- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2012

If a snowstorm foils an upcoming pro-D.C. statehood vote in Florida this year, then the city’s decades-long voting rights effort might indeed be ill-fated.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Council members postponed a trip Thursday to the New Hampshire because a winter storm forced state lawmakers to cancel voting on a resolution to support D.C. voting rights in Congress. It was the second time in four years that snow nixed the vote and travel plans.

But D.C. officials can take heart in efforts under way in Tallahassee, where Florida state Rep. Alan Williams has introduced a resolution that urges Congress to admit the District as the country’s 51st state.

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Mr. Williams, a Democrat, introduced the resolution Jan. 4, and it has been referred to the Florida Legislature’s Federal Affairs Subcommittee.

D.C. Council members Michael A. Brown and David A. Catania, at-large independents, are handpicking state legislatures that they hope will support the city’s efforts to achieve statehood through resolutions in their chambers, part of a new multiplatform campaign the city began in November.

They hope sitting members of Congress will be forced to look at what is happening in their home districts and that some state-level politicians will sympathize with D.C. self-determination efforts before they springboard to Capitol Hill.

The closest activists got to achieving statehood likely came in 2009 when the D.C. Voting Rights Act passed in the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority of 61 votes. It was the first time in 31 years such a bill passed in the Senate, but a last-minute gun-rights amendment essentially killed the legislation.

The resolutions filed in New Hampshire and Florida are not identical, but express the same themes: that 600,000 people live in the District and pay federal taxes without a voice in Congress.

The District has a Democrat in the House, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, but she is not allowed to cast final votes on the chamber floor.

Both measures also emphasize the sacrifice of veterans who live in the District and D.C.-born troops who died in overseas conflicts.

The council’s tab for the New Hampshire trip is expected to be about $4,000, though future trips will likely consist of small delegations and cost less.

The D.C. Republican Committee has criticized the plan, saying that Mr. Gray, a Democrat, and his delegation should focus first on neighboring Maryland and Virginia’s legislatures and Capitol Hill lawmakers “instead of putting D.C. taxpayers on the hook for their trips up to New England and around the country.”

New Hampshire has already held its highly anticipated presidential primary election on Tuesday, and Florida is scheduled to hold its primary on Jan. 31 after the Republican showdown in South Carolina.

City officials have downplayed the relevance of the presidential primaries to their efforts. They say their plans are dictated by when state legislatures are in session and the efforts of their friendly contacts in those states.

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