DC Council considers rush on New Columbia statehood constitution

WASHINGTON — One step closer to statehood, the D.C. Council heard and discussed what could be the state constitution for “New Columbia.”

“The question is not why statehood, but what it should look like,” said D.C. council member Mary Cheh during Tuesday’s hearing.

To create the state of New Columbia, the citizens of the District are following what’s called the “Tennessee Plan.”

“The citizens, of in this case of the District, get their proposal together before they petition Congress for admission into the union,” Council Chair Phil Mendelson explained at the hearing’s outset.

But there’s little time to waste to get the referendum to voters by Nov. 8. It will need to be approved by voters in November to be sent to Congress.

It’s a big job to be done in a small window of time.

“The goal here is in January when we have new Congress, a new president, we present to them a new constitution and proposed boundaries,” Mendelson said.

And while the issue is decades old, the process feels rushed to some citizens just hearing of drafting of a constitution they’ve had little-to-no part in creating.

“Although I ask you to move quickly. I also ask the people have a chance to address their concerns by demanding a mandatory constitutional convention,” said shadow Sen. Michael Brown.

He told the council the process of meeting with citizens outside of the “usual suspects” long in favor of statehood, has taken months and has already run much longer than previous attempts to gather citizen input in the late 1980s.

During the hourslong hearing where more than 35 residents who either represented groups or organizations shared their thoughts, some shared concerns revolved around voters ratifying any Congressional changes, how the boundaries are chosen and what provisions should be included.

This was the first of two public hearings. The next is Oct. 6.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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