Arent Fox Plays Key Role in DC’s Budget Autonomy Win Before Superior Court
Washington, DC — On March 18, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia delivered a significant win for Washington, DC residents when it ruled that District lawmakers have the ability to determine how to spend local revenue without approval by the US Congress.
In the decision, Judge Brian Holeman upheld the DC Budget Autonomy referendum that was approved by DC voters in 2013, finding that it allowed the city to seek full control of dollars raised by local taxes and fees and that the will of the voters should be preserved. “This Court is unable to interfere with that lawful delegation of authority and exercise of that delegated authority by the Council, the Mayor, and the citizens of the District of Columbia,” wrote Judge Holeman.
Arent Fox Government Relations partner Jon S. Bouker, Complex Litigation partner Barbara S. Wahl, and former associate Aaron Brand have worked pro bono with local organizations DC Appleseed and DC Vote to develop the innovative legal theory that allowed the District to amend its charter and give itself the authority to enact a local budget. Mr. Bouker is co-leader of the firm’s Government Relations practice, chair of DC Appleseed, and the past chair of DC Vote. “This is another important step forward in the city’s fight for self-determination and a critical win for Home Rule in the District,” said Mr. Bouker. “The Superior Court has recognized that DC residents should have the same democratic rights with respect to its local budget as all other American citizens.”
Before passage of the Budget Autonomy referendum, the District was the only local jurisdiction in the country whose budget had to be approved by Congress as part of the often-delayed congressional appropriations process. As a result, the District’s ability to enact its operating budget and serve residents effectively was impeded. In addition to allowing budget autonomy, the new measure enables the District government to set its own fiscal year and, for the first time, continue operating without congressional action during a federal government shutdown.
Arent Fox’s Government Relations practice is one of the nation’s most experienced, effective, and respected lobbying organizations. The group represents clients before government entities on the federal, state, and local levels to help them achieve their public policy goals.