Two more state legislatures, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, this week will consider ratification of the proposed constitutional amendment that would give the District of Columbia full voting representation in Congress.
New Jersey legislators return today to Trenton, one week earlier than the scheduled end of their summer recess, in an effort to become the first of 38 states to ratify the proposed 27th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The first two states to consider the proposal, California and Delaware, postponed a vote on the merits of the idea last month after opponents argued that the question should be debated in hearings.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, who intends to spearhead the nationwide campaign in behalf of ratification, said last night he was undecided about whether he should go to New Jersey today, on the eve of the D.C. primary election, to lobby in behalf of the proposal.
Fauntroy last week pledged a moratorium on activity in behalf of ratification after political opponents accused Fauntroy and D.C. Council Chairman Sterling Tucker of attempting to use the ratification attempt in California for their own political gain.
Tucker, who is in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination for mayor, and Fauntroy testified before the California Assembly last month and urge d California to become the first state to ratify the amendment, which had passed the U.S. Senate only a few days earlier.
The president of the New Jersey Senate, Joseph Merlino, predicted Friday that both the Senate and Assembly would ratify the amendment today, whether or not Fauntroy or other District of Columbia supporters appear before the legislature.
Merlino, who introduced the resolution using a prefiling procedure, said he called the legislature back from vacation a week early for the specific purpose of making "New Jersey the first" to ratify.
Republican minority leaders also said they expected quick passage of the resolution, which needs only simple majorities in two houses. An aide to Carl Golden, the GOP assembly leader, said only a "handful" of Republican legislators would object to approving ratification today.
"We want to show our empathy for the disenfranchised people of the District of Columbia," Merlino said. "It is as big as several states, so there is no reason why it shouldn't be represented in Congress."
Merlino said he discussed ratification with Gov. Brendan T. Byrne, Assembly Speaker Christopher Jackman and civil rights and black leaders in New Jersey. He said many noted that District of Columbia representatives in Congress could be expected to back much of the same kind of legislation that urban, industrialized New Jersey supports.
In Harrisburg, where the Pennsylvania legislature also returns today, ratification is expected to be a longer process.
Sen. Freeman Hankins (D-Philadelphia), who perfiled the resolution, said it will be referred Tuesday to the committee on constitutional changes and federal relations. After hearings before the committee, it could be brought to the floor for a vote before the end of the week, Hankins said.