Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approves five bills at meeting

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Business Meeting March 29, 2017

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs continues to advance pro-tribal legislation in the 115th Congress.

The committee easily approved five bills at a business meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), the new chairman of the panel, said the measures enjoy bipartisan support and were already considered during the last session of Congress.

"There were no major or controversial, substantive issues, or opposition to these bills," Hoeven said.

"These measures are very important to Indian Country," added Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), the new vice chairman of the committee.

The five bills can now be considered on the Senate floor. They address health care for Native veterans, outdated federal laws, jurisdiction in Indian Country, economic development and treaty rights:
S.304, the Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act. The bill amends the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to allow the Indian Health Service to cover the cost of a copayment of an Indian or Alaska Native Veteran receiving medical care or services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
S.343, the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act (RESPECT Act). The bill repeals certain outdated federal laws that have been called "hateful" and "paternalistic."
S.381, a bill to remove the state of Iowa from criminal matters involving citizens of the Meskwaki Tribe on their settlement lands.
S.607, the Native American Business Incubators Program Act. The bill establishes a business incubators program within the Department of the Interior to promote economic development in Indian Country.
S.669, the Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites Improvement Act. The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to assess sanitation and safety conditions at treaty fishing facilities along the Columbia River.

The RESPECT Act was among those that cleared the committee during the 114th Congress. The bill targets several laws, including one that allows Indian children to be removed from their homes without parental consent and another that authorizes the government to withhold funds from "hostile" tribes.

“The RESPECT Act would repeal a number of outdated federal laws that are discriminatory toward Native Americans," Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) said after the business meeting. “It is long past time to remove these offensive laws from our books. Now that it has passed out of committee, I’m hopeful it will pass the full Senate soon.”

Rounds is a co-sponsor of S.304, which was introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) in February. The two lawmakers say the bill ensures that tribal veterans can receive care that isn't provided by the IHS.

“It’s unfortunate that tribal veterans, who fought bravely for our country, are too frequently caught between the bureaucracies of the IHS and VA,” said Thune. “The Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act is a common-sense fix that would require these agencies to work more effectively so they can deliver the quality care tribal veterans deserve. Our bill has strong bipartisan support, as evidenced by today’s vote in the Indian Affairs Committee, and I hope my colleagues in the Senate are able to consider it as soon as possible.”

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Business Meeting to Consider S. 304, S. 343, S. 381, S. 607, & S. 669 (March 29, 2017)

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