here today are representatives of national organizations that themselves have been targets of Congress and recognize that the persistent attacks on the District for issues for which these organizations stand are necessarily attacks on these organizations and their members across the country. Instead of leaving the District to fend for itself, they have stepped up to make clear to appropriators that we are all in this together.
Our allies have had incredible success in keeping the District's appropriations bill clean of any new anti-home-rule riders. Their message to appropriators has been that they will contact the constituents of appropriators through the members of these organizations should anti-democratic amendments be attached to the District's appropriations, consisting of funds raised by District taxpayers. They will inform appropriators' constituents that instead of attending to the business of their local districts and of the nation, they are spending time in Washington interfering in the local affairs of a district not their own.
A mention of the status of the attacks makes the best case for the importance of the allies who will speak today. The District was singled out for a hearing on its new marijuana decriminalization law, even though 18 states have passed similar laws. Immediately following that hearing, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), who had to receive special permission to sit at the hearing because he is not a member of the committee, threatened to seek a congressional disapproval resolution. With the help of allies, we intend to retain our marijuana decriminalization law. We do not intend a repeat of the decade it took to remove the rider preventing the District's medical marijuana law from taking effect. Together, we have kept the tragic needle exchange rider from being reimposed. We will not again allow the sacrifice of thousands of residents who died or became infected with HIV/AIDS when the District's needle exchange law was shut down by Congress, leaving the city with the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the nation. When the Democrats controlled the House, we got the needle exchange ban removed in 2008, and with the help of our allies, we have prevented attempts to reinstate this deadly ban ever since.
Threats continue to D.C.'s gun safety laws, even though every court has upheld the city's new gun laws, including the city's strict registration requirements just last week. Yet a bill has been continually introduced, this Congress by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), to eliminate each and every one of the District's gun safety laws. This bill, introduced last year, has not moved forward. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) last year got through the House a sense of Congress resolution that military personnel, when not performing military duties, should be exempt from D.C.'s gun laws. We got the resolution removed from the final bill, with help from our allies. Attacks have been greatest against the District's low-income women, who are deprived of the right to an abortion paid for by the District's local funds, the only remaining prohibition on our appropriations bill. Yet with the help of our allies, we have successfully pushed back attempts to make the annual abortion rider permanent, to enact a D.C. 20-week abortion ban bill, and to enact a sense of Congress resolution that Congress should pass a D.C. 20-week abortion ban bill. Our success, with the help of our unfailingly dedicated and energetic pro-choice allies, encourages us to believe that we can overcome even this most resistant of riders. We got the abortion rider removed in 2009, and we will do it again.
The progress we have made against anti-home-rule opponents in the House and Senate, with the help of those who will speak today, is visible and unmistakable. Since they have come to our aid, no new riders have been added to our appropriations bill, including abortion riders, despite several attempts. Encouragingly, the fallback to sense of Congress resolutions, which do not have the force of law, on D.C.'s gun laws, and even on abortion, is evidence that our unflagging fight together has weakened the resolve of our opponents in the face of our vigorous opposition.
Our allies represent millions of Americans who agree with D.C.'s laws on marijuana decriminalization, gun safety, needle exchange, and reproductive rights. Even Americans who disagree with the policies nevertheless support overwhelmingly the federalist principle at the root of our effort, and of nation's founding, that the national government must not interfere with local affairs, particularly local funds. Forty years ago, Congress gave the District local jurisdiction over each and every one of the issues to be discussed today and home-rule authority over virtually all other local matters except for a very few narrow exceptions. But, by ourselves, without a vote even on bills to overturn the District's local laws, we turn to DC Vote and the allies whose missions also face risk when the Distict is used as a pawn on their issues.
There is no substitute for the obligation of District residents to fight for their own democracy and liberty. There is, however, no reason for them to stand alone. We deeply appreciate those who stand with us, and will say so today.