[Comments on the District of Columbia Home Rule Act]

B-197200: Jan 7, 1980

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Shirley Jones
(202) 512-8156


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

GAO was requested to determine whether the District of Columbia City Council violated the District of Columbia Home Rule Act in enacting legislation affecting the location of foreign chanceries in the District. GAO stated that both the letter and spirit of this law preclude the City Council from enacting a law which interferes with the Federal/international character of the District. This legislation limits the areas in which foreign governments could locate official missions in the District of Columbia. The Council's legislative powers are limited by the zoning and planning provisions of the Home Rule Act. Therefore, the bill enacted by the Council would have the effect of circumscribing the Zoning Commission's authority to comply with the act's mandate that zoning regulations be consistent with the comprehensive plan for the National Capital and would also preclude meaningful review by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). The Council's legislative powers are further limited by a provision in the act which precludes the Council from enacting any act concerning the functions or property of the United States, or any act not restricted in its application exclusively in or to the District. The enactment substantially curtailed the areas in which foreign governments could locate official chanceries in the Capital. The action is inconsistent with the NCPC plan and a treaty signed by the United States in which it agreed to assist foreign governments to obtain suitable chancery premises in the Capital. Since this legislation clearly concerns the functions of the United States, it was the opinion of GAO that the Council acted without authority in enacting this legislation.