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The District has been going through ideas to stay open during the government shutdown about as fast as it’s going through its contingency fund.

First there was the “just stay open” plan, then the plan to declare all employees essential. Mayor Vince Gray settled on spending the city’s $144 million contingency fund, which is legal because it was appropriated by Congress in previous years, but that money is expected to run out sometime next week.

Now D.C. Appleseed, the District advocacy group that pushed the contingency fund strategy, has another idea.

In April, D.C. voters overwhelmingly chose to amend the Home Rule Charter to take the District’s budget control away from Congress. That amendment doesn’t go into effect until January 2014, which is why D.C. is in the current mess in the first place. But what if the amendment instead had gone into effect on Oct. 1, 2013, the start of the fiscal year (and the federal government shutdown)?

Appleseed’s lawyers at Latham & Watkins say it can be done, and the District won’t even need a time machine to do it. The Jan. 1, 2014 start date in the legislation that created the referendum wasn’t itself part of the charter amendment, according to the attorneys, meaning it can be changed by the Council through legislation to retroactively start on Oct. 1. Once that happens, the Council could approve a budget proposed by Gray, according to a press release from Appleseed executive director Walter Smith.

LL’s waiting to hear back from both Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on what they think of the plan.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery