House Advances Tribal Bills >>

September 21st, 2020

House Advances Tribal Bills

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed 6 Indian Country-related bills under suspension of the House rules. Several of these bills had previously passed the Senate and are expected to be signed into law.

Below is a short summary of each of these bills with their current status in Congress:

S. 209, PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act
Sponsored by Sen. Hoeven (R-ND) with 5 bipartisan co-sponsors. The House companion bill, H.R. 2031, is sponsored by Rep. Haaland (D-NM) with 14 bipartisan co-sponsors.

The bill constitutes the most significant amendment to the Interior Department’s Indian Self-Governance program since 2000. It would align the Interior Department’s Self-Governance compacting procedures with the Indian Health Service procedures for negotiating compacts, amending compacts, and retrocession of programs (primarily by codifying existing regulations). The bill also limits the Secretary’s ability to delay compact negotiations and sets stricter time frames on the release of funding. While the bill falls short of expanding non-BIA programs eligible for Self-Governance compacting, it notes that Interior has discretionary authority to compact with tribes for Interior programs that have a special geographic, historical, or cultural significance to a petitioning tribe. Below is a list of additional changes to the Interior Self-Governance program:

  • Requires Interior to clarify rationale for declining tribal proposals in compacts;
  • Prohibits the Department from imposing unauthorized compact terms;
  • Reinforces carry-over authority and procedures for award funding;
  • Clarifies procedures for tribal appeals and waiver requests;
  • Clarifies construction oversight roles to ensure fiscal prudence and public safety;
  • Establishes clear payment schedules for all parties involved

The Senate passed S. 209 by unanimous consent on June 27, 2019. On Monday, September 21, 2020, the House passed the bill under suspension of the rules by voice vote. The bill will now be sent to the President for signature and final enactment into law.

S. 294, the Native American Business Incubators Act
Sponsored by Sen. Udall (D-NM) with 5 bipartisan co-sponsors. The House companion bill is sponsored by Rep. Haaland (D-NM) with 11 bipartisan co-sponsors.

The bill would create a competitive grant program within Interior’s Office of Indian Energy & Economic Development to establish and maintain business incubators that will help entrepreneurs open small business that will serve tribal communities. The 3-year grants require a 25% match from the applicant. The bill authorizes $5 million to appropriated annually for the program.

The Senate passed S. 294 by unanimous consent on June 27, 2019. On Monday, September 21, 2020, the House passed the bill under suspension of the rules by voice vote. The bill will now be sent to the President for signature and final enactment into law.

S. 227, Savannah’s Act
Sponsored by Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) with 27 bipartisan co-sponsors. The House companion bill, H.R. 2733, is sponsored by Rep. Torres (D-CA) with 60 bipartisan co-sponsors.

The bill requires the Justice Department to: review, revise and develop law enforcement protocols to address cases of missing and murdered Native Americans; train law enforcement on how to record the tribal enrollment of victims in federal databases; consult with tribes on how to improve data and tribal access to federal criminal databases for cases of missing and murdered Native Americans; develop and implement a strategy to notify citizens of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System; establish guidelines, in consultation with tribes, for responding to cases of missing or murdered Native Americans; and report to Congress on the status of missing and murdered Native Americans and recommendations on how to improve data collection on the crisis.

The Senate passed S. 227 with an amendment by unanimous consent on March 11, 2020. On Monday, September 21, 2020, the House passed the bill under suspension of the rules by voice vote. The bill will now be sent to the President for signature and final enactment into law.

S. 982, the Not Invisible Act
Sponsored by Sen. Cortez Masto (D-NV) with 8 bipartisan co-sponsors. The House companion bill, H.R. 2438, is sponsored by Rep. Haaland (D-NM) with 60 bipartisan co-sponsors.

The bill directs Interior to designate an official within BIA’s Office of Justice Services to coordinate efforts to address and prevent the murder, trafficking, and support the recovery of missing indigenous men and women on Indian lands and in urban centers. It directs the BIA to establish inter-agency efforts with DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, Office of Tribal Justice, COPS, VAWA, and the FBI.

The bill also establishes a Joint Commission within Interior that must publish a report to Congress with recommendations for Interior and DOJ to take to help combat violent crime against Indians on Indian lands, reduce gaps in services and coordination among law enforcement serving Indian lands, and include strategies to identify, report, and respond to instances of missing and murdered persons and human trafficking.

The Senate passed S. 982 with an amendment by unanimous consent on March 11, 2020. On Monday, September 21, 2020, the House passed the bill under suspension of the rules by voice vote. The bill will now be sent to the President for signature and final enactment into law.

H.R. 895, the Tribal School Federal Parity Insurance Act
Sponsored by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) with 13 bipartisan co-sponsors. The Senate bill, S. 279, is sponsored by Sen. Thune (R-SD) with 8 bipartisan co-sponsors. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved the bill during markup on May 15, 2019.

The bill seeks to provide added incentives/benefits to serving as employees at Indian schools. The bill would make BIE tribal grant school employees eligible for participation in the Federal Employee Health Benefits and the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance programs.

On Monday, September 21, 2020, the House passed the bill under suspension of the rules by voice vote. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for final consideration.

H.R. 4957, the Native Child Protection Act
Sponsored by Rep. Gallego (D-AZ) with 11 bipartisan co-sponsors. There is no Senate companion bill.

The bill amends and updates the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act of 1990. The goal of the 1990 law was to identify the scope of violence experienced by Native children, fill gaps in tribal child welfare and domestic violence programs, and reduce incidents of violence by providing funds for mental health treatment. It mandated greater coordination between law enforcement and child protection agencies serving Native children, improved reporting standards, and required criminal background checks for BIA, IHS, and tribal employees with contact or control over Native children. The 1990 law also authorized funding to establish Indian Child Resource and Family Services Centers in each of the BIA regions. The centers were never established, and the law expired along with past appropriations in 1997.

H.R. 4957 seeks to revive and update the goals of the 1990 law. It replaces the regional Resource Centers with a National Indian Resource Services Center to provide tribes with technical support and training on the prevention of child abuse, family violence, and child neglect. The Center would work with other federal agencies responsible for public safety and health care in Indian Country in gathering data and providing comprehensive support to tribes. The BIA is required to submit a report to Congress within two year of enactment.

The bill was developed in coordination with the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA).

On Monday, September 21, 2020, the House passed the bill under suspension of the rules by voice vote.

Comments Off on House Advances Tribal Bills

Comments are closed.