The governors of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania endorsed yesterday ratification in their states of the constitutional amendment that would give the District of Columbia voting representation in Congress.
Republican Govs. James A. Rhodes of Ohio, William G. Milliken of Michigan, Jim Thompson of Illinois and Democrats Brendan T. Byrne of New Jersey and Milton J. Shapp of Pennsylvania said they would push for ratification of the amendment as the legislatures in their states meet later this year.
D.C. City Coucil Chairman Sterling Tucker, who solicited the endorsements as president of the Coalition for Self-Determination, the umbrella group lobbying for the amendment, said the endorsements by the governors would not ensure ratification in the five states. But, he said, "it's good to have the governor on your side" to help lobby state legislatures.
"We're going to be soliciting endorsements across the board," Tucker said shortly after returning with Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) from California where they lobbbied state legislators on behalf of the amendment. "We're got to begin taking advantage of this momentum," Tucker said.
The D.C. voting rights amendment, which passed the Senate Tuesday, would give the city two senators and one or two House Members, depending on the city's population in 1980. But 38 states must ratify the amendment before it takes effect.
Tucker and Fauntry flew to Sacramento, the California state capital, in hopes of witnessing quick passge of the amendment in the nation's largest state, largely on procedural grounds, althought passage still is expected next week.
Tucker said at a District Building press conference yesterday that the California experience showed "it's not going to be really easy anywhere. In every state there are going to be problems."
Fauntroy originally had planned to invite ratification leaders on a two-day retreat to map strategy sometime after the city's Sept 12 primary elections. But last night he said the planning session would be held next week in hopes of winning ratification this year in states where legislatures have end-of-year sessions.
He said that, after California, he will seek ratification in Pennsylvania shortly after Labor Day.
Despite the initial setback in California, Tucker and Fauntroy said they expect the state Assembly to ratify the amendment Monday and the state Senate to ratify Wednesday or Thursday, the day the California legislature adjourns.
"The legislators there were very enthusiastic and hope they will be the first to ratify," Fauntroy said.
Tucker was understanding, if not sympathetic, with Thursday's decision by the California Assembly Rules Committee not to rush the amendment through without a discussion of its merits.
"On the way out (to California), I told Walter (Fauntroy) that if a constitutional amendment came before our council, I'm not sure we'd rush it through without a hearing. After all, changing the Constitution is serious business," Tucker said.
There is little danger that California will not ratify the amendment. Assembly Speaker Leo T. McCarthy and Senate President Pro-Tempore James R. Mills agreed yesterday that the only question is whether there will be time to obtain approval in both houses before the legislature adjourns.
In Sacramento, the issue of voting representation for D.C.'s 700,000 residents is largely misunderstood, as was evident from questions asked of Fauntroy and Tucker.
If D.C. residents gain voting representation in the Senate and House, several legislators asked, why shouldn't Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam also have it.
The answer, as Fauntroy patiently explained, is that D.C. residents pay federal taxes - more than $1 billion a year - while residents of the territories do not.
Ohio Gov. Rhodes said in his telegram to Tucker that he felt "certain that the people of Ohio strongly believe that the people of the District of Columbia should have the same voting rights we have here in Ohio."
Thompson of Illinois said the amendment has his "complete and enthusiastic support," while Milliken of Michigan said self-determination "is a basic right of all Americans."
Byrne of New Jersey said he would ask New Jersey legislative leaders "to make ratification a top priority for the fall session that begins Sept. 18. I hope New Jersey will be among the first states to vote for ratification."
Shapp said, "I want to assure you that I will do everything I can to assure ratification in Pennsylvania this year."