Rep. Haaland and Sen. Warren Release Legislative Proposal in Response to USCCR Broken Promises Report

Rep. Haaland and Sen. Warren Release Legislative Proposal in Response to USCCR Broken Promises Report

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have released a legislative proposal in response to last year’s United States Commission on Civil Rights’ Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans report. Rep. Haaland is hoping to begin consultation with Tribes in the coming weeks to design specific pieces of legislation based on the proposal.

Overview of Legislative Proposal

At this point, the legislative proposal is still conceptual and not a draft bill, but the purpose of the eventual bill is to implement the recommendations of the Broken Promises report to ensure progress toward fulfilling the treaty and trust obligations of the federal government. Some specific ideas include:

  • Budgetary Certainty: Advance appropriations, exemption from sequestration, mandatory funding, and inflation adjustments for many tribal programs.
  • White House Council on Native American Affairs: Codifying the Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Native American Affairs.
  • Criminal Justice and Public Safety: Increased funding for tribal courts, law enforcement, detention facilities, and the Crime Victims Fund.
  • Health Care: Mandatory funding for the IHS; funding to fully implement the Indian Health Care Improvement Act; increased funding for the Special Diabetes Program; parity in reimbursement rates for Urban Indian Health Clinics; increased funding for behavioral health; and tribal set-asides in EPA’s Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
  • Education: Increased funds for BIE school operations; increased funding for BIE facilities; increased funding for native languages; funding for culturally inclusive education; full funding for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); increased funding for local tribal education agencies; increased funding for Johnson O’Malley (JOM); and mandatory and full funding for tribal colleges and universities.
  • Housing: Mandatory funding and increases for the Indian Housing Block Grant to $2.5B; authority to administer Section 8 programs; increased funding for the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG); expanding the Section 184 and Title VI Loan Guarantee programs; expanding housing loans for Native American veterans; strengthening the Tribal HUD-VASH program; expanding the Housing Improvement Program; and improving agency environmental review requirements.

Fifth Circuit Court Rules in Favor of the Indian Child Welfare Act

Fifth Circuit Court Rules in Favor of the Indian Child Welfare Act, Overturns Lower Court Ruling

Today, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Brackeen v. Bernhard. The Circuit Court upheld the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), reversing the decision of the Northern District of Texas. The Circuit Court found ICWA to be constitutional because it is based on a political classification that is rationally related to the fulfillment of Congress’ unique obligation toward Indians.

Indian Affairs Committee Advances Trump’s NIGC Chair Nominee

Indian Affairs Committee Advances Trump’s NIGC Chair Nominee

On Wednesday, July 31, 2019, during a brief business meeting, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) – by voice vote – approved President Trump’s nomination of Sequoyah Simermeyer to serve as Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).

The business meeting was conducted one week after the SCIA held a hearing to review Mr. Simermeyer’s nomination. In his opening statement, Simermeyer stated that, if confirmed as Chair, he will: focus on preserving the NIGC’s and the Indian gaming industry’s integrity; work with tribal regulators to ensure they are prepared to protect against threats and take advantage of economic opportunities; ensure that the NIGC is accountable and transparent in all of its action; and continue work of the Commission to provide outreach and education to tribal regulators.

Committee Chairman John Hoeven (R-ND) cited more than dozen letters of support from tribal governments and organizations for Simermeyer’s nomination. He also noted the nominee’s experience as a former SCIA staffer, within the Interior Department, and his current position as NIGC Commissioner.

Vice Chair Tom Udall (D-NM) cited Simermeyer’s “strong grasp” of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and his hope that Simermeyer would safeguard the independence of the Commission from encroachments by both the Interior Department and the White House.

During the nomination hearing, Senator Udall pressed Simermeyer to take a position on the IGRA alternative compacting procedures, which the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down in a recent case involving the Pueblo of Pojaoque. Simermeyer deflected the question, stating that the NIGC is not involved in either the compact approval or alternative compacting procedure process. Udall urged Simermeyer, if confirmed, to use his position to ensure that states act in good faith with Native Nations on matters involving Indian gaming and work to guarantee that tribes are the primary stakeholders of Indian gaming revenues as IGRA intended.

If confirmed, Simermeyer would be the first Republican-appointed NIGC Chair since Phil Hogen who served a Chair for the bulk of the George W. Bush Administration. His nomination is now eligible for consideration by the full Senate.