Fifth ON Congress passes four bills in special session

The Fifth Osage Nation Congress adjourned a one-day special session on Jan. 27 after unanimously passing four legislative bills in the Congressional chambers building.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear issued the proclamation for the fifth special session for the bills to be considered. He was out of town during the special session, so Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn delivered an executive address on behalf of the Office of the Chiefs.

Those bills considered included an amendment to the Osage revenue and taxation law, two supplemental funding bills that appropriated grant funding to two separate 2017 fiscal year government division budgets and a budget modification to the Osage News operations budget, which did not require additional tribal funds to be appropriated.

Osage Revenue and Tax Act amendment

In his remarks, Red Corn referenced bill ONCA 17-18 (sponsored by Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead) which amends the Nation’s Revenue and Taxation Act. According to the bill, the amendment seeks to reinstate a tobacco revolving fund for the remaining duration of the Nation’s tobacco tax compact with the state of Oklahoma.

“A sunset provision in the multi-year effort to ease the tax burden on our tobacco retailers has taken effect, in order to maintain the tax rates effective at the end of 2016, the Congress must amend the code,” Red Corn said.

The reinserted section for the revolving tax relief fund describes it as established “in order to provide eligible Osage (tobacco) retailers relief from the prepayment of additional state taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products in cases where, pursuant to a compact with the state of Oklahoma, licensed wholesalers are required to pre-collect from Osage retailers 100 percent of applicable state sales taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, portions of which are thereafter refunded to the Osage Nation.”

According to the law, the ON Treasurer is authorized to make payments from the tax relief fund to licensed wholesalers on behalf of eligible retailers, or to retailers directly, provided that such payments do not exceed 50 percent of applicable sales taxes per carton of 10 packs of 20 cigarettes, less the amount of applicable taxes due to the Osage Nation, plus an additional 80 percent of any excess rebate.

The amended law now states the revolving tax relief fund will continue for the duration of the tobacco tax compact with the state of Oklahoma, which was executed on Oct. 31, 2013. The fund would then terminate upon execution of a new tobacco compact.

Osage Foundation grant to ON Museum

A $4,327 supplemental appropriation bill (ONCA 17-19 sponsored by Congressman RJ Walker) appropriates recently-awarded money from the Osage Foundation to the Osage Nation Museum for its December holiday ornament workshop events. The ON Museum is under the Nation’s Language and Cultural Resources Division and ONCA 17-19 seeks to amend that division’s FY 2017 budget to include the foundation funding.

The money covered costs for workshop materials and promotions to market the events where the pubic was invited to create ornaments with a focus on Osage culture.

Osage News budget modification

The Congress considered a FY 2017 budget modification request in bill ONCA 17-20 (Walker) from the Osage News, which sought the modification to continue paying its contributing column writers. Red Corn said the Congressional action is needed because the shift in the newspaper’s budget exceeds Osage law requirements.

The budget modification does not require additional tribal money, but instead requested a $5,500 shift from the newspaper’s supplies line item to professional fees, Walker said during a Congressional governmental operations committee that day.

The Osage News has two regular columnists contributing to the monthly newspaper with former Osage Tribal Councilwoman Rosemary Wood joining as its newest contributor last summer to write about Osage Energy-related matters. Columnist and Osage author Charles Red Corn has contributed a monthly column on Osage history and cultural topics since 2013.

Project LAUNCH grant

The Congress also considered a supplemental appropriation bill for a $143,259 grant to the Nation’s Education Division for a Project LAUNCH grant.

Walker said the grant money is federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education and the Nation is receiving the money as part of a partnership with the Osage County Interlocal Co-op. He said this is a five-year grant with the Nation expecting to receive a total of over $715,000.

Walker said the grant will go toward hiring two ON Education Department employees whose focus will be working with the Wah-Zha-Zhi Early Learning Academy and child care facilities to prepare the early age student with literacy skills for school.

All four bills passed with 11 “yes” votes and one absence from Congresswoman Shannon Edwards that day. Standing Bear later signed all bills into Osage law.