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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Nashua lawmaker wants nation’s capital to become the 51st state

CONCORD – A Nashua Democrat is championing the cause to make Washington, D.C., the nation’s 51st state.

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald has filed a nonbinding House resolution she hopes will be the starting point for a national movement for the reform.

Rosenwald was joined Friday by a group of officials from the District of Columbia who came to Concord to pursue their campaign to make the nation’s capital a state.

“No American should be victim of taxation without representation; it is a core American value and one we truly hold dear here in New Hampshire,” Rosenwald said.

Rosenwald said it was unfair that the district’s 600,000 residents pay federal taxes, but have to get the permission of Congress for the approval of ministerial local actions. Because Rosenwald’s proposal is only a nonbinding House resolution, even if adopted, it would never even go to the state Senate or get to the desk of Gov. John Lynch.

Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, a phalanx of city councilors and the district’s “shadow” members of Congress hope Rosenwald’s proposal will begin a brushfire of support for this reform across the country.

“This is the first step of a nationwide effort focused on getting resolutions passed in the statehouses across America,” Gray told the House State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee. “This is all about the fundamental principles we all embrace: liberty, equality and justice for all.”

During a two-hour hearing, supporters said New Hampshire is the best place to begin the drive for amending the federal Constitution.

After all, it was the New Hampshire General Court in 1846 that called for an end to slavery in Washington. Four years later, Congress responded by peeling off the only slave trading port in Washington to Virginia so the district could become an island of emancipation.

Washington City Council Chairman Kwame Brown said local decisions can be held up for weeks, if not months, for Congress to give its consent on issues in which its members have little interest and even less knowledge about.

“They should have better things to do in getting our economy back on track than worrying about our local issues,” Brown said. “If you had to deal with what we have to, I think there would be all-out war here in New Hampshire.”

Several committee members publicly endorsed the effort.

State Rep. Elaine Swinford, R-Barnstead, said it’s a travesty Congress has to meddle in local affairs, as it did in canceling a successful charter school reform program in 2009.

The campaign to amend the Constitution would require a vote by two-thirds of Congress or petition by two-thirds of the states. The amendment would then need to win ratification from three-fourths of the states.

“It’s not an easy task, but it’s the route we must follow and we will. I think our cause is just,” said Mary Cheh, the second-ranking member on the City Council and a 30-year professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Law School.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan (@KLandrigan) and at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.