NCAI Legislative Update

House Subcommittee on Human Resources | NCAI Submits Testimony on Discussion Draft Bill, “Improving Opportunity in America Welfare Reauthorization Act of 2015”

On Wednesday, July 15 the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to examine Welfare Reform Proposals and TANF Reauthorization. Witnesses expressed support for items in the discussion draft bill, “Improving Opportunity in America Welfare Reauthorization Act of 2015”, which included elimination of the marriage penalty in every state; improvement and customization of individual opportunity plans; elimination of the distinction between “core” and “non-core” activities for states; and allowing more flexibility in counting education credits toward work activity hours to help participants earn a livable wage.

The discussion draft includes a provision that extends funding for tribally administered TANF programs for each of the fiscal years 2016 through 2020. Last week, NCAI submitted testimony for the record highlighting the implications that certain provisions in the discussion draft will have on tribally administered programs and suggestions for how they might be improved to better address the unique needs of Indian Country. NCAI will continue to monitor legislative activity surrounding TANF.

NCAI Contact Information: Mari Hulbutta, Legislative Fellow – mhulbutta@ncai.org


Senate Committee on Indian Affairs | Oversight Hearing on Drugs and Alcohol in Native Communities

On Wednesday, July 29th, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing: “Examining the True Costs of Drugs and Alcohol in Native Communities.” The hearing featured testimony from Robert G. McSwain, Principal Deputy Director of the Indian Health Service – Department of Health and Human Services; Mirtha Beadle, Director of the Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Department of Health and Human Services; Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; John P. Walters, Chief Operating Officer at the Hudson Institute; and Sunny Goggles, Director of the White Buffalo Recovery Program – Northern Arapaho Tribe of the Wind River Reservation. The oversight hearing covered topics such as the need to support comprehensive prevention, early intervention, and treatment programs, ongoing problems in drug addiction -especially among newborns – from over-prescription of medications, eliminating reservation marijuana distribution, and essential integration of tribes and federal agencies to implement preventable solutions. To view the hearing as well as full written testimonies, click here

NCAI Contact Information: Mike LaValley, Legislative Fellow – mlavalley@ncai.org


Legislative Activity | NCAI & NARF Work with Tribes and Non-Native Orgs to Remove Harmful Hydropower Sections in the “Energy policy Modernization Act of 2015”

Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources released and began considering Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) “Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA) of 2015”. The EPMA is billed as bipartisan legislation developed with broad input from both energy producers and conservationists and is the largest-scale piece of energy legislation in ten years. It addresses energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and conservation.

Within the portion of the EPMA addressing Hydropower, there were two sections that would have a serious impact on tribal lands and fish resources. First, Section 3001(c) of the draft bill weakens the current protections Indian tribes have through the Mandatory Conditions requirements under Section 4(e) of the Federal Power Act (FPA) by only allowing the Department of the Interior, or other federal agencies responsible for supervising that reservation land, to impose resource protection conditions only to the reservation land where the project works are located. This limits the ability of tribes and federal agencies with trust and treaty responsibilities to address hydropower’s effects on water flow, water levels, and fish habitats. Further, Section 3001(c) overturns the watershed case of City of Tacoma, Washington v. F.E.R.C., 460 F.3d 53 (D.C. Cir. 2006), which affirmed the authority of federal agencies under Section 4(e) of the FPA to address the impacts of water diversion taking place off reservation lands which flooded the Skokomish Indian Tribe’s Reservation.

The second amendment in the draft Hydropower Section imposes a similar limitation, as described above, on fish passage ways. Section 3001(g) of the Draft Bill would require the construction, maintenance, and operation of fishways only if they are necessary to mitigate the effects of a project on fish populations, which takes away federal agency authority to protect our fish resources. The new requirement provides a substantial burden on tribes and agencies to protect fish at critical time when many fish populations are shrinking to dangerously low numbers. This in turn puts tribal trust resources and tribal treaty rights at risk.

Working with impacted tribes, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and non-Native organizations seeking to protect rivers and protect conservation measures, NCAI and NARF sent a joint letter of concern to the Committee expressing the impacts these amendments would have on Indian Country.On the third day of the mark-up, Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) offered an amendment, which was later included in Murkowski’s manager’s amendment that addressed Indian Country’s concerns. It struck the harmful language from Section 3001(c), and only changed “deemed” to “determined to be” regarding an agency’s ability to assess mandatory conditions and completely struck the changes from Section 3001(g). These amendments to the draft bill were passed by voice vote and the draft bill, as amended, was passed favorably out of Committee by a vote of 18-4 and heads to the Senate floor for consideration. For more information, please visit the links below:

NCAI Contact Information: Colby Duren – Staff Attorney & Legislative Counsel – cduren@ncai.org


Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Moves S. 383, the “Indian Trust Asset Reform Act” to the Senate Floor

Last week, Last Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a business meeting to consider S. 383, the “Indian Trust Asset Reform Act”. Introduced by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), this legislation-along with its House companion bill H.R. 812-creates a trust asset demonstration projects allowing tribes to manage and develop their forest lands and natural resources without the encumbrances of the federal approval process, which mirrors the framework of the HEARTH Act. Further, it requires the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) to submit a report on the functions of the Office of the Special Trustee (OST), which will include a transition plan and time table for rolling over OST’s functions into DOI or the BIA; however, it does not require the Department to implement the plan. Finally, the bill necessitates the consolidation of the appraisals and valuations processes under a single bureau, agency, or administrative entity under DOI, and the Department must establish minimum qualifications to prepare appraisals and valuations of Indian trust property.

Sen. Crapo submitted an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to address a few edits clarifying that nothing in this legislation would terminate OST or impact the application of Sections 302 and 303 of the “American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994”, which created the Office.

NCAI sent a letter to the Committee supporting S. 383 and applauds their swift action to mark-up the legislation and move it to the Senate floor for consideration. Below are a number of documents with more information:

NCAI Contact Information: Colby Duren – Staff Attorney & Legislative Counsel – cduren@ncai.org


House Subcommittee on Communications & Technology | NCAI Submits Testimony on “Promoting Broadband Infrastructure Investment”

On August 3, 2015, NCAI submitted testimony to the House Subcommittee on Communications & Technology for the Hearing, “Promoting Broadband Infrastructure Investment”, held on July 22. In its testimony NCAI highlighted the need for interagency coordination to support broadband deployment and funding to tribal lands due to issues with multiple federal agencies that fund and regulate telecommunications on tribal lands. NCAI also stressed the need and importance for ongoing consultation with tribal nations on regulations that prevent or encumber infrastructure deployment by specifically referencing issues regarding BIA rights of way processes and regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission that affect repayment of USDA broadband loan programs. To view NCAI’s testimony, click here

NCAI Contact Information: Brian Howard, Legislative Associate – 

bhoward@ncai.org


Congress Passes Three Month Extension of Surface Transportation to Consider Multiyear Transportation Legislation

Last week Congress passed and the President signed H.R. 3236, the “Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015”. This law will extend the funding authority for the current transportation authorization until October 29th. This three month extension will enable Congress to consider a six-month transportation authorization that was introduced and passed by the Senate last week. On July 30th, the Senate passed H.R. 22, the “Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act)”, which included the following: increased fund levels for the Tribal Transportation Program with $10 million step increases from $465 million for fiscal year 2016 to $515 million for fiscal year 2021; provision for data collection of tribal transportation programs; and tribal inclusion for the national significant projects program.

When Congress returns from their August recess, it is expected the House will consider the DRIVE Act in order to conference before the Oct. 29th deadline.

NCAI Contact Information: Gwen Salt, Legislative Associate – gsalt@ncai.org


Upcoming Events | Tribal Impact Days: Save the Date!

The upcoming Tribal Impact Days will be held September 16 and 17, 2015. Registration and Coffee will begin at 8:30 a.m. with an Invocation and Welcome at 9:00 a.m. Tribal Impact Days 2015 will take place in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs’ Hearing Room, located at 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.

To view the agenda in brief, click here. To view further information on Tribal Impact Days 2015 as they are announced, click here

NCAI Contact Information: Mike LaValley, Legislative Fellow – mlavalley@ncai.org

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