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District of Columbia Research Guide

Governance, Pre-Statehood Materials and Statehood Initiatives

This section provides an overview of the history and sources of  District of Columbia governance, as well as the recent  developments in the efforts to achieve statehood. Sources of law for the District of Columbia are Congress, the D.C.Council, D.C. and federal court decisions, and the decisions of federal and D.C. agencies.

Governance - Key Legal Sources:

Below are two important documents related to D.C. governance:

  • District of Columbia Self-Governmental Reorganization Act (otherwise known as D.C. Home Rule Act) (1973). 

D.C. Governance Structure:

The Mayor heads the Executive branch, which enforces laws, enacts executive orders, and oversees the D.C. budget. The D.C. Council has legislative authority. There are 8 Wards in D.C., and each ward elects a single member of the Council. Residents also elect four at-large members.

There are also 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) which are elected by neighborhood districts. The ANCs are able to offer recommendations on issues affecting residents, which the Council then carefully considers.

The Attorney General is the chief legal officer. Karl Racine, the current Attorney General, was elected in 2014 and sworn into office in 2015. 

Pre-Statehood Materials:

  • Pre-Statehood Materials: A Legal History of the District of Columbia Prior to Home Rule (HeinOnline). This bibliographic essay by Luis M. Acosta, is included in the section for D.C. in Hein's 50-State Pre-Statehood collection.

D.C. Statehood Initiatives:


The Legislative Process

Steps in the D.C. Legislative Process:

  1. D.C. Council drafts bill and submits to a committee, which may hold hearings

  2. Bill submitted to D.C. Mayor for approval: (Now it is an “act.”)

  3. Council submits act to U.S. Congress

  4. Congress has 30 days to review civil act (60 days for criminal act)

  5. Act becomes a statute (in D.C. Official Code).

The D.C. Register (KFD 1234.A22) is the official bulletin of D.C. Legislative Activity. It is also available online. This is where you will find:

  • Notices of Rulemaking (proposed and final)
  • Mayor’s Orders Notices of Public Hearings