Statement by the President: Signing of the "District of Columbia Appropriations Act, 2001" (11/22/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                           November 22, 2000

                        STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

     Today I am signing into law H.R. 5633, the "District of Columbia
Appropriations Act, 2001."

     I commend the House and Senate for passing a version of the District
of Columbia appropriations bill that I can sign.  I am pleased that the
Majority and Minority were able to come together on this legislation under
the leadership of Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's
stalwart champion.  While I continue to object to the riders in the
enrolled bill, some of the most highly objectionable provisions that would
have intruded upon D.C. citizens' right to make decisions about local
matters have been deleted or modified from previous versions of the bill.
This bill is a fair compromise.

     I commend the Congress for providing virtually all of the Federal
funds I requested for the District of Columbia.  The bill includes
essential funding for Courts, Corrections, and the Offender Supervision
Agency, and for the tuition assistance program for District of Columbia
residents.  The bill fully funds the New York Avenue Metro station and
provides a start on funding for brownfields remediation and economic
development in Anacostia.

     I continue to object to remaining riders that violate the principle of
home rule, including, but not limited to, provisions infringing on voting
rights, HIV/AIDS prevention, abortion, implementation of the Domestic
Partners Act, special education, and the Mayor's personnel authorities.

     The Act also includes troubling provisions with regard to needle
exchange programs in the District.  While I am pleased that it does not
prohibit private entities from using their own funds for needle exchange
programs, the Act does retain a ban on local funds for that purpose, an
infringement of "home rule."  Even more objectionable is the language that
prohibits the exchange of needles in large portions of the city.  In the
form in which it passed the House, this language would have had the
practical effect of ending needle exchange programs in the District of
Columbia.  My Administration worked hard to remove this language from the
final bill, and we appreciate the work of the conferees to make this
provision less harmful and allow for those conducting needle exchange
programs to adapt and continue operation.  However, even though the
language has been improved upon, these provisions are an encroachment on
the District's prerogatives, create an unnecessary burden on the District,
and could seriously disrupt current HIV prevention efforts.

     The Act also prohibits the District from legislating with respect to
controlled substances and from freely crafting effective programs for
nonviolent, drug-dependent offenders.  This provision also significantly
encroaches on the District's autonomy, and undermines its ability to deal
effectively with this serious problem.

     The people of the District of Columbia deserve the same respect in
ordering their local affairs that the people of our States enjoy.  These
provisions must be re-examined in the future.

     Today marks an important occasion for the District of Columbia.  In
1995, the District faced a severe fiscal and managerial crisis, city
services were in a shambles, and the city faced deficits as far as the eye
could see.  Today, thanks to the leadership of Mayor Anthony Williams, the
District's finances are in order, city services are being restored, and the
city stands on sound financial footing.  Later this year, the District will
be able to certify 4 straight years of balanced budgets, with growing
surpluses, paving the way for cessation of the Financial Authority and a
full return to Home Rule.

     For our part, we have tried to be a sure and steady friend of the
residents of the District of Columbia.  In January 1996, I proposed a plan
to revitalize the District as the Nation's Capital, and to improve
prospects for "home rule" to succeed.  The plan was designed to relieve the
District of Columbia government of major financial and managerial
responsibilities that were beyond its capacity and that are commonly
performed by States, rather than municipalities; to invest considerable
resources to improve the city's criminal justice system and infrastructure;
and to strengthen its economic base.

     The National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement
Act of 1997 significantly restructured the Federal-District of Columbia
government relationship.  The Act increased the Federal match rate for
Medicaid from 50 to 70 percent; assumed certain state justice functions,
including incarceration of adult felons, supervision of parolees, and
financial oversight of the District's courts; relieved the city of $5
billion of unfunded pension liabilities that the District had inherited
from the Federal Government in the late 1970s; and provided tax relief to
District of Columbia residents and businesses.  Last year, my
Administration persuaded the Congress to pass further changes to the
Medicaid formula, saving the District $9 million per year.  The
Revitalization Act implementation will save the District well over $2
billion over the next 5 years.

     In addition, I signed into law $1.2 billion in Federal tax incentives
over 5 years, including a wage credit to hire D.C. residents, additional
small business deductions, tax exempt bond financing, a first time home
buyer credit, and a zero capital gains rate.  In addition to funding to
implement the Revitalization Act, we have also obtained additional Federal
appropriations for the District:  $239 million in FY '99, $34 million in FY
'00, and over $55 million in FY '01.  These appropriations have been used
for critical economic development initiatives, including $25 million to
capitalize the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, $25 million to
fund a new Metro station at New York Avenue, and funding for key
infra-structure projects, management reforms, education, and public safety.
I also signed into law the College Access Act, providing $17 million per
year for D.C. high school students to attend out-of-state schools at
in-state tuition rates.

     Lastly, let me mention that since 1995, under the leadership of the
Office of Management and Budget, Federal agencies on our D.C. Task Force
have been involved in a range of activities designed to draw on the Federal
Government?s technical expertise and available Federal grants to improve
the city's tax collection, education and training, housing, transportation,
health care delivery, economic development, and other governmental
functions.  These activities are ongoing and touch upon virtually every
aspect of District government.

     I am proud of our support for the District, and even prouder of what
the residents and government of the District have been able to accomplish.
As the Congress con-cludes its business for the year, we look forward to
working together to address other important issues affecting the District
of Columbia.

                                   WILLIAM J. CLINTON

    November 22, 2000.

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