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House committee takes up IGRA amendments

The House Resources Committee on Wednesday voted 27-9 to approve controversial amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. [MP3 - 81:26 - 18.6MB]

H.R.4893 amends Section 20 of the law. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-California), the chairman of the committee, said the bill was needed to restrict proposals to develop casinos far from existing tribal lands.

"H.R.4893 is real reform that will once and for all solve the problems of off-reservation gaming," Pombo said.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia), the top Democrat on the committee, said he didn't support H.R.4893 as originally introduced. But he and Pombo agreed on a substitute that addresses concerns over tribal sovereignty and the existing off-reservation gaming applications.

The replacement addresses the following provisions of the original bill:
• Approval of the state legislature won't be required. The state governor will still have the power to reject gaming proposals in conformance with state laws.
• Tribes within 75 miles of a casino proposal will not have veto power over the proposal.
• Tribes won't be required to finance local referendums but will still have to negotiate agreements with local governments.
• Arizona is exempted from the section that allows tribes to host casinos for other tribes.
• Applications filed before March 7, 2006, will be processed only if they do not involve a land claim or cross state lines. These applications will be subject to stricter requirements.

After the substitute was introduced, Pombo opened it to amendments. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) offered one to ensure that land taken into trust before 1988 could still be used for gaming at a later date. The amendment was supported by Pombo and added to the bill.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Michigan) said he opposes the bill in general. He offered an amendment to require the Interior Department to develop Section 20 regulations instead of making broad legislative changes. The department is currently embarking on that process.

Pombo opposed the amendment, arguing that it "complete wipes out" the entire bill. He said Congress can't rely on Interior to develop "garbage" regulations that should have been completed years ago.

There was some debate about the procedural nature of Kildee's proposal. But Pombo agreed to continue working with Kildee on the issue and the amendment was approved by a voice vote.

Kildee then offered another amendment. He said tribes should not be forced to negotiate agreements with local governments. He also said it would require, for the first time, state approval of Class II gaming.

Pombo opposed the amendment. He again accused Kildee of trying to gut the major provisions of the bill.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) supported it and said negotiations should occur only between tribal and state governments.

A voice vote was called and Pombo said it was rejected. Kildee requested a roll call, a move that delays consideration of the amendment until a later date.

Another amendment was offered by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-California) to protect the 17 California tribes who were restored to federal recognition by a federal court case. Pombo said the committee members need more time to review the proposal, so it was delayed.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin) proposed an amendment to allow tribes that have already negotiated compacts to be given more time to complete their land-into-trust applications. Rahall said he supported the amendment but Pombo said the bill already addresses the issue.

Pombo and Kind agreed to delay the amendment to consider it in the future.

Rep. Jim Costa (D-California) offered an amendment but immediately withdrew it. He explained that it would have required states to develop long-term Class III gaming plans.

Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) offered an amendment to restore the land claim exception that Pombo's bill removes. Pombo opposed the proposal and said it would open the "floodgates" to questionable lawsuits. Rahall also opposed it and the amendment was rejected by a voice vote.

Rep. Dan Boren (D-Oklahoma) withdrew his amendment after saying that local communities should not be given authority to reject casino proposals. He said the substitute addresses his concerns.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Washington) offered an amendment to "fix" the Seminole U.S. Supreme Court decision. He said tribes who are unable to negotiate compacts should be given a way to open Class III casinos.

Pombo opposed the amendment and said it would take away the power of states to negotiate Class III compact. Inslee agreed to withdraw after being asked by Rahall to do so.

Pombo then called a recess due to the joint session of Congress at 11am. He said the committee would return at 1pm.

At about 1:10pm, the markup resumed. Pombo called a vote on Kildee's delayed amendment and it was rejected.

Pombo called a voice vote to approve the substitute. It was approved but Kildee said no.

Pombo then called a vote to report the bill out of committee. A recorded roll call was requested. Among those who voted against the bill were: Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Michigan), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Washington), Rep Grace F. Napolitano (D-California), Rep. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colorado), Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Arizona) and Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-South Dakota).

Relevant Links:
House Resources Committee -