A view of the Lytton Rancheria's land-into-trust site in Sonoma County, California. Photo: Lytton Residential Development Environmental Assessment

Hearing expected in Senate on Lytton Band homelands measure

A bill to place about 511 acres in trust for the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians appears to be gaining steam on Capitol Hill.

The House passed H.R.597, the Lytton Rancheria Homelands Act, last July. A hearing on the measure is now expected in the Senate, The Sonoma West reported.

Local officials in Sonoma County, California, were initially informed that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs would take testimony on the bill on April 11, the paper said. But due to changes in schedules in Washington, D.C., it's been pushed back a week or possibly two, an official told The West.

Though the bill cleared the House on July 11, 2017, under under a suspension of the rules, meaning no one objected, it remains controversial. There is no companion in the Senate, so local officials are hoping to sway Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California).

Feinstein has repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to limit the acquisition of new tribal homelands in California, citing concerns about the Indian gaming industry. In doing so, she has spread inaccurate information about the number of facilities in her state.

When she served as the state's attorney general, Harris repeatedly opposed tribal land-into-trust applications. She also participated in a closely-watched case that sought to rescind the trust status of lands held for the Big Lagoon Rancheria but ended up losing to tribal interests.

The Lytton Rancheria's land-into-trust application for the 940-acre site is pending at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. H.R.597 approves the application and includes a restriction on gaming on the newly acquired lands.

The tribe would be barred from using certain parcels for a casino until 2037. For other lands, gaming is barred forever.

The tribe was restored to federal recognition in 1991 after being illegally terminated by the federal government. As a result of termination, it lost all of its lands in Sonoma County.

The tribe eventually acquired a small parcel in San Pablo, where gaming facility is located. The land is close to the Bay Area, a lucrative market, but the tribe wants to re-establish a more permanent base in Sonoma.

The acquisition in San Pablo was made possible through an act of Congress in 2000. The provision was upheld in the courts but the tribe is unable to expand the facility or add Class III games due to controversy. Feinstein has attempted to limit the tribe's options there as well.

Read More on the Story:
Hearing on Lytton Trust postponed in D.C. (The Sonoma West March 27, 2018)

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