Council of the District of Columbia
|Authority||District of Columbia Home Rule Act|
|November 3, 2020|
|November 8, 2022|
| John A. Wilson Building |
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia is a unique federal district of the U.S.
The Council of the District of Columbia is the legislative branch of the local government of the District of Columbia, in the United States. As permitted in the United States Constitution, the district is not part of any U.S. state and is overseen directly by the federal government.
Since 1973, the United States Congress has devolved certain powers to the council that would typically be exercised by state legislatures, as well as many powers normally exercised by a city council in the rest of the country. However, the Constitution vests Congress with supreme authority over the federal district, and therefore all acts of the council are subject to congressional review. They may be overturned by Congress and the President. Congress also has the power to legislate for the district and even revoke the home rule charter altogether.
The council meets in the John A. Wilson Building in downtown Washington.
Under the Constitution, the district remains under the jurisdiction of Congress. However, at various times in the district's history, Congress has devolved some of its authority to district residents and their elected representatives.
When Congress passed the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, they called for a new permanent capital of the United States to be located on the Potomac River. The federal district originally comprised land in the form of a square measuring 10 miles (16 km) on each side donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia. The Residence Act also provided for the selection of a three-member board of commissioners, appointed by the president, charged with overseeing the construction of the new capital. Two other incorporated cities that predated the establishment of the district were also included within the new federal territory: Georgetown, founded in 1751, and the City of Alexandria, Virginia, founded in 1749. A new "federal city" called the City of Washington was then constructed on the north bank of the Potomac, to the east of the established settlement at Georgetown.
In 1800, Congress created a joint commission to recommend the governance for what was then called the Territory of Columbia. The joint commission recommended a governorship and a 25-member legislative assembly. [ where? ] The city's incorporation allowed for a local municipal government consisting of a mayor appointed by the president and an elected six-member council. The local governments of Georgetown and Alexandria were also left intact. In 1820, the Congress granted the City of Washington a new charter, which allowed for an elected mayor.This would have been the federal district's first legislature. However, the Organic Act of 1801 officially organized the entire federal territory under the control of Congress but did not establish an overarching government for the entire district as recommended. In 1802, the original board of commissioners was disbanded, and the City of Washington was officially incorporated.
This piecemeal governmental structure remained essentially intact until the passage of the Organic Act of 1871, which created a new government for the entire District of Columbia. This Act effectively combined the City of Washington, Georgetown, and the unincorporated area then known as Washington County – the portion south of the Potomac River had been returned to Virginia in the late 1840s – into a single municipality as Washington, D.C., exists today. In the same Organic Act, Congress created a territorial government which consisted of a legislative assembly with an upper-house composed of eleven council members appointed by the president and a 22-member house of delegates elected by the people, as well as an appointed Board of Public Works charged with modernizing the city. In 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed the board's most influential member, Alexander Robey Shepherd, to the new post of governor. Shepherd authorized large-scale projects to modernize Washington but overspent three times the approved budget, bankrupting the city. In 1874, Congress abolished the district's local government in favor of a direct rule.
A three-member Board of Commissioners replaced the territorial government; two members were appointed by the president after approval by the Senate and a third member was selected from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. One of the three members would be selected to act as President of the Board.This form of government continued for nearly a century. Between 1948 and 1966, six bills were introduced in Congress to provide some form of home rule, but none ever passed. The commissioner form of government was replaced in 1967 by a mayor-commissioner and a nine-member city council appointed by the president.
Due to public pressure and the demands of handling the district's complex day-to-day affairs, Congress eventually agreed to devolve certain powers over the district to an elected local government. However, lawmakers in Congress during the early 1970s had originally sought to re-institute the post of governor and create a 25-member legislative assembly. Local officials opposed this form of government, insisting that the district's status as a municipality be respected.On December 24, 1973, Congress obliged the demands of local residents and enacted the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, providing for an elected mayor and the 13-member Council of the District of Columbia. The council has the ability to pass local laws and ordinances. However, pursuant to the Home Rule Act all legislation passed by the D.C. government, including the district's local budget, remains subject to the approval of Congress. After signing the bill, President Richard Nixon said, "I believe the legislation skillfully balances the local interest and the national interest in the way the District of Columbia is governed."
The council is composed of thirteen members, each elected by district residents to a four-year term. One member is elected from each of the district's eight wards. Four at-large members represent the district as a whole. The chairman of the council is likewise elected at an at-large basis. The terms of the at-large members are staggered so that two are elected every two years, and each D.C. resident may vote for two different at-large candidates in each general election.
According to the Home Rule Act, of the chair and the at-large members, a maximum of three may be affiliated with the majority political party.In the council's electoral history, of the elected members who were not affiliated with the majority party, most were elected as at-large members. In 2008 and 2012, Democrats such as David Grosso, Elissa Silverman, and Michael A. Brown changed their party affiliation to Independent when running for council.
To become a candidate for council an individual must be resident of the District of Columbia for at least one year prior to the general election, a registered voter, and hold no other public office for which compensation beyond expenses is received. If a candidate is running for a particular ward seat, he or she must be a resident of that ward.
Like other legislatures, the council has several standing committees and a full-time staff, including a council secretary, auditor, and general counsel. Given the limited number of council members, nearly every member of the council has, in effect, the opportunity to chair a committee.Commentators have questioned the legislature's structure noting that with 13 members nearly any piece of legislation can pass with just seven votes, leading to accusations that the council can too easily overreach in its powers. However, this unique governing structure has also allowed the council to operate more efficiently in comparison to some state legislatures with regard to consideration and passage of laws.
Committees of the Council consider legislation relevant to specific policy matters and are responsible for oversight on relevant local government agencies. Special Committees are convened to consider investigations, ethics, and other matters.
The members are nominated by the chairperson of the committee at the start of the Council Period and are voted on by the existing committee members. If a vacancy of a member occurs, the seat is filled by a vote on a nomination by the chairperson. If a vacancy of a councilperson occurs, the vacancy will be temporarily.
|Name||Position||Party||Committee chaired||Took office||Up for|
|Phil Mendelson||Chairman||Democratic||The Whole||1999||2022|
|Anita Bonds||At-large||Democratic||Housing and Executive Administration||2012||2022|
|Elissa Silverman||At-large||Independent||Labor and Workforce Development||2015||2022|
|Robert White||At-large||Democratic||Government Operations and Facilities||2016||2024|
|Brianne Nadeau||Ward 1||Democratic||Human Services||2015||2022|
|Brooke Pinto||Ward 2||Democratic||2020||2024|
|Mary Cheh||Ward 3||Democratic||Transportation and the Environment||2007||2022|
|Janeese Lewis George||Ward 4||Democratic||2021||2024|
|Kenyan McDuffie||Ward 5||Democratic||Business and Economic Development||2012||2022|
|Charles Allen||Ward 6||Democratic||The Judiciary and Public Safety||2015||2022|
|Vincent C. Gray||Ward 7||Democratic||Health||2017||2024|
|Trayon White||Ward 8||Democratic||Recreation, Libraries and Youth Affairs||2017||2024|
As of December 2018, the eight ward and four at-large council members receive an annual salary of $140,161, while the council chairman receives an annual salary of $210,000.According to a 2011 article in The Washington Post , the DC council were the second-highest-paid local representatives of large cities in the United States.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and also known as D.C. or Washington, is the capital city of the United States of America. It is located on the Potomac River bordering Maryland and Virginia, with Congress holding its first session there in 1800. The city was named for George Washington, the first president of the United States and a Founding Father, and the federal district is named after Columbia, a female personification of the nation. As the seat of the U.S. federal government and several international organizations, the city is an important world political capital. It is one of the most visited cities in the U.S., with over 20 million visitors in 2016.
The District of Columbia statehood movement is a political movement that advocates making the District of Columbia a U.S. state to provide the taxpayers of the District of Columbia with voting representation in the Congress and full control over local affairs.
Walter Edward Washington was an American civil servant and politician. He was chief executive of the District of Columbia from 1967 to 1979, serving as the first and only Mayor-Commissioner from 1967 to 1974 and as the first home-rule mayor of the District of Columbia from 1975 to 1979.
The District of Columbia Home Rule Act is a United States federal law passed on December 24, 1973 which devolved certain congressional powers of the District of Columbia to local government, furthering District of Columbia home rule. In particular, it includes the District Charter, which provides for an elected mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia. The council is composed of a chairman elected at large and twelve members, four of whom are elected at large, and one from each of the District's eight wards. Council members are elected to four-year terms.
District of Columbia home rule is District of Columbia residents' ability to govern their local affairs. As the federal capital, the Constitution grants the United States Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the District in "all cases whatsoever".
The County of Washington was one of five original political entities within the District of Columbia, the capital of the United States. Formed by the Organic Act of 1801 from parts of Montgomery and Prince George's County, Maryland, Washington County referred to all of the District of Columbia "on the east side of the Potomac, together with the islands therein." The bed of the Potomac River was considered to be part of Washington County as well.
A capital district, capital region or capital territory is normally a specially designated administrative division where a country's seat of government is located. As such, in a federal model of government, no state or territory has any political or economic advantage relative to the others because of the national capital lying within its borders. A capital territory can be a specific form of federal district.
Voting rights of citizens in the District of Columbia differ from the rights of citizens in each of the 50 U.S. states. The Constitution grants each state voting representation in both houses of the United States Congress. As the federal capital, the District of Columbia is a special federal district, not a state, and therefore does not have voting representation in Congress. The Constitution grants Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the District in "all cases whatsoever".
The history of Washington, D.C., is tied to its role as the capital of the United States. Originally inhabited by an Algonquian-speaking people known as the Nacotchtank, the site of the District of Columbia along the Potomac River was first selected by President George Washington. The city came under attack during the War of 1812 in an episode known as the Burning of Washington. Upon the government's return to the capital, it had to manage reconstruction of numerous public buildings, including the White House and the United States Capitol. The McMillan Plan of 1901 helped restore and beautify the downtown core area, including establishing the National Mall, along with numerous monuments and museums.
The retrocession of the District of Columbia refers to both past and proposed acts of returning some or all of the land that had been ceded to the federal government of the United States for the purpose of creating its federal district for the new national capital of the United States, the City of Washington. The land was originally ceded to the federal government by Virginia and Maryland in 1790. After moving through various stages of federal and state approval, the Virginia portion was eventually returned in March 1847. The Maryland portion still constitutes the District of Columbia today, but some have proposed "retro-ceding" it, in part or in whole, to address issues related to the voting rights of residents of the District of Columbia.
The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 is an Act of Congress that repealed the individual charters of the cities of Washington and Georgetown and established a new territorial government for the whole District of Columbia. Though Congress repealed the territorial government in 1874, the legislation was the first to create a single municipal government for the federal district.
The Government of the District of Columbia operates under Article One of the United States Constitution and the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, which devolves certain powers of the United States Congress to the Mayor and thirteen-member Council. However, Congress retains the right to review and overturn laws created by the council and intervene in local affairs.
The following table indicates the party of elected officials in the United States federal district of Columbia:
The mayor of the District of Columbia is the head of the executive branch of the government of the District of Columbia, in the United States. The mayor has the duty to enforce district laws, and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Council of the District of Columbia, in the United States. In addition, the mayor oversees all district services, public property, police and fire protection, most public agencies, and the public school system within the District of Columbia. The mayor's office oversees an annual district budget of $8.8 billion. The mayor's executive office is located in the John A. Wilson Building in downtown Washington, D.C. The mayor appoints several officers, including the deputy mayors for Education and Planning & Economic Development, the district administrator, the chancellor of the district's public schools, the Office of Latino Affairs, and the department heads of the district agencies.
The District of Columbia State Board of Education (SBOE) is an independent executive branch agency of the Government of the District of Columbia. The SBOE provides advocacy and policy guidance for the District of Columbia Public Schools, and works with the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools and the District of Columbia State Superintendent of Education. Charter schools are overseen by the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board.
The District of Columbia Department of Public Works is an agency of the Government of the District of Columbia, the government of the District of Columbia, in the United States. The department oversees solid waste and recyclables collection, street cleaning, parking enforcement, and governmental vehicle procurement, maintenance and fueling.
A referendum on statehood for the District of Columbia was held on November 8, 2016. It was the second referendum on statehood to be held in the district. The District of Columbia was created following the passage of the Residence Act on July 9, 1790, which approved the creation of a national capital, the City of Washington on the Potomac River.
The District of Columbia was created in 1801 as the federal district of the United States, with territory previously held by the states of Maryland and Virginia ceded to the federal government of the United States for the purpose of creating its federal district, which would encompass the new national capital of the United States, the City of Washington. The District came into existence, with its own judges and marshals, through the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801; previously it was the Territory of Columbia. According to specific language in the U.S. Constitution, it was one hundred square miles (259 km2).
The Washington, DC Admission Act, often referred to simply as the DC Admission Act, is a bill introduced during the 116th United States Congress. The intention of the bill is to grant Washington, DC admission into the Union as a state. The bill was originally introduced in the 116th Congress on January 3, 2019, and was resubmitted on January 4, 2021 in the 117th Congress.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, at no time shall there be more than three members (including the Chairman) serving at large on the Council who are affiliated with the same political party.
Pinto is likely to win November's general election