WITH A FEW stubborn exceptions, even those who pressed hardest for Tuesday's voter acceptance of the District's proposed state constitution have acknowledged that the document needs reworking if people are serious about achieving statehood. That, in fact, was how the proposal was sold, with promises from its drafters, from city hall and from Congress that they would clean it up if it passed. It has -- and there is little point in arguing over the size or fervor of the majority that said yes. The decision was to continue the process. The question now is how to make the best of it, and who gets first crack.
The next formality is the transmittal of the constitution, as is, by the mayor to Congress. But -- and here's where the first set of players comes into the picture -- at any time before this constitution might take effect, it could be changed by an act of the D.C. government, which is to say the council and the mayor.
That would seem a logical enough place to stop for repairs on the way to statehood. But unfortunately it's not that simple. Even if a good two-thirds of the council were to agree on a list of changes in the constitution, there is a second set of players--the elected delegates to the statehood convention, who wrote the document in the first place. If 23 of them meet and declare themselves a quorum, a majority of 12 delegates could approve something totally different from the council version. Then, after what could be spirited or just plain nasty battles, both versions might be dumped onto a ballot for another vote. In any event, another vote will be taken at some point.
There is another key group of players: the members of Congress. In urging a yes vote on the constitution, D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy said that as soon as the proposal comes to the House, he "will introduce enabling legislation which, together with the draft, will be referred to the District Committee, which has primary jurisdiction, and other appropriate committees." Mr. Fauntroy has said that he, along with friendly congressional colleagues, the council, the drafters and everybody else, would then come up with a constitution that all parties can accept.
Sure. But before anyone whips out needle and thread to sew in that 51st star, there will have to be a better measure of what all parties are talking about. If this takes until 1985, when the current statehood delegates' terms expire, so be it. Besides, Congress should not leap in too quickly either to reject the constitution or to rewrite it. The main responsibility for making appropriate changes should rest downtown, with the elected local government--not in committees of the House, however "friendly" they may claim to be.