Senate Indian Affairs Committee Approves Five Bills >>

August 3rd, 2011

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Approves Five Bills

On July 28, 2011, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a business meeting to discuss and vote on 5 bills that were referred to the Committee for consideration.

Federal Recognition Bills – S. 379, S. 546, S. 1218

Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) brought up 3 bills to extend federal recognition to tribal groups in North Carolina, Virginia, and Montana en banc. The bills included: S. 1218, the Lumbee Recognition Act, sponsored by Senator Burr (R-NC); S. 379, the Virginia Tribes Recognition Act, sponsored by Senator Webb (D-VA) (this bill would extend recognition to 6 separate tribal groups in Virginia); and S. 546, the Little Shell Recognition Act, sponsored by SenatorTester (D-MT). The bills passed by voice vote.

The HEARTH Act, S. 703

The Committee then brought up S. 703, the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Homeownership Act, for consideration. The bill, sponsored by Vice Chairman Barrasso, would amend the Indian Long-Term Leasing Act to authorize any federally recognized Indian tribe to lease its own lands without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. Tribes have expressed frustration with the slow lease approval process at Interior and argue that the red tape has slowed economic growth in Indian country. Under the bill, tribes would first have to enact tribal leasing regulations, which must then be approved by the Secretary. The bill has broad bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate.

At the markup, Chairman Akaka offered an amendment to HEARTH Act that would add the text of S. 676, his bill to address the Supreme Court’s attack on tribal sovereignty in the Carcieri v. Salazar decision. S. 676 would amend the Indian Reorganization Act to clarify that the Secretary has authority to place land into trust for all federally recognized tribes. The amendment and the bill, as amended, passed by voice vote.

The Quilleute Tsunami and Flood Protection Act, S. 636

The Committee next considered S. 636, a bill that would direct the Secretary to place land into trust for the Quilleute Tribe to extend its current reservation to include land on higher ground out of a tsunami and flood plain zone. To do this, the bill removes current land in the Olympic National Park from wilderness protection status. The bill, however, adds certain tracts of land within Olympic National Park as wilderness or potential wilderness areas. The bill passed by voice vote.

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