The Washington, D.C., statehood commission panel voted Monday, June 27, on two vital provisions in the proposed constitution currently being drafted for approval by District voters in November.
The five-member panel, which includes D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, decided on proposing to call the 51st state “New Columbia” — a reference to Italian explorer Christopher Columbus — and for the state legislature to be comprised of 21 representatives.
The name is fairly uninspiring for most city residents who have suggested more relevant names like Anacostia, the region’s indigenous Native American tribe, and Douglass Commonwealth, referring to Washington, D.C., native and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
“No. No. No. You can quote me as NO on that,” said life-long District resident Ayanna Williams, when asked about naming the state New Columbia. “That doesn’t represent anything about the neighborhood, the place my great-grandparents migrated to.”
While locals try to wrap their heads around what to call their potential new state, the New Columbia Statehood Commission still has a lot of work to do in a process that has no guarantee of success, given the requirement for U.S. Congress to approve D.C.’s application.
In the fall, final language of New Columbia’s draft constitution will be debated before a referendum, expected to be approved, is held which will also define the proposed state’s geographical boundaries.
Despite challenges looming at the federal level, the Democratic Party’s three most prominent leaders, President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, all have voiced their support for D.C.’s statehood bid, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Even the official Democratic Party platform is sympathetic to the issue, although its language stops short of formally endorsing statehood: “Americans citizens who live in Washington, D.C., . . . should have full and equal congressional rights and the right to have the laws and budget of their local government respected without congressional interference.”
The argument for D.C. statehood is quite strong, as the District sports a population greater than two states, yet has no voting representative at the federal level and must seek Congressional approval to pass local legislation.
Despite the seeming illegality of taxing U.S. citizens who are without federal representation, don’t expect a solidly Republican House of Representatives to sign off on D.C.’s proposal in 2017.