Acting under pressure from members of Congress, a D.C. City Council committee agreed yesterday to recommend changing a city law enacted two days ago that requires out-of-state college students here to register their cars in the District.
As an alternative, the committee on transportation proposed that the city charge students $25 annually--about half the cost of registering a car--for a sticker that would allow them to keep their cars registered in other states.
The committee acted after several members of Congress and out-of-state students complained that the new law is unfair because most other jurisdictions exempt out-of-state students.
In addition, an aide to the committee said, some students complained that registering a car in the District could cast a cloud over their legal residency and interfere with their right to vote in their home states.
Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on the District, thought the law was "an inappropriate and burdensome requirement on students," according to the committee. D'Amato's staff told the committee that he would introduce a measure to block the law if it were not changed.
"It would be better for us to make the adjustment ourselves," said Council member Jerry A. Moore (R-At Large), chairman of the committee.
However, council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) voted "present" on the measure, saying she saw the congressional pressure as interference in the city's home-rule authority.
Moore and council members Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large) and Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) voted in favor of the sticker recommendation. Jarvis said the city had to "recognize the David and Goliath situation that exists" between the District and Congress, which can unilaterally change any of the city's laws.
An aide said Moore is expected to ask the council to take emergency action to adopt the change at its next legislative session to avoid enforcement of the law as it now stands.
The law now requires students, as it does all other residents except members of Congress and their personal staffs, to register their autos here within 30 days of coming to the city. However, the law also allows out-of-state students a 180-day grace period before registering if those students obtain a free windshield sticker from the city.
About 6,000 students now have the 180-day stickers, but the aide said the committee does not know how many out-of-staters are among the 100,000 students who attend colleges or universities in the District.
The motion to amend the law was introduced earlier this year by Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, who said several students had complained to him, but that he had not received any complaints from Congress.
However, another aide to Moore said the committee had not decided to act on the change until last week following complaints from the Congress.