FCNL Native American Legislative Update (long)

Michael Shell brightcrow at InfoAve.Net
Fri Jun 25 13:22:35 JEST 1999


Dear Friends,

For those of you who are interested, here is the Friends Committee on
National Legislation (FCNL) June update on Congressional bills affecting
Native Americans.

If you wish, please read it and share it with others.

Thanks,
Michael.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 1999 12:17:58 -0400
From: Aura Kanegis <aura at fcnl.org>
Subject: FCNL Native American Legislative Updates for June 25, 1999

The following are updates and action suggestions from the Friends Committee
on National Legislation (FCNL) regarding Indian affairs legislation for the
coming two weeks.  These messages focus on selected legislation which
Congress is considering now, and suggest some points that you may wish to
make in your communications with Congress.  These messages are intended as
a supplement to other FCNL Native American Program materials and do not
reflect FCNL's complete policy position on any issue, nor do they include
all pertinent facts on any topic.  For more information, or to request the
FCNL Indian Report and other background documents, please contact Aura
Kanegis, FCNL Legislative Associate for Native American Affairs:  (202)
547-6000; 245 2nd St. NE, Washington, DC 20002; indian at fcnl.org.

TRUST LANDS AND STATE TAXATION.  On May 13th, Representative Visclosky (IN)
introduced HR 1814, a bill which would instruct the Department of Interior
to take tribal lands out of trust status if a retail establishment on that
land is not paying "qualified state taxes".  The bill would also give
tribes that have compacts with surrounding state governments priority in
receiving federal grants.

Tribal trust lands are critical to tribal survival and cultural
preservation, and their status should not be threatened as a means to force
tribes into tax agreements with state governments. Not since the 1877
Allotment Act has Congress passed legislation designed to take tribal land
out of trust status. Tribes lost more than 90 million acres of reserved
lands during that era, of which less than 8 percent have been recovered.
Further removal of tribal trust lands for any purpose would be
unconscionable given this history. 

This particular proposal is troubling for a number of reasons:

  	--Decisions regarding trust lands should be a federal, not state,
responsibility.  HR 1814 would shift authority over land trust decisions
from the federal government to state and local governments by giving state
and local governments the power to effect the removal of tribal lands from
trust status.  Tribal governments would have no recourse against state and
local governments that refused to negotiate the required tax agreements or
that proposed unfair tax compacts.  Unlike the federal government, states
are not accountable to the trust responsibility. 
	
  	--States should not seek to tax revenues on reservations.  Tribes are
distinct sovereign governmental entities.  States accept the sovereign
authority of other states to establish their own tax laws.  Likewise, the
sovereign authority of tribal governments to establish their own tax laws
should be recognized by state governments.  States are not seeking to tax
the revenues of neighboring states for sales to non-residents.  Why are
tribes being singled out?  As a result of Supreme Court decisions in recent
years, states do have the authority to collect tax on sales to non- Indians
made on reservation land, but they are certainly not required to do so.
Several states have worked out voluntary agreements with tribes for the
collection of these taxes, while other states have waived their claim to
collect these taxes in deference to tribal sovereignty.  HR 1814 would
undermine these agreements.

  	--Dual taxation inhibits economic growth.  State taxation of tribal
sales forces tribes to choose between reducing much needed tax revenues by
refraining from taxation or discouraging economic growth by double taxing
businesses.
	
  	--Tribal revenues are used to provide important services in reservation
communities.  Tribal revenues provide governmental services for tribal
members and for critical infrastructure development.  Taxes paid to state
governments do not result in equivalent services from the state to the
tribal community.  The tax base for most tribes is extremely limited.
Tribal members who live or work outside their tribe's reservation are
already taxed directly by surrounding state governments and cannot pay
tribal taxes.  Tribal businesses are a critical part of fragile tribal
economies, and should not be tapped as a source of cash for surrounding
states.

ACTION:   Contact Rep. Visclosky and your representative to voice
opposition to  HR 1814. Congress should be encouraging tribes to reclaim
trust lands and consolidate their reservations rather than pursuing
legislation which would threaten the removal of trust status on tribal lands.

INDIAN EDUCATION.  In August of 1998, President Clinton signed Executive
Order 13096 on Indian Education. It had as its centerpiece six goals that
federal agencies should meet. These include: 1) Improving reading and
mathematics; 2) Increasing high school completion and post-secondary
attendance rates; 3) Reducing the influence of long-standing factors that
impede educational performance, such as poverty and substance abuse; 4)
creating strong, safe, and drug-free school environments; 5) Improving
science education; and 6) Expanding the use of educational technology.
These goals laid the groundwork for federal agencies to begin coordinating
efforts and resources to begin addressing the education needs of all
American Indians and Alaska Natives. 

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
(ESEA) is scheduled for this session of Congress. This legislation
authorizes all K-12 federal education programs, including the Office of
Indian Education (OIE). On May 27, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and six
co-sponsors introduced S.1180, the "Educational Excellence for All Children
Act of 1999."  H.R.1960, a companion bill in the House, was introduced on
May 26 by Rep. Clay (MO) and twenty co-sponsors.  Reauthorization of the
ESEA represents an important opportunity for the administration to advance
aspects of the Executive Order on Indian Education.  Yet HR 1960 and S 1180
instead remove authorizations that are key to meeting the goals espoused by
the Executive Order.  These include fellowships for Indian students, gifted
and talented education, adult education, and support for tribal departments
of education. These provisions should be left intact, and the funding that
was authorized but never delivered should be appropriated this year. 

ACTION: Contact your representative and senators, especially if they serve
on the House Education and Workforce Committee to voice opposition to
sections of ESEA reauthorization that would eliminate Indian programs
within the Department of Education.

FY2000 FUNDING FOR TRIBAL PROGRAMS.  On June 24, the Senate Appropriations
Committee marked up a $13.9 billion Interior Appropriations bill.  The bill
would provide $1.2 billion less than the President's request and roughly
$80 million less than the FY99 enacted level.   Nonetheless, the amounts
proposed by the Senate Subcommittee for Indian programs are higher than
some expected.  Unless the House allocation is increased, however, the
House Subcommittee will be under pressure to adopt sharply lower funding
levels for Indian programs, likely leaving it to a House- Senate conference
committee to set the funding level somewhere between the House and Senate
numbers in late Summer or early Fall.  House allocations call for  a 19.3%
cut from FY99 appropriations in Interior programs, a 12.6 % cut from FY99
enacted levels for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding,
and an 8% cut from FY99 enacted funding levels for Veterans Affairs/Housing
and Urban Development.  

ACTION: Contact your senators and representative, especially if they serve
on the House or Senate Appropriations Committees. Urge them to support the
President's FY 2000 budget request for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the
Office of Indian Education, Native American Housing programs, and other
critical programs in Indian Country. 

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