HEARTH Act Signed into Law

HEARTH Act Signed into Law

On Monday, July 30th President Obama signed into law the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act. The legislation allows tribes to lease restricted lands for residential, business, public, religious, educational or recreational purposes pursuant to tribal law without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.

The new law will enable tribes to move much more quickly on leasing and economic development, while maintaining the Secretary’s trust responsibility to oversee trust lands. Under the Act, federally recognized tribes can develop and implement their own laws and regulations governing certain leasing of Indian lands. Upon Secretarial approval of these tribal regulations, tribal governments will have the authority to process land leases without the prerequisite of Bureau of Indian Affairs approval, which in the past has slowed the process. This new authority has the potential to significantly reduce the time it takes to approve leases for homes and small businesses in Indian Country.

“The HEARTH Act had strong bi-partisan support. It’s unanimous passage demonstrates that Congress can make progress on important legislation for Indian Country to help create jobs and improve the economy, ” said Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

Congressman Martin Heinirch (D-NM) sponsored the legislation and first introduced the bill in 2009. The Act passed in the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote on May 15, 2012, and passed in the Senate by a unanimous vote on July 17, 2012.

Congressman Heinrich said that “tribal communities should be able to make their own decisions about how to use their own land, and the HEARTH Act will give them the freedom to do so. The last thing the federal government should do is stand in the way of a family who wants to buy a home, and this bill will help make it easier for Native families to buy and build houses in the communities where their families have lived for generations.”

Click HERE to see the full text of the HEARTH Act

HEARTH Act Passes Congress – Heads to President for Signature

HEARTH Act Passes Congress – Heads to President for Signature

NCAI released the following on the passage of the HEARTH Act:

In good news for Indian tribes, this morning the Senate passed H.R. 205, the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act, by unanimous consent. The bill passed the House of Representatives in May, and is expected to be signed by the President in the near future. The new law will be a significant step forward for tribal self-determination and updating the tribal trust lands management system. Congratulations to all you who advocated for the bill.

The HEARTH Act will authorize surface leasing of tribal lands without approval from the Secretary of the Interior. Instead, tribal leases can be approved by the tribe under tribal leasing regulations, which would be approved by the Secretary. The new law will enable tribes to move much more quickly on leasing and economic development, while maintaining the Secretary’s trust responsibility to oversee trust lands. It is an extension of the Navajo Leasing Act to all Indian tribes.

Indian tribes must take action in order to use the new authority of the HEARTH Act. In order to use this law, tribal governments must develop their own leasing regulations which are consistent with the Secretary’s regulations and include an environmental review process. The Secretary has 120 days to review and approve or disapprove any tribal regulations. After approval of the tribal regulations, tribes can engage in surface leasing without the approval of Interior on each lease.

Please thank all of the members of Congress who supported this bill, as well as the Obama Administration for their support. The bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate – so all Members should be thanked. In the House, the legislation was introduced by Rep. Mark Heinrich (NM) and the bill received strong support from Representatives Hastings, Markey, Young, Boren, Cole and Kildee and many co-sponsors. The Senate version of the same bill was introduced by Senator John Barrasso, and co-sponsored by Senators Akaka, Bingaman, Cantwell, Enzi, Johnson, Tester, Thune and Udall (NM). The strong bi-partisan support for the legislation is notable, as it demonstrates that Congress continues to work in a bi-partisan fashion to address the concerns of Indian tribal governments and improve economic development in Indian country.

Transportation Programs Reauthorized by Congress

Transportation Programs Reauthorized by Congress

On Friday, June 29th, the House and Senate passed the Conference Report for HR 4348, MAP-21, reauthorizing transportation programs through September 30th, 2014. Both the House and the Senate passed the Conference Report by wide margins: 373-52 in the House and 74-19 in the Senate. The legislation also includes provisions to extend low interest rates for student loans for one year and the National Flood Insurance Program for 5 years. This is the first long-term reauthorization of programs since the last Transportation Bill, known as SAFETEA-LU, expired in 2009. Since then, Congress has passed 9 extensions of that legislation. In March, the Senate passed S. 1813, MAP-21 with bipartisan support. However, although the House Transportation Committee did pass a bill out of Committee, the House was unable to pass a comprehensive reauthorization bill. Instead the House passed another extension of transportation programs that also included provisions authorizing the Keystone Pipeline XL, easing environmental regulations on coal-fired power plants, and streamlining the environmental review process for transportation projects. The House used this bill to request a Conference with the Senate on its MAP-21 legislation. At times, negotiations in the Conference Committee appeared to have stalled, but as the deadline for the expiration of transportation programs neared, House and Senate leaders worked to conclude a deal. The legislation will now go to the President to be signed.