The House Appropriations Committee agreed yesterday to lift a longstanding congressional ban on metered taxicabs in the District and directed a new city taxicab commission to study a switch from the current zone system to meters.
The committee, in approving a $2.6 billion fiscal 1987 operating budget for the District, also expressed concern about corruption in the city government, the city's failure to raise its drinking age to 21 and a shortage of D.C. parking spaces.
It also called on the city to study whether the District's residency requirement for District employes harms its ability to fill jobs.
Removal of the taxi meter prohibition would not mean that a metered system is imminent, but it clears the way for the District to consider the issue for the first time in more than 50 years, according to city officials.
"It's another step for home rule," said D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), chairwoman of the council's Committee on Public Services and Cable Television.
Kane, whose committee oversees taxi regulation, said that she had not taken a position on meters, but that she favors consideration of the idea by the Taxicab Commission, which the council approved early this year and which is to be established in March.
Kane said the taxi industry itself appears to be split on the issue and council members generally have not had the chance to consider the idea of switching to meters before.
A switch to meters would allow the city to better regulate fares and monitor income from taxicabs, supporters say. Other proponents have long contended that meters would help reduce overcharging by cab drivers and would be a fairer way to charge for both time and distance.
The language contained in the District's appropriations bill, which must be approved by Congress each year, also requires the taxicab commission to report to the Appropriations Committee 90 days before taking any action to change the current system.
The bill is expected to go to the House floor next week. The Senate also must act on the legislation.
The committee also specifically rejected an attempt by the Office of Management and Budget to deny the city $20 million appropriated last year for prison construction during the upcoming fiscal year. OMB had said the $20 million was included in President Reagan's proposed $444.5 million federal payment to the District in fiscal 1987, but the committee said the $20 million actually was in addition to that amount.
The committee's bill includes only $425 million of the proposed $444.5 million in federal payment, with the other $19.5 million to be appropriated after Congress authorizes it.
The panel's report accompanying the budget bill said that the level of corruption in the District had "reached difficult proportions" and calls on the District to "take more forthright action with regard to the problems of corruption and alleged mismanagement that have come to light during the past year."
Among the cases that have come into public view in the last year are those of Ivanhoe Donaldson, former deputy mayor for economic development, who pleaded guilty in December to theft of government funds and who is serving a prison term; Alphonse G. Hill, who resigned as deputy mayor of finance after acknowledging he received $3,000 in payments from a city contractor, and investigations of alleged mismanagement and corruption within the city's Youth Services Administration and the Department of Employment Services.
The committee strengthened its position on the 21-year-old minimum drinking age from last year and again called on the District to adopt that standard. In expressing concern on the lack of convenient parking in certain areas of the city, the panel urged city officials to consider parking before approving development projects.