The Breaking News Blog

All the latest news from the District, Maryland and Virginia

Disputes Snarl D.C. Statehood Convention Meeting

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Paul W. Valentine
The Washington Post
Sunday, February 1, 1981

From The Washington Post archives February 1, 1982

Delegates to the D.C. statehood constitutional convention held their first business session yesterday and became bogged down almost immediately in wrangling over procedure and the day's agenda.

With temporary chairman Lillian Huff presiding, the 45 delegates in the City Council chambers in the District Building argued over the order of agenda items and over proposals on how the 90-day, $150,000 convention will go about writing a constitution for the city--the first formal step toward possible statehood.

"If this is what we're going to be doing," said Ward 5 delegate Talmadge Moore after more than four hours of parliamentary bickering and little headway, "I'm greatly disappointed."

Members of various preconvention committees distributed reports recommending procedures for adoption as permanent convention rules. The proposals probably will be voted on later this week.

Among key proposals were procedures requiring unusually large majority votes for adopting articles for the constitution and a provision that the president and other officers of the convention be elected by roll call vote rather than secret ballot.

The strict article adoption proposal, written by a preconvention rules committee headed by Ward 6 delegate Charlotte Holmes, would require that an article be approved by simple majority of a convention on first reading, then go to a style and drafting committee for editing. When it is reported back for a second reading, amendments generally could be made only by two-thirds of convention members present and voting.

After the articles are assembled into a complete constitutional document, a three-fourths majority vote would be required to amend it.

Such "extraordinary majority" requirements have occurred in some constitutional conventions in the past but others have imposed much easier rules for change.

There was grumbling among some delegates over the proposal to elect convention officers by roll call vote rather than secret ballot. Some said a public roll call would put pressure on delegates to vote for certain candidates against their will and invite reprisals if they did not. But, said Ward 4 delegate Janette Harris, chief advocate of the roll call vote, "It makes everybody accountable."

A preconvention "committee on committees" headed by at-large delegate Barbara Lett Simmons also proposed establishing 10 committees to draft articles for specific parts of the constitution, such as the preamble and bill of rights and sections describing how the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the new government would function.

The committee structure would require that each committee have nine members, one from each ward of the city and one at large. Simmons said this geographic distribution of members would help ensure that committees are not stacked with any one viewpoint. Under the proposal, each delegate would serve on two of the 10 committees.

The delegates voted to meet next at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Howard University Law School.


More in the D.C. Section

Fixing D.C. Schools

Fixing D.C. Schools

The Washington Post investigates the state of the schools and the lessons of failed and successful reforms.

Neighborhoods

Neighborhoods

Use Neighborhoods to learn about Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia communities.

Top High Schools

Top High Schools

Jay Mathews identifies the nation's most challenging high schools and explains why they're best.

FOLLOW METRO ON:
Facebook Twitter RSS
|
GET LOCAL ALERTS:
© 1981 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity