Senate Confirms Sequoyah Simermeyer to serve as Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission

Senate Confirms Sequoyah Simermeyer to serve as Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission

On November 21, the Senate confirmed the nomination of E. Sequoyah Simermeyer to serve as Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) for a term of three years.

Prior to his nomination, Simermeyer served as a Commissioner and the Director of Self-Regulation for the NIGC, where he worked with federal, state, and tribal bodies on national gaming regulatory policy and compliance as well as self-regulation petitions.

Simermeyer formerly advised the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and as a Counselor to the Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. He also advocated on national and international policy issues with the National Congress of American Indians. He holds a law degree from Cornell Law School.

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John Hoeven (R-ND) congratulated Simermeyer on his confirmation, stating, “Mr. Simermeyer’s legal experience and knowledge of Indian gaming enables him to effectively oversee the NIGC and uphold the integrity of the commission.”

Congress Averts Shutdown, Approves Final FY20 Appropriations Bills

Congress Averts Shutdown, Approves Final FY20 Appropriations Bills

Last night, Congress finalized approval of a $1.4 trillion spending package, averting a shutdown and funding federal government agencies and programs through the end of FY20, September 30, 2020. The House passed both bills on Tuesday, December 17, and the Senate advanced the bills yesterday – both by wide bipartisan margins.

The White House has indicated that the President will sign the bills before the midnight deadline tonight when the current CR expires.

The bills were divided into two “minibuses”: a $738 billion defense/national security spending bill, which includes 4 of the 12 individual appropriations bills (Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services & General Government, and Homeland Security); and a $632 billion measure to fund non-defense domestic programs, which includes the remaining 8 appropriations bills (Labor-Health & Human Services-Education, Agriculture, Energy & Water, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-VA, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-HUD).

Of great importance to Indian Country, final funding levels for FY20 once again fully reject President Trump’s proposed budget cuts for tribal government programs. The domestic spending package includes 4% increases for BIA/BIE and IHS programs and services. Critical tribal programs were also funded at DOJ, EPA, HUD, Treasury and other agencies.

The House and Senate have adjourned for the holidays. The House returns for the second session of the 116th Congress on January 7, 2020, and the Senate is set to return to session on January 3 with potential votes scheduled for Monday, January 6.

House Passes FY20 Spending Bills

House Passes FY20 Spending Bills

Today, the House passed a pair of spending bills (or “minibuses”) that allow the government to maintain operations past the Friday shutdown deadline. The two bills, H.R. 1158 and H.R. 1865, carry federal funding through September 30, 2020.

The $1.4 trillion spending package was bipartisan. Democrats lost votes from Progressive and Hispanic Caucus members who cited funding for the Trump administration’s immigration policies as the primary reason for their no votes.

The pair of bills will be voted on quickly by the Senate. The President has indicated that he will sign the bills.

Senate Approves FY20 NDAA

Senate approves FY 20 NDAA

Today, the Senate passed the passed the conference report for S.1790, the $738 billion FY20 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 86-8.

The legislation cleared the House last week. The bill was caught for months in negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers, raising the prospect that Congress might not be able to pass the defense legislation for the first time in nearly 60 years. The major sticking point was provisions related to the President’s border wall. Ultimately, negotiators decided to leave out wall-related provisions, punting the issue to the appropriations process.

Package of Coastal Bills, including Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act, Passes the House

Package of Coastal Bills, including Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act, Passes the House

On December 12, the House passed a package of bills relating to coastal issues. The bills were all bundled in a package under H.R. 729, the Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act. The bundled legislation was titled the “Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act.” The following individual bills were included in the package:

  • H.R. 729, Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act,
  • H.R. 3115, Living Shorelines Act of 2019,
  • H.R. 3596, Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act,
  • H.R. 2185, District of Columbia Flood Prevention Act of 2019
  • H.R. 3541, Coastal State Climate Preparedness Act of 2019,
  • H.R. 1747, National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act,
  • H.R. 1023, Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act of 2019,
  • H.R. 2189, Digital Coast Act,
  • H.R. 1314, Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act Amendments of 2019, and
  • H.R. 2405, National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2019

H.R. 729, Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act, allows coastal tribes to apply for grants through the Department of Commerce to undertake measures to protect vulnerable traditional or historic area and to prepare and implement special area management plans for coastal areas. The bill was introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and has 14 bi-partisan co-sponsors.

Also of interest, H.R. 3115 directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to award grants to state or local governments, Indian tribes, or nonprofit organizations to implement climate-resilient living shoreline projects. H.R. 1747 creates a National Fish Habitat Board to facilitate the creation of public/private partnerships to promote fish habitat conservation.

Congress Passes Esther Martinez Language Preservation Reauthorization Act

Congress Passes Esther Martinez Language Preservation Reauthorization Act

On December 9th, the House passed S.256, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act. The bill reauthorizes the program and provides increased flexibility by allowing more tribes, schools, and organizations to become eligible to apply for language immersion grants, extending the possible length of grants, and extending the Act’s authorization through 2024.

The Senate passed S.256 this past June, and the legislation was awaiting House action.

The bill was passed as a direct result of Indian country’s strong advocacy and dedication to seeing this important legislation move forward.