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Government and People
Committee on Government Operations
441 4th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001
Subject: Report on Bill 14-25, the "Consecutive Term Limitation
Amendment Act of 2001"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Background, Purpose and Effect
Bill 14-25, the "Consecutive Term Limitation Amendment Act of 2001," was introduced by Councilmember Evans, Chairman Cropp and Councilmembers Allen, Ambrose, Catania, Mendelson, Patterson and Schwartz, on January 23, 2001, and was referred to the Committee on Government Operations on January 24, 2001. The purpose of Bill 14-25 is to amend Section 8(b)(1)(B) of the District of Columbia Election Code of 1955, approved August 12, 1955 (69 Shat. 701; D.C. Code §1-1312 (b)(1)(B)), and eliminate the limitation on the number of consecutive terms for Chairman and members of the Council, and the Board of Education. See Committee Print (Attachment A).The "Term limits Initiative of 1995," as applied to the Mayor, Chairman and members of the Council, and the Board of Education, was promulgated by voter initiative on November 5, 1994. The voter initiative sought to amend the Election Code of the District of Columbia laws, and effectively add an additional qualification, that being term limits or anti-incumbency, to the list of qualifications for holding these Charter created elective offices.
The Office of the Mayor is established by Section 421 of the Charter, which also prescribes the qualifications for holding that office. The Council is established by Section 401 of the Charter, and the qualifications for holding the offices of Chairman or member of the Council are set forth in Section 402 of the Charter. The Board of Education is established by Section 495 of the Charter.
The Charter Amending Procedure originated in H.R. 9056, §396 (a), which contained provisions for amending the Charter by both referendum and initiative.1 H. R. 9056 was voted out of the Committee of the Whole2 as a clean bill, H.R. 9682, with the Charter Amending Procedure stated in §303(a) of the renumbered House bill.3 The Senate version of the Home Rule Act, S. 1435 did not permit the Council to amend the Charter as reflected in the Conference Agenda of October 30, 1973, comparing S. 1435 (District of Columbia Charter Act) with the House Amendment thereto.4 (Attachment G). The Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference described the resulting referendum procedures for amending the Charter as a Conference substitute.5 (Attachment H). 6
Thus, in noting the apparent inconsistencies with the current procedures for amending the Home Rule Charter and the procedures used to promulgate the "Term Limit Initiative of 1995," D.C. Law 10-254, the Committee is presented with the question of whether D.C. Law 10-254, which was accomplished by the voter initiative process provided in D.C. Code §1-282(a), and purports to add the additional qualification of antiincumbency to certain Charter created elective offices, was a valid exercise of the electorate's legislative powers and is now legally enforceable?
The Committee requested that the General Counsel to the Council render an opinion on the following two questions: (1) Whether limitations on the number of consecutive 4-year terms elected officials may serve in the positions of Mayor, Chairman or members of the Council, and members of the Board of Elections require amendments to the Home Rule Charter? (2) Whether D.C. Law 10-254 is valid to impose limits on the number of consecutive terms served by the Mayor, Chairman, members of the Council, and members of the Board of Education? The opinion first concluded that the qualifications identified in the Charter for these specific Charter created elective offices is exclusive, and that the only means by which to amend the list of qualifications is through the Charter amending procedures set forth in Section 303 of the Home Rule Act and codified as D.C. Code §1-205.7
Accordingly, in the absence of a decision by a court of competent jurisdiction finding that the "Term Limits Initiative of 1995" is neither enforceable nor valid, the Committee, from a legal standpoint, will presume that the statute is valid and afford the Committee and Council the opportunity to address this issue. Therefore, the Committee, after having voted, recommends that bill 14-25, the "Consecutive Term Limitation Amendment Act of 2001", be adopted. The Committee takes notice of prior enactments by the Council which overturned initiatives on the homeless, on mandatory minimum sentencing and on campaign finance as precedent for referring the Committee print to the full Committee in its present form.
The Committee held a public hearing on March 12, 2001 to receive public testimony on the Bill 14-25, the "Consecutive Term Limitation Amendment Act of 2001 A summary of testimony and representative statements follow:9
SUMMARY OF STATEMENTS OF COUNCILMEMBERSAt the public hearing held by the Committee on March 12, 2001, Committee Chairman Orange, Chairman Cropp, and Councilmembers Ambrose, Evans, Fenty, Mendelson and Patterson were present. Councilmember Orange began the hearing by stating that he thought that the term limit debate would ultimately come down to an issue of process rather than the merits of the policy. Councilmember Orange also noted that there may possibly be an issue that the legality and enforceability of the "Term Limit Initiative of 1995." Chairman Cropp and Councilmembers Evans and Mendelson then voiced their support for the legislation. Councilmember Fenty, in voicing his opposition to Bill 14-25, offered three alternatives: (1) that the Council initiative a referendum and put the issue to the voters; (2) that if the bill were to be considered by the Council, that the new repeal not apply to the sitting members; or (3) that the Council support a legislative proposal to make the Councilmembers' positions full-time.
SUMMARY OF PUBLIC TESTIMONY
John Ray, former D.C. Councilmember. Mr. Ray testified in favor of the legislation. Mr. Ray noted that the Council has overturned initiatives on three past occasions after the initiative had taken effect, and that the repeal was based on experience with the impact of the initiative. In overturning past initiatives, the Council enacted legislation rather than return the issue to the voters.
Bill Lightfoot, former D.C. Councilmember . Mr. Lightfoot testified against the legislation and stated that the Council should respect the will of the people. Mr. Lightfoot went on to state that the District's term limit debate what not necessarily a debate involving the merits of the public policy underlying term limits, but rather the process that would be utilized in determining which public policy position would be pursued. Mr. Lightfoot further testified that the mandatory minimum initiative and the homeless initiative, unlike the term limit initiative, were put into effect before being repealed by the Council. Finally, Mr. Lightfoot conceded that although a Charter amendment might be needed, the Courts in this jurisdiction have not deemed the law to be unconstitutional.
Wilhelmina Rolark, former D.C. Councilmember . Mrs. Rolark testified against the legislation, and requested that the Council consider all points of view.
Florence H. Pendleton, U.S. Senator . Senator Pendleton testified in opposition to the legislation. She has also opposed past legislation to set aside initiatives. Senator Pendleton opined that this action to overturn the will of the people may serve as an impediment in the District's efforts in achieving statehood.
R. David Hall, former School Board President . Mr. Hall testified in favor of term limits and stated that the purpose of term limits is to preserve democracy.
Warren Lane, Chairman of Ward 2 Democratic Committee . Mr. Lane testified against the legislation and stated that a new initiative should be held to resolve the issue of overturning term limits.
D. Hunter, D.C. Citizens Advocacy Project . Mr. Hunter testified in favor of term limits and expressed the opinion that disparate benefits of incumbency operate as a barrier to participation by the electorate. Mr. Hunter further noted that voter turnout for the "Term Limitation Initiative of 1995" was four times that of the "School Board Charter Amendment of 2000."
Arthur H. Jackson, Ward 8 Democratic Committee Member. Mr. Jackson testified against the repeal and in favor of term limits.
Matthew Shannon, Chairman of Ward 7 Democrats . Mr. Shannon testified against the repeal of term limits.
Norman Neverson. Chair of DC Democratic Committee. Mr. Neverson testified against the repeal of term limits.Geri Washington, 1st Vice Chair of Ward 7 Democrats. Ms. Washington testified against the repeal of term limits.
Calvin Lockridge, ANC 8C03. Mr. Lockridge testified against the repeal of term limits.
George Jackson, ANC Ward 51305. Mr. Jackson testified against the repeal of term limits.
Lawrence Guyot, ANC Commissioner 1D04. Mr. Guyot testified in favor of repealing the term limitation prohibition and expressed the opinion that he believed that such provisions infringe upon his rights to select the candidate of his choice.
Professor Ron Artisst, Interim President, Brookland Civic Association. Mr. Artisst testified against the repeal legislation and stated that the Council should respect the will of the voters.
Dino Drudi, Former President North Michigan Park Civic Association. Mr. Drudi testified against the repeal legislation.
Lin Hagood, N Street Citizen Association. Mr. Hagood testified against the repeal legislation.
Dorothy Brizill, DC Watch. Ms. Brizill testified against the repeal legislation.
Hattie Holmes, ANC4D02. Ms. Holmes testified against the repeal legislation.
Lars Hydle, ANC3C07. Mr. Hydle testified against the repeal legislation.
Dorothy Miller, ANC2A05. Ms. Miller testified against the repeal and the process, legislative enactment versus a referendum, chosen by the Council. Ms. Miller stated that for the Council to vote on legislation that affects seats on the Council posed a conflict of interest.
Ann Lloyd Breeden, ANC3B. Ms. Breeden testified against the repeal and urged that the issue should be put to the voters in a referendum.
The Committee finds that Bill 14-25 will have no fiscal impact on District funds.
Section 1 states the long and short titles of Bill 14-25.
Section 2 amends the "Term Limits Initiative of 1955", Section 8(b)(1)(B) of the District of Columbia Election Code of 1955, approved August 12, 1955 (69 Stat. 701; D.C. Code §1-1312(b)(1)(B)).
Section 3 describes the projected fiscal impact of Bill 14-25.
Section 4 establishes the effective date for Bill 14-25
Bill 14-25 amends the "Term Limits Initiative of 1995", Section 8(b)(1)(B) of the District of Columbia Election Code of 1955, approved August 12, 1955 (69 Stat. 701; D.C. Code §1-1312(b)(1)(B)).
The Committee on Government Operations met on April 24, 2001 to consider Bill 14-25. The Committee votes favorably on the legislation and recommends adoption by the Council of the District of Columbia.
1. Home Rule for the District of Columbia 1973-1974, 93rd Cong. 2d Sess., H.R. 9056, 2d Subcommittee markup, June 11, 1973, pp. 395-366.
2. Home Rule for the District of Columbia 1973-1974, 93rd Cong. 2d Sess., H.R. 9056, Full committee markup, July 25, 1973, p.1101.
3. Home Rule for the District of Columbia 1973-1974, 93rd Cong. 2d Sess., H.R. 9682, Report of the Committee of the Whole No. 93-482, July 30, 1973, pp. 1243-1244.
4. Home Rule for the District of Columbia 1973-1974, 93rd Cong. 2d Sess., pp. 2844-2845.
5. Home Rule for the District of Columbia 1973-1974, 93rd Cong. 2d Sess., p. 3009.
6. The Charter amending procedure provides as follows:
7. See General Counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia Opinion, March 26, 2001 (Attachment F); This issue was presented to the Supreme Court of Washington State in Gerberding v. Munroe, 134 Wash.2d 188, 949 P.2d 1366 (Wash. 1988); see also United States Term Limits Inc. v. Thomton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995).
8. While the Committee notes that it could attempt to cure the potential defect in D.C. Law 10-254 by offering an amendment in the nature of a substitute to repeal the term limits statute, only a court can "conclusively determine whether the Term Limits Act violates the Home Rule Act. Id. at 7, note 10 (Attachment F). Having a court address this issue can happen primarily in one of two ways: (1) if an affected incumbent member challenges the legality of the statute; or (2) if the electorate attempted to undo an act of the Council by referendum, then the Board of Election and Ethics would make a determination of whether to certify the referendum. In the latter case, the Board would address the question of whether the subject matter of the initiative or referendum is consistent with the Home Rule Charter. See D.C. Code §1-1320. If the Board denied certification, then the electors supporting the initiative or referendum would most likely be afforded standing to challenge the Term Limit Act in court. Thus, even though the Committee is recommending that the Committee adopt bill 14-25 as introduced, the preferred course of action would obviously be to have a court 'conclusively determine" the legality of the statute.
9. See Public Hearing Witness List (Attachments D & E).
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