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House passes bill to give tribes more time on Adam Walsh Act

Update: Republicans in the Senate have put a hold on the bill, leaving its passage in doubt. If the bill doesn't pass, tribes still have to submit a resolution by this Friday, July 27, to opt in to the system or cede authority to the state.

More information, including a model resolution, can be found at the National Congress of American Indians website [Link].

A bill to give tribes more time to respond to a national sex offender registry was passed by the House on Monday.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006 requires tribes to comply with its provisions by the end of this week. If tribes don't respond by July 27, they will automatically cede authority to states for a new sex offender registration and notification system.

Since there was no consultation prior to passage of the law, many tribes have been scrambling to draft resolutions to preserve their rights. In hopes of addressing the situation, Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Michigan), the co-chairman of the Congressional Native American Caucus, introduced H.R.3095 last week.

The bill extends the July 27 deadline by one year. With additional time, Kildee said tribes will be able to make a more "informed decision" about their participation in the new system, which is still being developed by the Department of Justice.

"It is simply too early to force tribal governments to make a decision based on incomplete information and without guidance from the administration," Kildee said on the House floor yesterday.

The bill was quickly passed under a "suspension" of the rules in the House. That means it has the support of more than two-thirds of the membership.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is one of the Republican co-sponsors of the bill. He noted that the comment period on regulation for the system doesn't close until August 1 -- after the deadline imposed on tribes.

"The Justice Department recently proposed detailed regulations for states and Indian tribes to comply with the Adam Walsh Act, but those regulations are not yet final," Pence said. "The Indian tribes cannot make an informed decision on how to comply with the act until those regulations are final."

The National Congress of American Indians and the National Criminal Justice Association support the extension. NCAI has been keeping tribes informed about the law, whose tribal provisions never got a hearing before President Bush signed the bill into law in July 2006.

Some tribes have already passed resolutions to preserve their authority. The law, as currently written, gives them two more years to come into compliance with the law.

At least one tribe, the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma, has agreed to have the state maintain its offender registry. But the tribe says it won't give up any jurisdiction to the state.

The law does not apply to tribes in Public Law 280 states, such as California, where states already have civil and criminal jurisdiction on reservations. But NCAI has encouraged these tribes to submit resolutions.

The extension bill now awaits action in the Senate. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the chair and vice chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, are sponsoring S.1819. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), a top-ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a co-sponsor.

Get the Bill:
H.R.3095 | S.1819

Federal Register Notice:
The National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification (May 30, 2007)

Relevant Laws:
Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act | Violence Against Women Act of 2005

Relevant Documents:
White House Fact Sheet: The Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act Of 2006 | President Signs H.R. 4472, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006

Related Court Decision:
Minnesota v. Peter John Jones (July 26, 2005)

Relevant Links:
National Congress of American Indians -
Office of Violence Against Women, DOJ -