The D.C. City Council, in its last scheduled session of the year Tuesday, is expected to pass a bill giving it authority to override any proposed amendments to the constitution offered by the statehood constitution convention.
The provision, proposed by council chairman-elect David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), has the effect of eliminating much of the independent authority of the 45 elected convention delegates to suggest changes in the document approved by the voters Nov. 2.
Any changes made in the constitution -- by either the council, the convention or the Congress -- would first have to be approved by the voters.
In addition, the council bill also would make it easier for council members to vote for proposed changes in the constitution, which many city leaders endorsed reluctantly. Some city leaders have pledged that the constitution would be amended before being submitted to Congress for ratification.
Several officials said the document is too politically liberal to gain approval from Congress, including such provisions that could guarantee residents the right to a job or adequate income and could allow police and firefighters the right to strike.
Under a bill originally proposed by council member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), the council could propose changes in the constitution by a two-thirds majority vote. Under the amendment proposed by Clarke, the council can propose changes by simple majority of the 13-member council.
Mayor Marion Barry is expected to formally send the constitution to Congress early next year, but no congressional action is expected until city officials determine how the measure should be amended. Even if city officials agree, it could be years before Congress decides to take up the issue of statehood for the District.
The council's Tuesday meeting also will mark the end of the two-year legislative period begun in 1981. Any legislation not given final approval by the council after Tuesday will die in committee. Such legislation will have to be reintroduced before any further council action could be taken.
When the council meets for the first time in the new year -- Jan. 3 -- one of its first orders of business will be to approve a reorganization plan proposed by Clarke, including new committee assignments. Clarke is expected to propose the committee reassignments next week.
In addition, Clarke is spending much of his time reading resumes and interviewing potential candidates for several key staff positions, including council secretary and legislative counsel.
Several other staff positions in the chairman's office and the committee of the whole, which is headed by the council chairman, are expected to be filled by current staff members of Clarke's personal office and the judiciary committee that he now heads.
THE GREAT SPACE RACE: Beneath the weighty legislative issues and jockeying for committee assignments, there is another little, but urgent, matter for some of the members come the first of the year: their office space.
Clarke, moving up to the chairman's corner complex of offices, is leaving behind an enviable and coveted network of rooms that will be up for grabs.
Incoming council member Frank Smith, who is replacing Clarke in Ward 1, will be the most junior member of the council. That means he won't simply move into Clarke's space.
Smith is more likely to wind up with the tiny, three-room space now occupied by council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7). Crawford would move up to slightly larger quarters occupied by either Betty Ann Kane or John Ray, both at-large Democrats, who could claim Clarke's vacated space. But Ray may not want to move from his modest but convenient offices next to the elevator.
Other council members may want to move also -- it depends a lot on seniority -- and council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the finance committee, is thought to be interested in annexing one of Clarke's windowless rooms to his own offices that are filled to overflowing.