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Still No Representation for the Nation’s Capital

Still No Representation for the Nation’s Capital

Though 40 states voted on 139 ballot measures last November, there were voters in the country who were not fully heard: those in the District of Columbia. Ironically, those who live where Congress meets lack full representation.

There is no one representing the District in the Senate, and the House of Representatives has one DC member non-voting delegate. While Americans living in the District pay federal taxes, serve on juries, and participate in the Armed Services, they do not have full representation. Further, all locally passed laws and the District’s local budget require Congressional approval. The District is subject to this oversight, yet its citizens cannot make their voices heard in the legislative body that regulates them.

This was especially notable in the past election. DC voted in support of Initiative 71 to legalize marijuana in the District. The provision would allow DC residents and visitors to have up to 2 ounces of marijuana for personal use and would allow home cultivation of up to three plants. Although this proposal was democratically elected and approved by a margin of more than 2 to 1, because of the federal oversight layers currently in place in DC, the proposal was not upheld because of negotiations in the spending bill that had been made to keep the federal government funded.

Last September, for the first time in twenty years, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs had a full committee hearing on DC Statehood, “Equality for the District of Columbia: Discussing the Implications of S. 132, The New Columbia Admission Act of 2013”. However, this legislation did not make it further than this hearing in the 113th Congress.

Reform Jews have advocated for increased rights for the District for over half a century. As Jews, long disenfranchised members of society, we are well aware of the importance of having elected representation. In the Book of Numbers, we learn of God’s instructions to Moses to gather 70 elders of Israel to serve as representatives of the people (Numbers 11:16–25) and in the Talmud, Rabbi Yitzhak taught, “A ruler is not to be appointed until the community is first consulted.”

 

Government officials must be accountable to the citizens they represent, and having members of Congress elected in DC are key to ensuring that all have sufficient representation in forming our nation’s policies. We support the full voting rights of the citizens of D.C, including representation in both the House and the Senate and we also believe that the results of each election should be respected.

Published: 12/31/2014

Categories: Social Justice