League testifies on Constitution for the State of New Columbia

Testimony on B21-0826—Proposed DC Constitution


October 6, 2016

Good evening.  My name is Linda Beebe, and I am the current president of the League of Women Voters, District of Columbia.  On behalf of the League, I want to thank the Council for this opportunity to testify on B21-0826 “Constitution for the State of New Columbia Approval Amendment Act of 2016.”

The League has supported self-government for the people of the District of Columbia from the time we were formed in 1920, and we have advocated for statehood as a means of obtaining full rights since 1993.  The League of Women Voters of the US holds the same position.  In June this year our national Convention passed a resolution “strongly supporting statehood for the people of the District of Columbia.” 

It is unconscionable, we believe, that residents of the nation’s capital do not have the same rights as the people in the other 50 states do.  And members in 850 Leagues across the country agree.  We are now working on an education campaign “Statehood Toolkit:  Repairing the Hole in Our Democracy” under a grant from the District of Columbia.  We will provide educational materials on statehood to members throughout the U.S., materials that they can use to advocate on behalf of DC residents.

We are, however, concerned about the process that has been used to develop a constitution in haste so that it could be in place before November 8. We do not agree with the New Columbia Statehood Commission statement that technological innovations make it possible for other means to substitute for the deliberations of a body elected for the purpose of agreeing upon a constitution to be submitted for full voter approval. The League believes that any constitutional convention for DC must comprise DC citizens duly elected for that purpose.

We are already on record saying “We cannot support any constitution that does not include a transparent amendment process, such as allowing amendments to be proposed by initiative and/or constitutional convention.” We urge changes in Article VII, § 3 to include an initiative process to propose any specific amendments or to call for a constitutional convention.  We believe any amendments, whether they are proposed by the House of Delegates, an initiative, or a constitutional convention, must be approved by the voters. ­ Bringing full rights to our citizens must include a process that enables them to participate in determining the principles by which they will be governed.

The current New Columbia Admission Acts now before Congress provide for a referendum to approve the constitution and boundaries, which Congress may or may not have changed in their deliberations to create our new state, before the President signs the bill.  We trust that the Statehood Commission will advocate that the bills that will be introduced in the new Congress in January must include the referendum provision.

To reiterate, we want to see 1) clearly defined plans for an elected constitutional convention to consider any revised constitution; 2) changes in the current Constitution reflecting the amendment process; 3) advocacy for a referendum of DC voters following Congressional action to create our new state.

Thank you for your consideration.