Thursday, October 23, 2003

Taxation Without Representation: I may work in Washington, DC, but I live in Arlington, Virginia. There are plenty of wonderful things about the District of Columbia, but I refuse to live in a city controlled by Congress -- especially when the citizens who live there don't have any representation in the Senate or House of Representatives.

About 500,000 people live in Washington, DC. They are American citizens who work, pay taxes, etc. But they aren't allowed to elect voting members of Congress. They have a delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, who can speak in the House of Representatives and sponsor legislation, but she can't cast a single vote. And DC residents don't have anybody representing them in the Senate.

What makes the situation worse is that Congress runs the city. DC does have a mayor and city council who can make some decisions. But Congress sets the budget and can overrule the council. And Congress is known to interfere. When the District wanted to hold a referendum on medicinal marijuana, Congress tried to squash that initiative. Now Congress is working to implement a controversial voucher program, something residents of the District strongly oppose.

Congress isn't allowed to meddle with any other city inside the 50 states the way it does with Washington, DC. Congress derives its power from the Constitution, which lets the legislative branch control federal districts and territories. So that's why the Constitution needs to be amended.

Unfortunately, the Constitution can only be amended if two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states approve of the change. Since the injustice is not widespread, it's nearly impossible to get the attention of people from around the country. And because the vast majority of the District's residents vote for the Democratic Party, Republicans refuse to grant them the right to vote.

The Senate Government Affairs Committee held a hearing yesterday to give the District more control over its budget. But the legislation doesn't go far enough. DC residents have been protesting. Many of them have the phrase "Taxation Without Representation" on their license plates. Now they just need to drive their cars around the country some more. And people outside the Chesapeake Watershed Region need to see what that the civil rights of Americans living inside the nation's capital are being abused.


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