Chief Red Eagle pocket vetoes budget parameters bill

During its Fifth Special Session, the Second Osage Nation Congress passed a revised budget parameters act for the Nation, which sets guidelines for the Nation’s government entities to follow when planning their operational budgets. The updated bill contained revised rules pertaining to budgets of independent ON entities and would’ve mandated employee salaries be set by the merit-based employment system passed by Congress last year.

A merit-based employment system is mandated by the Osage Constitution as well.

However the law (ONCA 11-12) did not go into effect after Principal Chief John Red Eagle pocket vetoed the bill by not returning a copy of it to Congress with his signature. The 10-day special session started Jan. 24 and only lasted three days after the Congress successfully fast tracked the special session legislation items through the debate and amendment process. Congress adjourned its Special Session on Jan. 26 after passing ONCA 11-12 and five other pieces of legislation.

The Osage News learned of the pocket veto while many of the Nation’s government offices were closed the following week due to the Feb. 1 blizzard. On Feb. 7, the Congressional office confirmed the pocket veto in which Chief Red Eagle did not return a written veto message stating his reasons and concerns for not signing ONCA 11-12.

According to the Osage Constitution in Article VI, Section 13, “any bill passed during the last three days of a session may be presented to the Principal Chief during the last three days following the day of final adjournment, and the Principal Chief may sign or not sign. If not signed, the bill does not become law.”

Congressional Speaker Jerri Jean Branstetter said she requested that the Chief’s office send Congress a written explanation of why ONCA 11-12 was not signed and no response was received.

If passed, the revised budget parameters act would’ve replaced the most recent one listed as ONCA 09-11.

According to ONCA 11-12, ON government entities independent from the Executive Branch would have been allowed to submit their budgets directly to Congress as submitted to the Executive Branch for that office’s review. That would allow the Congress to view those entities’ original budgets before any Executive Branch cuts are made. Such independent entities include tribal enterprise boards, the Attorney General’s office and the Osage News.

Second Speaker Raymond Red Corn sponsored ONCA 11-12 and addressed concerns of budget oversight on the Osage Shareholders Association blog during the Special Session.

“If the bill does anything, it strengthens the Congress by ensuring independent bodies can get the budget desired before Congress - that's all the measure does in that regard,” Red Corn wrote Jan. 24 regarding ONCA 11-12. He dismissed accusations that he filed the bill to allow the independent entities to be exempted from the budget oversight process. He also noted the Executive Branch had a copy of ONCA 11-12 over two weeks prior to the Special Session for review and any feedback.

Also included in ONCA 11-12 is a section regarding salaries which would’ve mandated that salary and wage increases “shall be made solely according to the provisions of a merit-based system established in Osage law except as otherwise provided by the Osage Constitution.”

This is the first pocket veto issued by the Red Eagle Administration and second veto issued since the administration changeover in summer 2010. Chief Red Eagle vetoed a bill setting the Nation’s merit-based employment system (ONCA 10-85) on Sept. 27 during the Tzi-Zho Session in the middle of a budget debate over whether his appointed staff members should have job descriptions on file for Congressional review. One day later, Congress overrode that veto by a majority vote and the law was enacted.

Another Special Session before the regular spring session?

Before the Fifth Special Session ended, Branstetter advised the Congress that Chief Red Eagle may call for another special session this month ahead of the regular spring (Hun-Kah) session scheduled to begin March 21.

By Feb. 14 it was unknown whether a sixth special session would be held due to scheduling conflicts. The Osage News will report if a special session is called.