The District of Columbia and Self-Governance
Not until 1973 were residents of Washington, DC granted the power to elect their own local government. Provisions in the District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973 allowed DC residents to elect a mayor and city council to govern local affairs. Yet, despite these provisions for DC's self-governance, Congress wields incredible power over the District's local laws and budget. Unlike any other jurisdiction in the country, Congress remains in control of the District courts, can overturn local legislation and may revise the local budget at will.
Congressional Interference in DC's Local Legislation and Budget
Members of Congress routinely use DC as a testing ground for legislation, sometimes passing bills they would never consider for their home districts. Congress has tried to overturn local DC laws on issues including gun control, needle-exchange programs and marriage equality. And though District residents' tax dollars fund the vast majority of the local budget, provisions in the Home Rule Act frequently hinder DC's locally-elected officials from serving the needs of local residents.
Learn More about the History of DC's Struggle for Local Self-Governance
District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973
The Fight for Home Rule
Struggle for Democracy - A Local Sociopolitical History Of Washington, District of Columbia
Left with Few Rights: Unequal Democracy and the District of Columbia
A New Paradigm for District-Federal Relations
Return to Top of Page