Making Democracy Work


The League Takes Action!


Update from the October 16, 2015 hearing: Muriel Bowser will now be named as a Plaintiff Intervenor and Vincent Gray will be removed from the caption of the case. The caption is now 2014 CA 002371 B COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND MURIEL BOWSER, INTERVENOR Vs. JEFFREY DEWITT. Control date is scheduled for 3/04/2016 @ 9:30am. KWD/J. HOLEMAN


Contrary to hopes, the substantive issue of the District's authority over its budget remains unresolved in the courts. On May 27, 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit issued an order without comment vacating the lower US District Court's decision, with direction to remand the case to the DC Superior Court. Effectively, we are back to square one, without any court-directed action.

DC Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt and Attorney General Karl Racine issued the following short statement on May 27, 2015:

"The D.C. Circuit's decision in the Budget Autonomy Act case did not validate the legislation. In fact, the appellate court did not address the legality of the Budget Autonomy Act. Because the legality of the Act remains in doubt, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the Office of the Attorney General are exploring expedited legal options to obtain judicial clarity on this issue, as proceeding with the budget process without such clarity would endanger the District's finances and cause unnecessary uncertainty as to the manner in which the District manages its financial affairs."

The DC Council's website states, "Pursuant to the Local Budget Autonomy Amendment Act of 2012, which was approved by District voters in a referendum in April 2013, the Home Rule Act was amended to allow the District to budget its local funds without the need for active Congressional approval. Although some parties have questioned the legality of these amendments, neither Congress nor the courts have taken action to repeal or overturn them."

Instead, as for other DC legislation, the District may appropriate its locally raised funds and then submit the legislation to Congress for review. Such a measure would be treated as "ordinary" legislation subject only to a prescribed 30-day waiting period, after which the legislation is considered approved unless Congress or the President object.

With the Court's not having made a decision on the basis of merit concerning DC's budget authority and such situation developing so late in the budget process, the District is expected to submit the full 2016 Budget Request Act through two channels: (a) the usual federal appropriation process by which the budget goes to the White House and then on to the Hill, and (b) directly to Congress as ordinary legislation.

On April 23, 2013, voters of the District of Columbia overwhelming voted "YES" on Charter Amendment 8, Local Budget Autonomy. The intent of the Amendment is to permit the Council to adopt the annual local budget, spend local funds, and permit the Council to establish DC's fiscal year.

The Amendment passed the required Congressional Review Period without action by Congress.

On the advice of the Attorney General, the Mayor and Chief Financial Officer have refused to implement the Act because they believe it violates U.S. law.

A Federal Judge ruled on Monday, May 19, 2014, that the Budget Autonomy Act does violate Federal Law , and, therefore, upheld the Mayor and CFO's actions refusing to implement the Act.

The Council appealed the Judge's ruling. On July 8, 2014, D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, The League of Women Voters of the D.C., D.C. Vote, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute and pro bono partners Arent Fox LLP and Lathan & Watkins LLP, filed a brief as Amici Curiae in support of the appellant and reversal. Read the BRIEF

On October 17, 2014, oral arguments were made before a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit (No. 14-7067). The appeal concerned the decision earlier this year by the US District Court for the District of Columbia determining that the Mayor did not have authority to implement enabling legislation of 2012 pursuant to a prior referendum, even though that legislation had satisfied all requirements for Congressional review.

The two court cases makes very interesting reading, especially in terms of related history and key sections. For those who wish to peruse the Home Rule Act (P.L. 93-198; 87 Stat.774) key parts are as follows: Title III, sections 302 and 303 on legislative power and charter amending procedure, Title IV, D, sections 446, enactment of appropriations by Congress, and Title VI, reservation of Congressional authority.

Before addressing the merits of the case, the panel began with questions about the standing of the parties before the Court, the Court' jurisdiction, and basis for determining injury. The issues are complex. The Court's decision may be announced in one or two months.

Read more on D.C. Appleseed's website

Read more on the website.


Text of Charter Amendment 8: Local Budget Autonomy

DC Board of Elections Memorandum Opinion and Order January 9, 2013 on the "Local Budget Autonomy Emergency Amendment Act of 2012"


  • Legislative history
  • Summary of Attorney General Irvin Nathan's concerns
  • Council Chairman Mendelson's reason's for supporting the issue
  • Short Title and Text of the Summary Statement

U.S. Government Accountability Office Opinion

Attorney General's press release: Federal Judge Rules against Amendment 8

Brief filed by D.C. Appleseed, League of Women Voters of D.C., et al.

Read more on D.C. Appleseed's website

Read more on the website.