Sen. Moran introduces yet another version of land-into-trust fix

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas). Photo from Facebook

Yet another version of a bill to fix the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar is on the table, bringing the number of proposals in the 114th Congress to six.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, introduced S.1931 on August 4. But unlike other Carcieri proposals, his bill comes with a narrow focus -- it only confirms the legality of prior land-into-trust decisions.

The measure, though, will benefit tribes whose prior acquisitions have been called into question. They include the Big Lagoon Rancheria of California, the Cowlitz Tribe of Washington and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, all of whom are entrenched in litigation in the federal courts over land placed in trust in the 1990s.

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Indianz.Com

The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, was fighting in court too until Congress enacted S.1603, the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act, last year. The bill confirms that the tribe's land cannot be challenged under the Carcieri decision.

Moran's measure would do the same for other tribes without bringing up issues that have prevented other Carcieri fixes from moving forward in the last six years. Some lawmakers, some local and state officials and even some tribes have called on Congress to address other issues like off-reservation gaming and the way the Bureau of Indian Affairs process land-into-trust applications.

S.1879, the Interior Improvement Act, includes some reforms to the process. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) introduced the bill last month just as Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which he chairs, was due to take up another version of the Carcieri fix.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Senate Indian Affairs Committee Business Meeting to Consider S.383 and S.732

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the vice chair of the committee, withdrew S.732, his version of the fix, from consideration at a business meeting on July 29 in light of the new proposal. He is also a co-sponsor of Moran's bill.

Over in the House, lawmakers have introduced H.R.3137, H.R.249 and H.R.407 to fix the decision. H.R.3137 is essentially a combination of H.R.249 and H.R.407.

All three bills would ratify prior land-into-trust decisions and ensure that future applications can't be challenged under Carcieri but do not include any of the reforms in Barrasso's bill.

Committee Notice:
Business Meeting to Consider S. 383 and S. 732 (July 29, 2015)

DOI Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

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