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New Columbia, the 51st State?

by Nena Perry-Brown

New Columbia, the 51st State?: Figure 1
A rendering of the 51st state, with federal territory identified by its darker color

It seems that DC’s lack of autonomy and congressional representation has again come to a head in light of recent events: the city’s ballooning population, Congress blocking DC from using funds to implement marijuana legalization, the recent DC Superior Court decision that the District can freely spend its own funds, and the revelation that DC taxpayers fork over more to the IRS than 22 states.

On Friday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser sought to build upon that momentum and led the “New Columbia Statehood Commission” in drafting a constitution, the first step on the road to a petition for statehood.

As reported by The Washington Post, the New Columbia Statehood Commission, comprised of DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Shadow Senators Michael Brown and Paul Strauss, and U.S. Shadow Representative Franklin Garcia, convened at Lincoln’s Cottage to compose a constitution for the future state of “New Columbia”, a trial name for what would be the 51st state in the U.S.

This pathway to statehood mirrors that of Tennessee in 1796, whereby the then-territory’s residents voted for it to join the country, ratified a constitution and received Congressional approval to become the 16th state.

The resulting executive and legislative branches in the new state would look much as they do now, with the biggest change coming with the state taking financial responsibility for the judicial branch and the mayor-turned governor electing judges to the bench. New Columbia would gain one voting representative in the House and two in the Senate.

Residents can download and comment on the new constitution here. There will also be a public Constitutional Convention beginning on June 17, where residents will act as delegates and give testimony on the document.

If things go according to plan, DC voters will be able to cast their ballots on the issue of statehood and adoption of the constitution this November.

DC’s government last wrote a constitution in 1982 in another attempt at statehood that went virtually ignored by that session of Congress. This attempt may be headed for a similar fate considering this congress’s track record on the city’s autonomy, but UrbanTurf will continue to follow this issue with interest; after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

See other articles related to: taxes, statehood, dc budget autonomy, dc, constitution, congress

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/new_columbia_the_51st_state/11207

1 Comment

  1. Nathaniel Martin said at 4:55 pm on Tuesday May 17, 2016:
    Why the still-separate "federal territory" within the bounds of the new state? The Pentagon is firmly located within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Amazingly, this fact does not seem to have hampered the operations of the nation's military. Most nations' legislative and executive buildings are simply part of their capital cities. There is absolutely no need for a distinct federal jurisdiction. I am convinced that the idea is a lingering manifestation of the paternalistic attitudes that national leaders hold regarding our city. New Columbia: One state, indivisible--no separate federal precinct.

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