May 10th, 2017 – Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Legislative Hearing on S. 772 and S. 825

May 10th, 2017 – Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Legislative Hearing on S. 772 and S. 825

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has scheduled a legislative hearing to receive testimony on the following bills referred to the Committee.

  • S. 772, A bill to amend the PROTECT Act to make Indian tribes eligible for AMBER Alert grants.
  • S. 825, A bill to provide for the conveyance of certain property to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium located in Sitka, Alaska, and for other purposes.

The hearing will take place on Wednesday, May 10th, at 2:30 p.m. EST in Room 628 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Witnesses for live testimony are by invitation only, and a list will be posted on the Committee’s website once confirmed. The record will be open for two weeks following the hearing for written comments. A webcast of this hearing will be available on the scheduled hearing date on the Committee website.

For more information about the hearing or the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, please visit:

Supreme Court Issues Decision in Lewis v. Clark

Supreme Court Issues Decision in Lewis v. Clark

Today, the Supreme Court issued an 8-0 opinion in Lewis v. Clark (docket 15-1500), holding that in a suit brought against a tribal employee in his individual capacity, the employee, not the tribe, is the real party in interest and the tribe’s sovereign immunity is not implicated.

The Court found a clear distinction between a defendant in an official capacity action (where the relief sought is only nominally against the official and in fact is against the official’s office and the sovereign itself), who may assert sovereign immunity, and a defendant in an individual capacity, who can only assert the personal immunity defense of official immunity.

The opinion was authored by Justice Sotomayor and was joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, and Kagen. Justices Thomas and Ginsburg filed concurring opinions. Justice Gorsuch did not take part in the consideration or decision of the case.


The case stems from a 2011 car accident between a limousine owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and a man named Brian Lewis. Lewis claimed he was injured as a result of limo driver William Clarke’s negligent and careless driving. Clark, a Mohegan employee, moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that because he was driving the limousine as an employee of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because he was entitled to tribal sovereign immunity.

The trial court denied the motion, finding that the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity did not apply because Lewis sought damages from Clarke personally, not from the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed and held that tribal sovereign immunity extended to Clarke as a member of the tribe acting within the scope of his employment as a limousine driver with the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

FY17 Appropriations Update


Funding for the government expires April 28th, leaving just one week left to pass a bill in both the House and Senate and to have the President sign it. For the last two weeks, Congress has been on recess, but the Appropriations Committee Members and staff have been hard at work to finalize an Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Although both the Senate and House Appropriations Committee Members seem intent on completing negotiations for an Omnibus Appropriations Bill to finish out this fiscal year, there are at least a few issues that are proving to be hurdles to completing the bill. These include the border wall, sanctuary cities, additional defense spending, and coal miner’s benefits.

At this point, it is unclear if a final deal will be reached by next Friday. However, both Congressional Republicans and Democrats do not appear to have a significant interest in actually shutting down the government (unlike the previous shutdown). What is less clear is if the Trump Administration is willing to insist on its priorities to the point of forcing a government shutdown.

Given the continued disagreements, it is also very possible that a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the government for another week will be passed to provide more time to negotiate these issues. It is also possible that what is ultimately passed is a combination CR and Omnibus (CROmnibus) where certain appropriations bills will be a CR due to unresolvable disagreements while other appropriations bills will have new funding levels set where agreement can be reached.

Trump Administration Lifts Hiring Freeze; Directs Agencies to Submit Workforce Restructuring Plans

Trump Administration Lifts Hiring Freeze; Directs Agencies to Submit Workforce Restructuring Plans

The White House has announced that the federal hiring freeze put into place at the beginning of the Trump administration will be lifted. The freeze temporarily halted all non-military federal hiring, in an attempt to fulfill the Trump campaign promise to “drain the swamp” and reduce the size of government.

The lifting of the freeze does not, however, mean that agencies will be given the latitude to fill any and all positions. The across the board freeze is instead being replaced by what the Administration is calling “a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan.” The Office of Management and Budget has issued guidance ordering federal departments and agencies to “begin taking immediate actions” to reduce the size of their workforces over the long-term. Agency heads must develop a plan to “maximize employee performance” by June 30 and submit a final version of that plan to the White House budget office by September.

The ability of agencies to fill positions and maintain program staff will also be largely dependent on the budgets passed by Congress for the remainder of FY2017 and for FY2018.