PRESS RELEASE Council of the District of Columbia

Office of Chairman Vincent C. Gray The John A. Wilson Building 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20004
For Immediate Release: Contact: Doxie A. McCoy 202-724-8032; cell: 202-664-9862

Chairman Gray Welcomes Major Home Rule Victories in D.C. Appropriations Headed to Final Passage In Congress Washington DC – Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray today said he was gratified to learn about important, long overdue victories for the District of Columbia and its quest for autonomy and expanded home rule that are included in the city’s federal appropriations approved by a House and Senate conference committee last night. Gray said the Committees on Appropriations took bold policy steps in approving the Financial Services bill, which includes the District’s appropriations, to help the city fight the spread of HIV and AIDS and homelessness, among other things. Final approval is expected on both the House and Senate floors in the coming days. The legislation will now allow federal funding to be used for needle exchange programs and does not include any new restrictions on using this proven weapon against HIV/AIDS beyond what the District already prohibits, such as no exchange programs near schools. The appropriators also removed the longstanding rider that bars the District from using its own taxpayer-raised funds to support abortions for women needing public assistance; and now even allows federal funding in limited instances, a benefit on par with other states. Gray also applauded the removal of a ban on the use of federal funds for domestic partnership registration and benefits, and the roadblock that has stopped the District from implementing the results of a 1998 referendum that approved the use of marijuana for medical treatment. “These incremental steps are an encouraging signal to the District of Columbia to keep up the battle for full voting rights, budget and legislative autonomy, and the right for our citizens to be treated like any other taxpayers in the United States. We are especially pleased when Congress has the wisdom to remove harmful riders like the needle exchange ban that threatened to set the District back in addressing our alarmingly high HIV rate,” Chairman Gray said. “I am grateful for the drive and determination of our Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in pressing Members to put District lawmaking in the hands of District lawmakers. Our friends in Congress, especially those on the Appropriations Committees, also should be commended for bucking their colleagues who would continue to unfairly treat the District of Columbia differently from other states.” Gray also welcomed the $17 million in new federal funds for housing programs for the homeless at a time when this population, more than others, is feeling the effects of the depressed local and national economy; and $4 million for youth programs, including job training for drop-outs, and services for youth involved in the court system. ###

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