Tribal Law and Order Act ready for Senate floor
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved S.797, the Tribal Law and Order Act, at a business meeting on Thursday.

The bill seeks to strengthen law and order on reservations and in Alaska Native villages. It encourages more prosecution of crime in Indian Country, increases penalties for reservation offenders, reauthorizes key programs and establishes consistent protocols to address sexual violence.

The committee approved a number of changes to the bill yesterday. One responds to concerns raised by the Department of Justiceresponds about the release of information on the number of crimes it fails to prosecute in Indian Country.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the committee, said the change addresses privacy concerns and ensures federal prosecutors will still be able to take up cases that they may have declined to pursue in the past.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the vice chairman, offered a proposal to establish a prescription drug monitoring program. Another change deals with a tribal law enforcement foundation.

Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) is not a member of the committee but the bill includes his proposal to raise the maximum age of Bureau of Indian Affairs police recruits to 46 years of age. The current limit is 37 years of age.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), the newest member of the committee, offered an amendment that requires the Interior and Justice departments to provide a report on how they will address trafficking of Indian women and girls. "It's a national issue and it needs a national response," he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) offered three amendments that were presented by Dorgan. One allows tribes that employ Village Public Safety Officers in Alaska to receive Community Oriented Policing Services grants and fire and emergency response grants.

A second Murkowski amendment establishes a demonstration project that seeks to improve public safety in Alaska Native villages by encouraging tribes to develop stronger justice systems.

A third Murkowski amendment authorizes the Government Accountability Office to study how the Indian Health Service responds to sexual assaults against American Indian and Alaska Native women.

“Amnesty International has directed attention to the fact that one in three American Indian and Alaska Native woman will be sexually assaulted,” Murkowski said in a press release. “Furthermore, our own Alaska Rural and Justice and Law enforcement Commission has reported that Alaska Native women suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault in the United States.”

Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009:

Committee Notice:
Business Meeting on pending committee issues, followed by LEGISLATIVE HEARING to examine S. 1635, 7th Generation Promise: Indian Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 2009 (September 10, 2009)

Committee Notice:
HEARING on S. 797, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 (June 25, 2009)

SCIA Press Release:

Related Stories:
Senate Indian Affairs Committee approves bills (9/11)
Editorial: Obama should back Tribal Law and Order (9/4)
State opposes Alaska Native provisions in bill (8/7)
Senate Indian Affairs hearing on Law and Order (6/25)
Witness list for hearing on Law and Order Act (6/24)
In The Hoop: Uhh, good luck with that testimony... (6/24)
Senate Indian Affairs hearing on Law and Order (6/22)
Indian Affairs hearing on Law and Order Act (6/18)
Tribal law and order bill introduced in Senate (4/6)