Mr. ISSA. Mr. Speaker, I'll be brief.
Today we're doing a small and technical change to everyone except the people of the District of Columbia, who consistently have to live under a rule that costs the voters and the residents of the District of Columbia to expend enormous additional dollars to have special elections rather than having the ordinary flexibility to try to combine their votes at a time in which it would be less expensive.
The bill, which is, if you will, an omission under the Home Rule Act, provides for the District of Columbia to fill vacancies on the first Tuesday 114 days after the date of such vacancy occurring. Unfortunately, this does not provide the flexibility necessary to time special elections concurrently with other general and primary elections. Therefore, this small--and yet not small to the District of Columbia--change will allow them to place the election on a Tuesday occurring between 70 and 174
days of the vacancy. Understand, Mr. Speaker, if there is an ordinary election occurring within that process, this will cause us to have the election on that date.
The bill has been carefully considered and passed unanimously by the committee. Additionally, it's supported by the entire city council--we'll soon hear from the delegate from the District of Columbia--by the Mayor and his administration.
I want to take just a quick moment to thank the gentlelady from the District of Columbia. It has been, in fact, her work with the committee that made this technical change one that we can all live with for the benefit of the people who host us in the Federal city.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. NORTON. I want to thank the chairman of the full committee for his generosity. I want to thank my friends on both sides of the committee for their assistance with H.R. 3902, especially the chairman of the full committee, my good friend, Mr. Issa, and the chair of the subcommittee, Mr. Gowdy, for working closely with us on this bill.
I also want to thank my good friends on our side, the ranking member of the full committee, Mr. Cummings, and the ranking member of the subcommittee, Mr. Davis, for their considerable support and assistance.
Mr. Chairman, like you, I will be brief because you and I are the only ones here who have a vote in committee on this matter.
The District of Columbia Special Election Reform Act is similar to the legislation I introduced last Congress, which, with the help of the chairman, was passed without objection by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and, with his help, quickly got to the full House for a vote.
Final enactment of the bill was prevented not by this House, but by an anonymous hold in the Senate, which fortunately no longer allows such holds in that Chamber.
This bill is of great importance to the District of Columbia, particularly now that the city council is faced with an example of a vacancy that this bill was designed to address--and had the bill been passed by the Senate, could have been addressed. However, instead of holding the special election that we are now required to hold on April 3, the day of the city's primary, the District must hold a special election on a different day, 1 month after the upcoming primary election, at a cost to the
city of an additional $318,000.
Although this bill, therefore, cannot take effect before the upcoming special election, the bill will provide the District with the flexibility in the future to conduct elections without the redundancy of coming to Congress and without unnecessary cost to the city.
The District of Columbia Special Election Reform Act makes minor changes in the District's Home Rule Charter to provide the city greater flexibility to conduct special elections for vacancies in the office of Mayor, attorney general, council chair, and other members of the District of Columbia Council.
Current law requires that a special election be held on a rigid date, the first Tuesday occurring more than 114 days after a vacancy, offering the District no flexibility.
By the way, Mr. Chairman, there were complaints when the District of Columbia had a special election some time ago that the election had to be held on a religious holiday. The District had to say, We can't do anything about it, because it couldn't change the date itself.
Instead, this bill would establish a range during which a special election may be conducted. That range would be between 70 and 174 days, giving the District the necessary flexibility to make a special election coincide with an already scheduled election, reducing the chance the city would have to schedule costly multiple elections or do so in too short a time period, and allowing the city to maximize voter turnout, for example, by not scheduling the election on a religious holiday, and to reduce
the time period when residents are without representation.
Mr. Speaker, this noncontroversial bill, which the committee passed by voice vote, provides the District with the necessary flexibility for holding timely and cost-effective special elections. It involves no cost whatsoever to the Federal Government.
The District of Columbia Special Election Reform Act is of little, indeed, no concern, I dare say, to the Congress. But the D.C. Council cannot amend the Home Rule Charter which spells out procedures and structural matters for setting up the District, so the Mayor and the council had to come to me to introduce this local bill.
Mr. Chairman, you indicated that such bills are not exactly congressional material. I hope that you and I can work together on a broader D.C. charter reform bill to give the District the authority to amend such local matters, such trivial local matters, as far as Congress is concerned, on its own, saving Congress from having to spend the time, its very valuable time at that, on uniquely local procedural matters affecting only the local government, the District of Columbia.
I urge passage of the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. ISSA. Mr. Speaker, seeing that there are no further speakers, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous materials on the bill under consideration.
Ms. NORTON. I thank the chairman again for the haste with which he was able to get this bill heard today.
I have no further speakers, and I am pleased to yield back the remainder of my time.