Vincent Orange

D.C. Council members Vincent Orange (Courtesy Photo)

Two members of the D.C. Council almost persuaded an influential political association to back District statehood but fell short because of last minute maneuvering by opponents.

D.C. Council members Vincent Orange (D-At Large), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) represented the District at the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Legislative Summit that took place in Seattle from Aug. 3-6. The NCLS is the bipartisan trade association for legislators in the 50 states, the District, and territories, and possessions such as Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Bonds presented a pro-D.C. statehood resolution with the support of Orange to the conference’s Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee on Aug. 3. Bonds’ resolution calls on the legislators to “support the residents of the District of Columbia with the same rights enjoyed by all other residents of America.”

District residents pay federal taxes and can be drafted to serve in the U.S. military but don’t have a voting representative in the U.S. Congress. Congress also has final approval over its budget and laws. Bonds said that the time for District statehood is now.

“As a long-term statehood activist who served on the D.C. State Constitutional Convention in 1974, I remain committed to highlighting the inequities that Americans in the nation’s capital endure, and will continue to educate and build support for D.C. statehood across the nation,” she said. “Taxation without representation meant a lot in 1776 and it means the same today.”

David Meadows, a long-time Democratic activist and statehood supporter kept close tabs on the committee meeting. He said Bonds explained that D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is not a representative but a delegate. She said Norton has all of the privileges of being a member of the U.S. House of Representatives but cannot vote on the House floor and added that there is no representation of the District in the U.S. Senate.

Bonds also said the District retroceding into Maryland, as another legislator suggested, is not a viable option because District residents don’t want it and neither do Marylanders.

Orange tweeted that the committee initially voted to support Bonds’ pro-D.C. statehood resolution but procedural problems came up and a revote took place. “Re-vote on D.C. Statehood vote fails by one vote,” Orange tweeted. “Need 3/4 to prevail. DC received 17 yes-votes and six no votes but WV (West Virginia) came in and vote no.”

The D.C. statehood effort died but Meadows said some good came out of the process. “You have to remember that the majority of state legislators are Republican because most state legislative bodies in the United States are run by Republicans,” Meadows said. “To get as far as we did with the resolution was great.”

Republicans control 31 state legislatures while the Democrats control only 11 and eight have different parties controlling both chambers.

James Jones, the communications director for DC Vote, an organization that advocates for a voting member of the House and two senators for District residents, said that Bonds’ effort was worth it. “We hope the District delegation to the NCSL will try the resolution again at the winter meeting,” Jones said.

The winter meeting will take place in the District from Dec. 8-11.