Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Business Meeting and Oversight Hearing on Tribal Transportation

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Business Meeting and Oversight Hearing on Tribal Transportation

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (Committee) will hold a business meeting and conduct an oversight hearing titled, “Tribal Transportation: Pathways to Safer Roads in Indian Country,” on Wednesday, April 22nd at 2:30 pm EST in Room 628 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The Committee will first consider S. 710, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2015, which was introduced by Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) last month on March 11th. S. 710 calls for reauthorization of the housing program through 2020 and seeks to establish an Office of the Assistant Secretary at HUD to administer tribal programs and eliminate duplicative requirements when multiple agencies are involved in housing-related activities. The Committee held a legislative hearing on S. 710 on March 18th where it received testimony from three tribal witnesses on the bill. The House of Representatives passed its version of the legislation, H.R. 360, the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act of 2015, last month on March 23rd.

Immediately following the business meeting, the Committee will receive testimony from five witnesses on road safety in Indian country. Witnesses for live testimony are by invitation only and will include the following:

  • Mr. Michael S. Black, Director-Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC;
  • The Honorable J. Michael Chavarria, Governor-Pueblo of Santa Clara, Espanola, NM;
  • The Honorable Rick Kirn, Tribal Executive Board Member-Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes, Poplar, MT;
  • Mr. Delbert McOmie, Chief Engineer-Wyoming Department of Transportation, Cheyenne, WY; and
  • Mr. John Smith, Director-Transportation Department, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation, Fort Washakie, WY.

The record will be open for two weeks after the hearing for written comments. A webcast of this hearing will be available on the Committee website. However, the business meeting will not be included as part of the webcast.

For more information about the hearing or the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, please visit: http://www.indian.senate.gov/

Senate Confirms Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri as Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission

Senate Confirms Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri as Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission

On April 16th, The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri as chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Chaudhuri was confirmed in a voice vote after previously being appointed to the commission as an associate commissioner by U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in September 2013. He was appointed as acting chairman in October 2013.

Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) Reauthorization Clears House of Representatives; Attention Turns Back to Senate

Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) Reauthorization Clears House of Representatives; Attention Turns Back to Senate

On Monday, March 23rd, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 360, the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act of 2015. The measure was introduced by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) earlier this year and included 17 bipartisan cosponsors including, Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK), Don Young (R-AK), Gwen Moore (D-WI) Denny Heck (D-WA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Mark Takai (D-HI), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL).

H.R. 360 would reauthorize the NAHASDA block grant program at $650 million annually through FY2019. The bill also includes the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which allows tribes to become eligible to participate in this program to address homelessness among Native veterans by providing housing and rental assistance. The HUD-VASH Program would be jointly administered by HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The NAHASDA program was last reauthorized in 2008 for a five-year period that expired on September 30th, 2013.

In addition, the bill includes provisions that would streamline the federal approval and administrative processes, and consolidate the environmental review requirements for tribes. It would permit recipients to use funding from the Indian Health Service (IHS) for the construction of sanitation facilities for housing construction and renovation projects. It also includes language that would provide for funding of the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant and Loan Guarantees, which both directly support affordable housing on Hawaiian homelands.

On March 23rd, the House passed H.R. 360 by a roll call vote of 297 – 98. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration in the 114th Congress.

H.R. 360 is identical to H.R. 4329, which passed the House in November of 2014, but stalled on the Senate floor because of objections raised by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Sen. Lee expressed concerns to the inclusion of Native Hawaiian housing provisions in the bill.

On March 11, 2015, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (Committee) Chairman, John Barrasso (R-WY), introduced his version of the NAHSDA reauthorization, S. 710, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2015. Sen. Barrasso’s version of the bill calls for reauthorization of the housing program through 2020 and seeks to establish an Office of the Assistant Secretary at HUD to administer tribal programs and eliminate duplicative requirements when multiple agencies are involved in housing-related activities. The Committee held a legislative hearing on S. 710, on March 18th, where it received testimony from three tribal witnesses on the bill, including:

  • Chairwoman Karen Diver, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, MN
  • Gary Cooper (Cherokee Nation, OK), Board Member and Chairman of the Legislative Committee-National American Indian Housing Council
  • Russell Sossamon, Executive Director-Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Housing Authority

The Committee is expected to approve S. 710 in the coming weeks. However, it will again face possible hurdles on the Senate floor where the legislation stalled at the end of the 113th Congress. If S. 710 passes the Senate, both chambers of Congress would have to reconcile any conflicting language between the two versions of the bill. It will be important for tribes to weigh in with their Senators to encourage passage of NAHASDA reauthorization and enactment of this vital housing program to Indian country in the 114th Congress.