Government

Chief Standing Bear vetoes bill to dip into Permanent Fund

Monday April 27 is the last day of the 2015 Osage Nation Congressional Hun-Kah Session with several remaining bills up for a final vote, as well as Congressional officer and committee elections.

The Congress will consider a vetoed bill returned unsigned by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear on April 24. Standing Bear vetoed ONCA 14-86, which is a bill to replenish the Nation’s health benefit fund with $1.5 million from the permanent fund.

In his first veto issued as Principal Chief, Standing Bear argues: “There is no need for any funds to be removed from the Permanent Fund. The Osage Nation Treasurer’s Office has informed us the anticipated carryover funds from fiscal year 2014 will exceed ($1.5 million). This amount will be unencumbered. The exact amount is expected to be reported by the Treasurer at the end of this month when the audit is complete.”

Because unencumbered funds are available from carryover funds in only a matter of weeks, there are enough funds available for further appropriation for the ($1.5 million) to be placed directly into the Health Benefit Plan Fund.”

Standing Bear sponsored legislation to establish the Nation’s $30 million permanent fund as a Congressman in 2013. In his veto message, Standing Bear also referred to the history of the permanent fund bill (ONCA 12-85), which he originally sponsored with language stating the Nation would increase it annually with 15 percent of all gaming and tax revenue. The original proposed bill also called for the permanent fund to be established with $50 million of the Nation’s savings, but after debate and compromise, the permanent fund was set in law at $30 million without the 15 percent set-aside provision.

“We are going in the wrong direction by accessing the Permanent Fund instead of increasing its worth. Based upon these objections and justifications, I hearby veto this bill,” Standing Bear wrote.

The Congress will consider whether to override the veto during the April 27 session. A three-fourths vote (nine Congress members) is required to override a veto, according to the Osage Constitution.

The Congress will also hold elections to select its new Congressional committees and Speaker and Second Speaker before adjourning.

Any remaining legislative bills and resolutions will be revisited during the next regular or special session (if called first). One bill remaining up for consideration is the recently submitted same-sex marriage bill sponsored by Congresswoman Shannon Edwards.

During the April 20 session, Edwards introduced bill ONCA 15-54, which is her proposed amendment to Osage law changing the definition of marriage to recognize same-sex couples.

According to the bill, the proposed law change amends the definition stating: “Marriage is a personal relation between two persons arising out of a civil contract to which the consent of parties legally competent of contracting and of entering into it is necessary, and the marriage relation shall only be entered into, maintained or abrogated as provided by law.”

Currently the 2012 Osage law as it stands defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The proposed bill ONCA 15-54 also amends Osage law in a separate section to allow a spouse to restore a maiden or former name upon divorce if that is the spouse’s desire. The current law allowing a name change when a divorce is granted only applies to the wife.

ONCA 15-54 will now be subject to the legislation process including initial consideration by the Congressional governmental operations committee.