A year after District of Columbia voters approved a controversial constitution for the would-be 51st state of New Columbia, the proposal still gets no respect on Capitol Hill.
"I'm sure I'll be dead, or a grandmother, before it gets out, and you will be too," was one congressional aide's blunt appraisal of the idea's prospects.
Many find it easy to dismiss the proposal out of hand, rather than getting exercised over the constitution's details, because nearly everyone agrees D.C. statehood has no chance of passage any time soon.
This is particularly true as long as there is a Republican majority in the Senate, which can be counted on to oppose any legislation likely to bring two more Democratic senators into its ranks.
City officials had serious concerns about some of the unique provisions of the constitution as drafted by elected delegates to the D.C. Statehood Constitutional Convention.
There was talk of trying to amend it to make it more conventional before it was sent to the Hill, but officials ultimately urged that it be approved by voters and amended later.
Among the more controversial sections were those giving government workers the right to strike when other remedies failed, guaranteeing each citizen the right to employment or an income sufficient to meet human needs, and liberalizing defendants' rights in criminal proceedings.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, who as the city's lone representative in Congress is taking the lead on the statehood issue there, said he hoped a new constitution could be put on the ballot in the city in 1984.
Fauntroy has sent letters to colleagues on the Hill, asking for suggested improvements to the constitution by the end of the year. When he gets those comments, he will compile a memo for Mayor Marion Barry and the D.C. City Council outlining what the city's friends on the Hill propose.
"My recommendation is that the City Council hold hearings on a redraft of the statehood constitution with specific changes that have been requested by our friends on the Hill," he said.
Once the council and the mayor approve changes, the constitution could be put before the voters again, Fauntroy said.
District voters in 1980 established the statehood constitutional convention, and a year later elected 45 delegates to it to write the constitution. After months of sometimes intense debate, the constitution was completed in May 1982 and approved by voters that November.
The three-volume legislative history of the constitution was not completed until September of this year, however, and Mayor Marion Barry finally transmitted the constitution and the petition for statehood to the Hill on Sept. 9, the 13th anniversary of Congress' approval of legislation giving the District a nonvoting delegate in the House.