This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on S. 1283, the District of Columbia Appropriations Bill, FY 2000, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.
The Administration commends the Committee for producing a bill that provides the requested funding for the Administration's priorities. However, the Administration continues to be deeply concerned about a number of provisions of the Committee bill that would seriously undermine local control. We urge the Senate to adopt a bill that addresses the Administration's concerns.
The Administration views the following objectionable provisions contained in the bill as unwarranted intrusions into the affairs of the District, and would support amendments, if offered, to strike the provisions:
- Abortion. The Administration strongly opposes section 129, which would prohibit the use of both Federal and District funds to pay for abortions except in those cases where the life of the mother is endangered or in situations involving rape or incest.
- Domestic Partners Act. The Administration objects to a provision of the bill prohibiting the use of Federal and local funds to implement or enforce the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992 (the Domestic Partners Act).
- Limit on Attorneys' Fees in Special Education Cases. The Administration objects to a provision of the Committee bill that would cap the award of plaintiffs' attorneys' fees in cases brought against the District of Columbia Public Schools under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the long-run, this provision is likely to limit the access of the District's poor families to quality legal representation, thus impairing their due process protections provided by the IDEA.
- Restriction on City Council Salaries. The Administration objects to the restriction contained in the Committee bill on the amount of salary that can be paid to members of the District of Columbia Council.
- Voting Representation. The Administration opposes section 145, which would prohibit the use of Federal or District funds to provide assistance for petition drives or civil actions which seek to require voting representation in Congress for the District of Columbia.
Resident Tuition Support
The Administration appreciates the Committee's inclusion of funding for a tuition assistance program for District of Columbia residents, which the Administration strongly supports. However, the Committee bill does not address all of the Administration's concerns regarding this important initiative. The Administration supports a tuition assistance program for D.C. residents that provides grants equal to the difference between in-state and nonresident tuition at public colleges and universities in Virginia and Maryland and that also provides grants of up to $2,000 for D.C. residents attending private colleges and universities in D.C. and adjacent counties, while maintaining accountability for federal funds and providing adequate flexibility in the administration of the program. The proposal to include grant aid to private institutions is consistent with the support that many States provide to private institutions. Finally, we support a program that prioritizes funding on the basis of financial need. As a discretionary program with finite financial resources, the tuition support program should target funds to the neediest students.
We understand that an amendment may be offered to eliminate funding for this program. The Administration would strongly oppose such an amendment. The Administration considers the establishment and funding of this program to be very important in providing D.C. residents equal access to postsecondary education and in ensuring that D.C. has the educated workforce to compete economically, thereby supporting the Mayor's efforts to revitalize D.C. We will continue to work with Congress to ensure that funds are provided for this program.
The Administration understands that an amendment altering District parole policy may be offered. Such an amendment would be premature. New policies are already being put in place, including graduated sanctions for violations of conditions of release, under the terms of the Revitalization Act.
Amendments Related to Private School Vouchers and Needle Exchange
The Administration understands that amendments may be offered to provide for the use of private school vouchers in the District and to prohibit the use of Federal and local funds for needle exchange programs. If such amendments were adopted and included in the bill presented to the President, his senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill.
We strongly oppose any legislation allowing the use of Federal taxpayer funds for private school vouchers. Instead of investing additional resources in public schools, vouchers would allow a few selected students to attend private schools and would draw resources and attention away from the hard work of reforming public schools that serve the overwhelming majority of D.C. students. Establishing a private school voucher system in the Nation's Capital would set a dangerous precedent for using Federal taxpayer funds for schools that are not accountable to the public.
The Administration strongly opposes legislation that would place a ban on the use of funds for needle exchange programs. The Administration appreciates the fact that such a ban has not been included in the District of Columbia Appropriations bill reported by the Committee, and would strongly oppose efforts to restore the prohibition.