Mayor Marion Barry submitted an ambitious list of legislative proposals to Congress and the D.C. City Council yesterday, including a renewed call for an income tax on commuters who work in Washington, but live elsewhere.
The District's home rule mandate from Congress specifically forbids a tax on the incomes of commuters. Previous city efforts on Capitol Hill to institute such a tax have failed.
Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), chairman of the House District Committee, in the past has favored giving the District the right to impose such a tax, but members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia have managed to kill it.
Barbara Washington, the mayor's intergovernmental relations chief who drafted the legislative proposals, said that while the commuter tax has not proven popular in the past, "The mayor feels it is important."
"The entitlement of the District to the revenues from such taxation is clear," Barry's proposal states. The document adds that the District would also like to explore the possibility of a regional payroll tax, with some of the revenues going to the Metrorail system.
The mayor spelled out his proposals in letters to Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.), chairman of the Senate's District of Columbia subcommittee, Delums and City Council Chairman Arlington Dixon.
On a less grand scale, Barry asked the D.C. City Council to erase the current law against public drinking. His letter stated that enforcement of this law often leads to conflicts between police and residents, and added that Maryland has repealed laws against public drinking with few problems.
In addition to the commuter tax measure, Barry also asked Congress to eliminate its 30-day review period for local legislation.
Currently, acts of the City Council cannot take effect until the review period expires. Council members have cited this restriction as the reason why they have routinely passed legislation on an "emergency basis," allowing it to take effect immediately.
Barry also asked Congress to transfer prosecutorial authority for local offenses from the U.S. Attorney's office to a proposed D.C. Attorney General's office, and to amend the home rule charter to eliminate line-by-line congressional review of the District's budget.
In his letter to Dixon, Barry asked the City Council to enact local anti-trust laws and enforcement powers, improve the District's tax collection operation, increase the city's authority to claim and renovate abandoned property, and provide stricter licensing procedures for dentists, physical therapists and real estate brokers.
Barry's letter to Dixon contains 42 proposals, far fewer than the 77 separate items of legislation he requested in January 1979, at the beginning of his first term.
"The approach this year is of sending to the council those proposals that we really intend to push through," Washington said. "Last year, the council actually passed 34 bills. Next year we hope to be able to say we sent them 42 and we got 42 made into law."