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Eleanor N.
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  • The Introduction of the District of Columbia Paperwork Reduction Act

    by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton

    Posted on 2014-01-07

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    NORTON of the district of columbia in the house of representatives Tuesday, January 7, 2014 Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, today I introduce the District of Columbia Paperwork Reduction Act, to eliminate the wasteful congressional review process for legislation passed by [[Page E10]] the District of Columbia Council and to align longtime congressional practice and the law. The congressional review process for D.C. bills provides no benefit to Congress, but imposes substantial costs (in time and money) on the District. Indeed, Congress effectively abandoned the congressional review process as a mechanism for overturning D.C. legislation twenty-three years ago, yet it still requires the D.C. Council to use Kafkaesque make-work procedures to comply with the abandoned congressional review process established by the Home Rule Act of 1973.

    The bill would eliminate the congressional review process for legislation passed by the D.C. Council. Congress would lose no authority it currently exercises because, even upon enactment of my bill, Congress would retain its authority under clause 17 of section 8 of article I of the U.S. Constitution to amend or overturn any D.C. legislation at any time.

    The congressional review process (30 days for civil bills and 60 days for criminal bills) includes only those days when both houses of Congress are in session, delaying D.C. bills from becoming law, often for many months. The delay forces the D.C. Council to pass most bills several times, using a cumbersome and complicated process to ensure that the operations of this large and rapidly changing city continue uninterrupted, or in the alternative, the lapse of the bill before it becomes final. The review period, based on legislative, not calendar, days means, for example, that a 30-day period usually lasts three calendar months and often much longer because of congressional recesses. The congressional review period for a bill that changed the word ``handicap'' to ``disability'' lasted nine months. The Council estimates that 50-65 percent of the bills the Council passes could be eliminated if the review period did not exist. To ensure predictability, the Council often must pass the same legislation in three forms--emergency (in effect for 90 days), temporary (in effect for 225 days) and permanent. Moreover, the Council has to carefully track the days Congress is in session for each piece of legislation it passes to avoid gaps and to determine when the bills have taken effect. The Council estimates that it could save 5,000 employee-hours and 160,000 sheets of paper per Council period if the review period were eliminated.

    My bill would do no more than align the Home Rule Act with congressional practice over the last twenty-three years. Since the Home Rule Act, of the more than 4,500 legislative acts transmitted to Congress, only three resolutions disapproving D.C. legislation have been enacted--in 1979, 1981, and 1991--and two of those mistakenly involved federal interests in the Height Act and the location of chanceries. Placing a congressional hold on 4,500 D.C. bills has not only proven unnecessary, but also a waste of money and time for both the District and Congress. Instead of using the congressional review process to overturn D.C. legislation, Congress has preferred to use appropriations riders. It is particularly unfair to require the D.C. Council to engage in a labor-intensive and costly process that Congress has itself long ago abandoned. My bill would only eliminate the automatic hold placed on D.C. legislation and the need for the D.C. Council to use a process initially passed for the convenience of Congress, but one that Congress has since eliminated in all but law. The bill would promote efficiency and cost savings for the District, and carry out a policy stressed by Congress of eliminating needless paperwork and make-work redundancy.

    I urge my colleagues to support this good-government measure.


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