Obama Administration once again backs DC budget and legislative autonomy

In a Statement of Administration Policy released July 14 by President Obama's Office of Management and Budget and addressed to the House Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the District, the Administration once again expressed its support for DC budget and legislative autonomy.  Specifically, the document singled out the issues of abortion, marijuana, and needle exchanges as topics where Congress should not interfere with how the District spends its local dollars.  The portion of the Statement dealing with the District is included verbatim below. The complete Statement is available here.

Local Budget and Local Legislative Autonomy

The Administration urges the Congress to adopt the provisions requested in the FY 2015 Budget that allow D.C.to spend its own local taxes and other non-Federal funds without Congressional approval, and that enable local legislation to take effect immediately upon adoption by the District government.

Restrictions on the District's Use of Local Funds

The Administration strongly opposes language in the bill that restricts D.C. from using its local funds for abortion services, undermining the principle of States' rights and of District home rule. Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits Federal funds from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered. Similarly, the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally-passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States' rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department's enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.

Needle Exchange

The Administration strongly opposes the restriction in the bill on the use of Federal funds for the District's needle exchange programs. This is contrary to current law and the Administration's policy to allow the use of funds in locations where local authorities deem needle exchange programs to be effective and appropriate.

Education

The Administration is disappointed that the bill compromises a statutorily-mandated evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) by requiring that funds be made available to students in the control group of a multi-year, multi-million dollar Department of Education study already underway. This study is critical to evaluating the impact of OSP vouchers on the academic achievement of participating students. The Administration also objects to the bill's reduction of funding for D.C. Tuition Assistance Grants, which would severely limit assistance available to D.C. students attending public colleges across the United States.