By mbolton | June 3, 2015
Last week we saw a welcomed victory in the fight for DC local budget control. This win for the District has been complicated and threatened by opposing legal arguments aimed at weakening popular support for the law. This strategy to sow confusion makes discussion about our budget law inaccessible to most supporters of DC Equality.
To start, it is best to read the actual court order:
Upon consideration of Mayor Bowser’s suggestion of mootness and motion to dismiss the appeal, the responses thereto, and the reply, it is
ORDERED that the motion be granted. The judgment of the court below is hereby vacated and the case is remanded to the district court with instructions to remand the case to the D.C. Superior Court.
The Clerk is directed to transmit to the Clerk of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia a certified copy of this order in lieu of a formal mandate.
What does this mean?
Simply put, this order undoes the previous court ruling declaring DC’s local budget control law invalid. With that ruling gone, the 2013 budget autonomy referendum introduced by the DC Council, supported by DC Vote and approved by 83% of DC voters is now law. District leaders officially have the authority to spend local tax dollars in fiscal year 2016 without the need for Congressional approval.
What happens next?
While Mayor Bowser and the DC Council are staking out a cautious course and despite opposition from the Chief Financial Officer, local budget control is the law. The DC Council will hold a second reading of the budget bill, and send the approved budget to Congress for a 30 day review – just like any other piece of legislation. Congress does not have to actively approve the budget, and once the 30 day review ends, the budget is enacted. Starting October 1, the District will be free to spend local tax dollars in accordance with that budget.
Is the fight over?
The fight is far from over. Members of Congress – armed with a legal opinion from a previous DC Attorney General – are not quick to give up their control over the District’s budget. And, the fact that Congress still retains authority to overturn any DC law – including the budget law. The Attorney General and CFO will soon decide who they will stand with, the Congress or the people they have sworn to serve. DC Vote is ready to fight any attack on DC’s rights and laws, but we are also prepared to stand strong with our leaders who step forward to advance local autonomy.