The Washington Post reported that on September 15th the House of Representatives passed the 2001 budget for the District of Columbia, but only after adding amendments barring the use of District or federal funds for needle exchange programs and restricting an on-going, privately-run program.
Republican members of the House tacked on the "social riders" to the budget bill, as they have done on numerous other occasions, including barring the District from counting the votes in a 1998 medical marijuana initiative and later barring the District from implementing that initiative after a court-ordered vote count showed it passed with 69% of the vote.
The rider imposing crippling restrictions on the existing needle exchange program, Prevention Works!, by barring it from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, day-care centers, public housing complexes and other areas where children are present.
President Clinton has opposed such restrictions on needle exchange programs in the nation's capitol and vetoed last year's bill for similar reasons. He is expected to veto the House version this year as well if the objectionable provisions are removed in House-Senate conference. The Senate earlier passed a DC budget bill without the restrictions on needle exchanges.
The House bill passed by a narrow margin, 217-207, generally along partisan lines, leaving DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton optimistic that the District would prevail on needle exchange and other budget items in conference committee.
"The close vote will be helpful in House-Senate conference," she told the Post.
(DC-area readers can join the Capital Action volunteer network at Prevention Works! this coming Monday evening (9/25), from 6:00-9:00pm, 1734 14th St., NW. Help Prevention Works! assemble its "safe shooting kits" to help injection drug users protect themselves and reduce the spread of hepatitis and HIV. For further information, contact Daniela at (202) 375-5639 or Prevention Works! at (202) 588-5580.)