Arent Fox Plays Leading Role in Passage of Washington, DC Budget Autonomy Referendum
Washington, DC — On April 23, District of Columbia voters approved a charter referendum that grants the city more local control by allowing the District’s budget to become law without affirmative passage by the US Congress. Arent Fox Government Relations partner Jon S. Bouker and associate Aaron S. Brand worked pro bono with local organizations DC Vote and DC Appleseed to develop the innovative legal theory that allows the District to amend its charter and give itself the authority to enact a local budget — the most notable advancement in DC Home Rule in four decades. Mr. Bouker is the co-leader of the firm’s Government Relations practice, the chair of DC Vote and the vice chair of DC Appleseed.
“District residents going to the polls to approve budget autonomy is an important step forward in the city’s fight for self-determination.” said Mr. Bouker. “DC residents have taken matters into their own hands to express their belief that Americans who happen to live in the nation’s capital should be afforded the same inalienable democratic rights as all other American citizens.”
Currently, the District is the only local jurisdiction in the country whose budget must be approved by Congress as part of the often-delayed congressional appropriations process. As a result, the District’s ability to enact its $11 billion budget and serve its residents effectively is impeded. In addition to allowing budget autonomy, the new measure would also enable the District government to set its own fiscal year and, for the first time, continue operating without congressional action during a federal government shutdown.
Yesterday’s approval by District voters follows the DC Council’s unanimous vote in December 2012 to approve legislation authorizing the referendum. District Mayor Vincent Grey subsequently signed the bill into law, allowing the referendum to go on the ballot.
Arent Fox’s Government Relations practice is one of the nation’s most experienced, effective, and respected lobbying organizations. The group represents clients before government entities on the federal, state, and local levels to help them achieve their public policy goals.