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Rep. Pombo closing statement on H.R.4893

Mr. POMBO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of our time.

Mr. Speaker, over the last 2 years, we have attempted to address this issue in the Resources Committee. Two years ago I put out a draft legislation for discussion that all of the members of the committee, all the Members of Congress, and the interested public had an opportunity to comment on.

We got thousands of comments. We held hearings, we got thousands of comments on that draft. We changed that draft. We took all of the input that we got, the testimony that we got, and we put that into that draft, and we continued to work on it.

Mr. Kildee, from the very beginning, raised the issue of sovereignty; and it is an important issue to him, as it is to most of the members of the committee, that this is something that we wanted to protect, as it is our constitutional responsibility to protect the sovereignty of tribes and to negotiate with tribes, just as it is to negotiate with states in foreign countries.

We took all of that comment, and we came up with a new draft, and we put that out for additional comment. Finally, we introduced the underlying bill.

Mr. Kildee brought up the issue of sovereignty and how we dealt with that. We changed the bill we are actually voting on today substantially from that original draft. The original draft did give cities a veto power in essence over trust lands. Many members of the committee and different attorneys that we talked to felt that that would not stand up to a court challenge, and we took that out.

But what we did do, as Mr. Rahall pointed out, we gave local cities and counties the ability to negotiate with the tribes to come up with a memorandum of understanding so that they have the ability to make sure that if there is a major new development that is going to happen within their community that they are held harmless, that they have some input into that project going forward, that sewer and water and transportation needs and other things, just like if it was a private developer going in, would be met. That is the requirement that we put in. That somehow is now being deciphered as threatening sovereignty.

I will tell you though, and I want to make this perfectly clear, if you care about sovereignty of our Native American tribes in this country, then you better support this bill, because if we do not further regulate the expansion of off-reservation casinos, we will have an attempt made within this Congress to threaten that sovereignty, and we know that that is going to happen because we have seen it over the last few years. The proliferation of Indian gaming throughout the country is a threat to that sovereignty, and we need to do that.

Mr. Kildee also talks about in IGRA, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. It took us years just to draft these amendments to it. This may have taken months, but it wasn't written on Mount Sinai.

When you helped to write that bill, it was a $200 million industry. Today it is a $23 billion industry. We have a responsibility to regulate that industry. We have a responsibility as Members of Congress and the Resources Committee to do what we have to do in order to ensure that that sovereignty continues, because if we don't that is a bigger threat to that sovereignty.

I would also say, Mr. Speaker, that the Speaker of the House, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hastert) is a strong supporter of the bill. He asked me to mention that in my closing comments. Unfortunately, he was not able to make it down here on the floor, but he will have a statement to add into the RECORD.