News

Week of October 16, 2017

Local Issues

Don’t think your vote matters? Talk to Aaron Lojewski:

Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Seat H was down to the wire.  Aaron Lojewski held on to his lead with 5 votes.  Yep – that’s right – FIVE VOTES!!! Leah Berman Williams, his opponent, decided to not challenge the vote with a recount, partially due to expenses and partially due to the improbability of the results changing (voting machines are pretty accurate, I guess).  Still, this should be a lesson for us all when we hear our friends and family members reasons for not voting to include that their vote won’t make a difference – 6 more people for Leah Berman Williams would have made all the difference.  Newsminer story here.

State Issues

Second Verse, Same as the first:

With yet another special session planned for October/November and lawmakers already declaring that the single revenue-generating measure on that agenda is dead in the water, the outlook for the regular session is mixed.  Elected officials all know that something needs to be done in Juneau, but no one can agree on what that looks like, so more of the same from last year is the prediction from insiders.  There is only enough money in our savings account to pay for services to Alaskans for one more year, and that is when things could be really dire – like really, really dire!  Breakdown by Nat Herz here.

One Fish, Two Fish – Court decides that Stand for Salmon Initiative can proceed:

The Salmon Saga continues with an Anchorage Superior Court Judge overruling the Lt. Governor’s decision on the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative and allowing the group to move into the signature gathering phase.  The proponents of the initiative would still have to gather a whole lot of signatures to get the initiative certified and on the 2018 ballot.  Remember also that legislation with the same motives as the initiative (HB199) is still in play in Juneau and is on our bill tracker.  More on the judge’s ruling here.

Tribal Banishments are still up to the tribe – for now:

In villages around Alaska, fed-up community members have taken matters into their own hands when it comes to bootleggers and drug dealers.  Rural Alaska has a law enforcement problem, in that there is little to no law enforcement.  As TCC manages one of several VPSO programs, we have been right in the thick of things on the Public Safety discussion at the state and national level.  There are a few different takes on the news that communities have ousted tribal members and non-tribal members from their homes.  For now, though, the state of Alaska has decided to not interfere with these community decisions, instead suggesting that the banned community members will have to seek a legal remedy without their help.  I imagine that this is due in part to the state’s limited resources when it comes to fighting it out in court, but probably also a nod at the fact that most of these communities don’t have a law enforcement presence and don’t have a lot of other options.  Initial report here and one Alaskan’s opinion on it here.

Federal Issues

Interior Announces Push to Change Fee-to-Trust Regulations/Process

The Trump Administration sent a “Dear Tribal Leader” letter last week announcing changes to the fee-to-trust process.  The proposed changes would create a two-step review process for off-reservation applications.  The tribal applicant would submit certain preliminary information in step one and if the BIA approves it then the tribal applicant would proceed to step two.  The changes would also reinstate the 30-day waiting period between when a decision is issued and when land is taken into trust.  The Obama Administration had done away with the waiting period in the wake of the Patchak caseThe Dear Tribal Leader letter also asks for Indian Country to consider several questions in its comments. The BIA will host several consultations, but none in Alaska, where the fee-to-trust issue remains controversial between tribal entities.

And we have a winner – Director of IHS is finally announced:

On Friday, the White House announced the nomination of Robert Weaver, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, to the stop spot at Indian Health Service, a position that has been vacant for more than two years.  Weaver is well known throughout Indian Country for his work on health care and economic development issues, but has zero experience in government.  White House Press Release here.

Bill Introduced in Senate to Abrogate Tribal Sovereign Immunity

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced legislation that would abrogate tribal sovereign immunity to prevent tribal nations from raising it to protect patents that they hold.  The bill was introduced following a deal between Allergan and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.  The Tribe had obtained the patent for the drug Restasis from Allergan. 

Pruitt Announces EPA will Repeal Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule

The Trump Administration announced today that it will take formal steps to repeal President Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America’s efforts to tackle global warming.  Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likely the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris Climate Accord to ratchet down emissions.

Federal Reports

State Reports

State and Federal Bill Tracker here.

Upcoming Advocacy dates:

  • NCAI Annual Convention – Milwaukee, WI – Oct 15-20
  • First Alaskans Elders & Youth Conference – Anchorage, AK – Oct 16-18
  • AFN Annual Convention – Anchorage, AK – Oct 19-21
  • Special Full Board Meeting – Fairbanks – Oct 26-27
  • Tribal Interior Budget Council – DC – Nov 7-9
  • Tribal Unity – Anchorage – Nov 27
  • ANHB Mega Meeting – Juneau, AK- February 6-8, 2018
  • NCAI Winter Legislative/Advocacy Session – DC – Feb 12, 2018
  • TCC Convention – Fairbanks – March 12-15, 2018
  • Doyon Annual Meeting – Fairbanks – March 16, 2018

Newslinks

State News

National News