Week of: March 26, 2018
Tanana Chiefs Conference was super involved in the campaign to get the Automatic Voter Registration Ballot Initiative over the finish line. We actively campaigned in our region to get folks to support this for a few reasons: studies showed that the Alaska Native population is disproportionately unregistered, ANY barrier to voting (like failure to register in a timely fashion, not having an updated address, not having the right kind of ID, etc.) needs to be examined. History has shown us that certain groups of people have been discriminated against by voting laws and our heroes have been knocking those down since this nation was founded. So you can imagine my dismay when I found out that a “fix-it” bill that we worked on in the Election Policy Workgroup was hijacked by the Senate State Affairs Committee. Senator Coghill offered an amendment that basically undoes the entire initiative. You guys I am so upset I can’t go on, so you will have to read the story here.
The House is breaking down the final budget before it heads over the Senate and I gotta tell you, I don’t know how those guys do it. It has been a week of amendments, rambling, disjointed discussions, whiny minority comments and a whole lot of ‘intent’ language. Intent language is exactly that, a statement by the body that follows the actual numbers in the budget that nudges whichever department it goes to to follow the direction of the legislators. It’s not legally binding and is mostly for show, but that isn’t stopping the HMIN from serving up a piping hot dish of ‘intent’ amendments. I am playing Budget Bingo with a bunch of other AKLEG nerds and I have zero squares with intent language on it. Here is the story and here is my Bingo board:
In a down-to-the-wire negotiation, Congressional leaders have come to an agreement on the massive spending package that was tentatively agreed to last month. The details turned out to be tough Read it here. Another take from Mark Trahant here. So as a recap, let’s break down real quick what a perfect world would look like: President submits a budget, Congress also does a budget (hint – this is the ‘real’ budget), all the subcommittees set the funding levels, each body votes on their budget, they then fight over the differences in the budget, and once they all agree it goes to the big guy (or gal someday, here’s hoping). So we have been stuck in the part where the House and the Senate agree on something to send to President Trump. Mostly because of the Senate, which has had a hard time wrangling the Democrats, unlike the House which enjoys a more solid majority. I know that we went down this road last year- the road with all of the continuing resolutions and uncertainty- but I just wanted to bring us around to how it should look for a moment. Budgets are supposed to be finished in September. Yep. Six months ago. Since that time we have been waiting… and waiting…
And here it is! Down to the wire, but folks, we have a budget right on time to start working on FY19! No breaks guys, no breaks. News about it below and here are the highlights:
· The Bureau of Indian Affairs budget will receive an increase of $203.8 million over the FY17 enacted level, a 7.1 percent increase, for a total of $3.01 billion.
· The Indian Health Service will receive an additional $497.9 million over the FY17 enacted level, an increase of 10 percent, for a total of $5.5 billion.
· The bill includes a 3 percent set-aside for Indian tribes within the funds available under the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA). The cap for these funds was set at $4.4 billion, which amounts to $133 million.\The bill provides $50 million for grants to Indian tribes or tribal organizations to address the opioid epidemic, and $5 million for tribes in the Medication-Assisted Treatment for Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction program.
· Infrastructure spending would increase for BIA and IHS construction and BIA road maintenance, and a $100 million competitive grant program is added under Native American Housing Block Grants (NAHBG) in addition to the $655 million provided for the NAHBG formula grants.
Bradner’s Legislative Digest
Upcoming Advocacy dates:
· NICWA Annual Conference – Anchorage – April 15-18, 2018
· Self-Governance Annual Consultation – Albuquerque, NM – April 22-26, 2018
· AFN Alaska Day – Washington DC – April, 2018
· House Committee on Indian Affairs Budget Testimony – Washington DC – May 9-10, 2018
· NCAI Mid-year – Kansas City, MO – June 3-6, 2018
· Sturgeon Case continues despite our best efforts to resolve.
· Alaskan villages that are on the coast will receive funds to move the whole kit and kaboodle
· Juneau favorite son, Rep. Sam Kito, will not seek reelection