- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

Attorneys for the city were in D.C. Superior Court yesterday, trying to convince a judge that implementing the outrageously liberal drug-treatment initiative that voters approved Nov. 5 would undermine the D.C. Home Rule Charter. The charter rests funding mandates in the hands of D.C. elected officials and Congress, and, like it or not, the U.S. Constitution grants only Congress appropriative authority over D.C. affairs. The city appears to have a strong legal case.
Initiative 62, if implemented, would mandate treatment instead of jail for certain defendants, force the District to adopt and pay for a variety of treatment programs, force the dismissal of legal proceedings against offenders and establish a new bureaucracy within the health department. Implementation also would effectively eliminate all manner of sanctions however lenient or severe usually left to judges and lawyers. The enabling legislation does not specify costs, but this fiscal year the mayor and the D.C. Council anticipate spending $37 million on drug-treatment programs $500,000 more than last year. That sounds adequate.
Therein lie two aspects of the Williams administration's legal challenges. The administration first tried to block the initiative from even appearing on the ballot on the grounds that it intrudes upon legal and budgetary authority vested in the mayor and the council. A judge, however, reasoned that voters might render the measure moot. Since voters did the opposite, the city is back in court.
The city rightly argues in its suit that: 1) laws such as those proposed by Initiative 62 are improper ballot measures because they illegally mandate "laws appropriating funds" in violation of the D.C. charter, which, again, vests such authority in the mayor and council; 2) the board violated the charter by qualifying such an improper initiative; and 3) the initiative is so intrusive upon the authority of D.C. officials and the budget, that, if implemented, it would interfere with efforts "to provide the District with sound financial management."
The suit asks that the court first rule that Initiative 62 was indeed an improper ballot measure, and that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics be permanently barred from certifying the election results regarding the initiative. The suit further asks the court to permanently prevent Initiative 62 "from becoming law or taking effect." All are reasonable requests for relief.
The board is not expected to certify results until Nov. 20.
The court must not allow that to happen.

Martin Walker is chief international correspondent for UPI. Distributed by UPI.

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