Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Obama Budget Offers DC Greater Autonomy

President Barack Obama’s proposed $4 trillion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which was released Monday, included provisions to remove restrictions on marijuana legalization and abortion services in the District, supporting greater budgetary and legislative autonomy for D.C.

The congressional omnibus spending bill, passed in December, restricted D.C. officials from using federal and local funds to perform any abortions or enact any legislation related to the possession or distribution of marijuana.

According to The Washington Post, the budget removes the “local” portion of these policy riders in a section on page 1248 of the proposal, permitting the usage of local tax revenue to implement a tax-and-regulate system for marijuana distribution in the District, in addition to providing abortion services for low-income women.

“None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use or distribution of any schedule I substance. … None of the Federal funds appropriated under this Act shall be expended for any abortion except where the life of the mother would be endangered,” the proposal reads.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) expressed her support for the changes included in the White House’s proposal.

“We are grateful that the president again has demonstrated his support for D.C. to spend its local funds as it chooses and without politically motivated congressional interferences,” Norton said in a statement.

The issue of marijuana legalization has become a point of contention in the debate regarding congressional oversight over the District. While voters passed Initiative 71 to legalize possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for individuals over the age of 21, Congress added the provision in the omnibus bill.

Despite this, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) sent the initiative to Congress on Jan. 16 to begin a 30-day review period, as advocates argue that the legislation was already implemented when voters passed the initiative.

Obama’s proposal, however, could enable the D.C. Council to enact a tax-and-regulation scheme similar to the systems currently in Colorado and Washington, offering greater oversight for the council over the legalization process. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced a bill to begin such deliberations in October but was halted by the provision that prevented further legislation on the issue.

With the Monday release, the proposal will now undergo exhaustive review through committees in both the Senate and House, offering Republican opponents, particularly Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who introduced the omnibus policy rider, plenty of opportunities to amend the legislation.

In addition to the specific policy provisions, the budget broadly extends support for D.C. budget and legislative autonomy. Obama said in July 2014 that he was “for” D.C. statehood, and the Senate held the first hearing since 1993 on the issue in September.

“Consistent with the principle of home rule, it is the Administration’s view that the District’s local autonomy should be enhanced and increased,” the proposal reads.

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