Canton Repository

January 3, 2007

Regula still wants to join D.C. to Maryland

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service


WASHINGTON Rep. Ralph Regula is not ruling out a "yes" vote on a plan to grant the District of Columbia congressional representation.

But the Bethlehem Township Republican said Tuesday he still prefers his longstanding proposal to rejoin most of the federal district to Maryland.

This, he said, would provide residents of the district with the benefits of Maryland's public schools and universities, economic and transportation planning, and a representative in Congress.

"I still think my solution is the best one for the people," he said.

TWO MORE HOUSE SEATS

With Democrats regaining control of the House and Senate in the November election, chances have increased that Congress will approve a plan to grant congressional representation to the overwhelmingly Democratic enclave.

The incoming Democratic majority is expected to take up legislation offered by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat. The bill would add two more seats to the House - one for the nation's capital and the other for Utah.

The plan stands a better chance of passing than previous proposals because the addition of a likely Democratic congressional seat in D.C. would be balanced by a new seat for Utah that is likely to be held by a Republican.

Regula has not decided how he would vote if that bill makes it the House floor, he said.

He has pushed his plan since at least 1990, when he was a member of the then-Republican minority in Congress. Before the GOP won control of the House in 1994, Regula served on an appropriations subcommittee that allocated federal spending to the district.

His proposal would rejoin most of the district with Maryland, leaving a small federal enclave including the White House, the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings.

The district was created in 1788, when Maryland and Virginia ceded territory for its creation. Virginia took back its territory, including the city of Alexandria, through an agreement with Congress in 1846.

ADVANTAGES

Although there are a number of proposals to give the district congressional representation, Regula said his has the added benefit of making the district part of a larger state.

D.C. residents' "quality of life, their opportunities, would be much greater if they were to be a city in Maryland," he said.

Regula does not oppose congressional representation for the district, he said. But he fears that if the district gets congressional representation on its own, there will be no chance to make it part of Maryland.

He also acknowledged that he has been unsuccessful getting his legislation passed and is pessimistic about its prospects in a Democrat-controlled House.

The Regula plan has been a hard sell among officials in Maryland and the district, and with Norton, who opposes it.

"It's hard to get people interested," he said.

But last year, Regula's proposal received a plug from John Fortier, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who said the Davis-Norton plan would be unconstitutional.

In a piece for The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, Fortier wrote that Regula's plan "is the most legitimate way to go."