Should the District, Maryland and Virginia set up an interstate authority to manage mass transportation, solid waste, sewage disposal, water services and air quality control?
A bill introduced in Congress last week by Rep. Stewart McKinney (R-Conn.) ranking Republican member of the House District Committee, would set up a study commission to consider the pros and cons of such a body. The proposed commission would have a year to complete its study and another six months to submit its report.
"It's a dream of mine," McKinney said in a telephone interview. "It's got to be done, but without getting anybody's back up. This bill would set up a mechanism where the state capitals, the governors, the suburban areas and the District would study the matter - with Congress footing the bill - and turn around and tell Congress how to do it."
McKinney said the proposed commission would consider whether an intergovernmental body "could save money and get the job done more efficiently." He added that COG (the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments), a voluntary federation of 15 area cities and counties, didn't have enough power to solve common problems since action by state legislatures is usually required.
However, COG President Martha V. Pennino, when told of the bill by a reporter, said that the proposed commission "would do what COG already does - study problems and recommend cooperative action."
Most of the time the various jurisdiction do cooperate, because COG is made up of elected officials from each jurisdiction, said Pennino, who is also a Fairfax County supervisor. She said she had not seen the text of the bill, but "if it means another layer of government. I'd be opposed to it."
Pennino also said she would oppose any regional taxing authority. "I'm close to the people at the local level, and I know they would oppose that too."
McKinney's bill does not set up a regional taxing authority but instructs the proposed study commission to look into the feasiblility of setting up such an authority in order to finance the services to be provided by the interstate body.
Under the proposed legislation, COG would appoint six of the 18 members of the study commission. The others would be appointed either by the President, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the governors of Maryland and Virginia, the D.C. City Council, the Maryland and Virginia legislatures or Congress. The area under study by the commission would include Charles. Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia; all cities "within the geographic area bounded by the outer boundaries of such counties," and the District of Columbia.
According to Barbara Norris, a staff member of the House District Committee, the study commission would cost about $1 million. Norris said the committee plans to hold hearings on the bill, HR 10856, but that no date has been set.