Government

Congressional Affairs Committee continues discussion on new building

The Osage Nation Congressional Affairs Committee is continuing discussions on finding a permanent home for the Legislative Branch

On Jan. 18, the committee unanimously passed a motion to authorize chairman and Second Congressional Speaker Joe Tillman to begin the preplanning as necessary toward relocating the Congressional Office into a future permanent home on the ON government campus.

In 2017, the Congressional Office relocated to the Nation-owned former First National Bank building (now renamed the Capitol Building) along Pawhuska’s Main Street after its previous location in the Chambers building needed remediation work due to black mold discovery. The Chambers building has since undergone the repairs and is back in use by the Osage Minerals Council for its meetings and offices while the Congressional sessions and public meetings continue at the Capitol Building.

Tillman said the committee discussions on a future Legislative Branch home date back to summer 2018 and he’s since visited with the Nation’s procurement officer Tammy Leeper on the process to send out requests for proposals to start the planning with professional companies to design a new Congressional building.   

The discussions on a new Legislative Branch building come as earlier talks included using the ground floor space for economic development purposes considering the Capitol Building is located across the street from eating and shopping hotspot The Pioneer Woman Mercantile owned by Food Network star Ree Drummond.

Tillman noted other issues that have arisen while the Congress has used the Capitol Building including the lack of privacy in the open ceiling office spaces.

“I think it’s pretty clear to all of us here this is not the permanent home for the Osage Nation Legislative body for a number of reasons,” Tillman said. “One of the compelling reasons to me is the lack of confidentiality to all members of Congress because it is almost impossible for anyone in our offices to be able to go in your office with either constituents, board members, whoever it may be and there is no confidentiality. I can’t hold a meeting in my office when there’s a Congressional meeting going on here at the table because it picks up over the audio (public meetings of Congress are recorded/ live-streamed online) and I’m being told ‘can you keep it down, can you be quiet?’ It’s just not functional.”

When Congress or Congressional committees meet for executive sessions, which are closed to the public as allowed by Osage law, attendees and visitors not essential for the executive sessions are moved into an adjacent room away from the main Congressional meeting area.

Tillman said various ideas for a new building have come up and “I feel it’s time we start making a move to locate and start the process of building a facility for the Congress of the Osage Nation. It may not happen for us now, it may not happen for two years, I don’t know how long, but for generations to come, when they pull in and they want to go to the Osage Nation Congress, that building will be easily identified on the hill as we’ve discussed I believe we want to be.”

Congresswoman Paula Stabler, who has been involved in new clinic designing for the Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center, said the next part of the planning process usually involves meeting with designer professionals to discuss the building needs including office space, meeting space to determine the size of the building and its cost estimates.

Congressman Eli Potts made a motion for the committee to authorize Tillman to begin the preplanning activities necessary – including the submission of a scope of work to the Osage Nation procurement office – for the purposes of relocating the ON Legislative Branch of government. Potts noted his motion is only for the Legislative Branch and not a building that could house other entities including the Minerals Council and Executive Branch, which caused delays in moving the issue forward, adding “we’re ready to go, we need a new home.”

For more information on the ON Legislative Branch including meeting agendas and filed legislation, visit the Nation’s website at https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch