Government

Osage Congress ends 2019 Hun-Kah Session on Day 25

The Sixth Osage Nation Congress wrapped its 2019 Hun-Kah Session on April 23 on its 25th day with several bills and resolutions approved.

After consideration in Congressional committee meetings or fast-tracked with legislative approval, the Congress voted to approve the following legislative items on April 22:

ONCR 18-20 is a resolution sponsored by Congressman John Maker and co-sponsored by Congresswoman Alice Goodfox seeking to place a question on the next ballot for Osage voters on whether elected and appointed officials should be subject to term limits of five consecutive terms in office.

Currently, Osage officials, whether elected or appointed, are not subject to term limits and Maker and Goodfox have individually sponsored prior resolutions asking whether questions should be placed before Osage voters for term limits with Maker’s resolutions unsuccessful at passing under prior Congresses. Goodfox’s prior term limits question failed at the ballot in 2012.  

According to ONCR 18-20, this resolution puts the term limits question before the Osage people for their approval or rejection at the next general election or at a special election if ordered by the Legislature. The resolution asks Osage voters whether five full-term limits (plus any initial partial term fulfilled as the result of a vacancy) should apply to the ON Congress, Principal Chief, Assistant Principal Chief, and the four Judicial Branch Judges established in the Constitution, which are the three Supreme Court Justices and the Trial Court Chief Judge.

If the Constitutional amendment passes, those offices in the three Osage branches of government will be limited to five office terms totaling 20 years with each term’s duration lasting four years.

Maker, who was absent for the 25-day session recovering from recent surgery, came to the April 22 session as the resolution came up for vote. ONCR 18-20 passed with a 12-0 unanimous vote. Maker, who thanked the Congress afterward for passing the resolution, left after the vote for a scheduled physical therapy appointment.  

ONCA 19-07 (sponsored by Congresswoman Shannon Edwards) is an amendment to Osage law to clarify the law is intended to satisfy the Osage Constitution mandates for the Congress to establish a merit principled system of employment; to authorize the ON’s Department of Human Resources to implement the system; to include a grievance procedure and exhaustion requirement prior to seeking review in the Nation’s Trial Court. The bill passed with seven “yes” votes and four “no” votes from Congress members Goodfox, Angela Pratt, Brandy Lemon and Congressional Speaker RJ Walker.

ONCA 19-25 (Congresswoman Paula Stabler) amends the Osage criminal code on Crimes Against Persons to allow for spouses to be prosecuted for sexual assault. The bill passed unanimously 11-0.

ONCA 19-40 (Congressman Eli Potts) is an act establishing in Osage law a budgetary process governed by the principles of Transparency and Accountability. Potts sponsored a similar bill (ONCA 18-57) earlier in the session, but Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear vetoed the bill raising some concerns to be addressed before he would sign the legislation into law. Potts said he then sponsored ONCA 19-40 with revisions to reach a compromise with the Executive Branch addressing those concerns. The bill passed 11-0.

ONCA 19-41 (Congresswoman Angela Pratt) amends ONCA 18-20, which authorized and appropriated up to $450,000 to meet the 15 percent match requirements of the Community Connect Grant for the Pawhuska Overlay Service Area and to expand it to the Hominy Service Area. The bill passed 11-0.

ONCR 19-10 (Goodfox) is a resolution to approve the ON Election Board’s rules and regulations governing elections in accordance with the ON election code. The resolution passed 10-1 with a “no” vote from Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn, who expressed concern changes with the campaign reporting requirements could impact candidates who may not raise sufficient campaign donations and may need to use their personal credit cards to pay for campaign expenses.

Goodfox said the Election Board worked hard to consider the rules and regulations amendments in an effort to make the election process fair, which includes requiring candidates to open separate bank accounts for election campaign donations and expenses. During the campaign time, the candidates are required to submit two campaign reporting statements listing their donations, self-donations and expenditures for campaign-related costs.

“It would be much easier, fair and transparent to the people who are voting you into office that there’s one account for your campaign and everything you paid for whether it’s signs, a mailout, a reception, all your money needs to funnel in and out of this campaign account – that’s what’s fair… You can always take out a line of credit on your credit card and put that money into a campaign account and still be able to make monthly payments on that credit card,” Goodfox said before the vote. The resolution passed 10-1 with the “no” vote from Whitehorn.

ONCR 19-13 (Whitehorn) is a resolution to authorize the ON Attorney General “to negotiate the terms and conditions of an appropriate agreement protecting certain legal interests, property rights and natural resources of the Osage Nation.”

Per Osage law, the Attorney General is authorized to represent the Nation as requested by the Principal Chief or the Congress in legal interests of the Nation’s dealings and relations outside the ON government. According to the resolution, its finding pertains to a March 2018 confidentiality agreement that AG Holli Wells entered into with the Oklahoma Attorney General, which protects “the confidentiality of and otherwise facilitate the discussions between the parties regarding the Nation’s legal interests, property rights and natural resources.” The resolution passed unanimously.

On April 23, the Congress voted to end the Hun-Kah Session after passage of the following legislative items:

ONCA 18-70 (Edwards) is an act to amend the Nation’s Health Benefit Act adding revisions to the law governing the Health Benefit programs in wake of allegations of fraudulent misuses of the debit card intended for health-related expenses. Edwards said the revised law includes mandates to track purchase uses and that encoded debit cards be used for those purchases. She also noted there are now penalties in the law if a health benefit card user is convicted in tribal court of committing fraud for misusing the card. Should fraud convictions occur, Edwards said those people face possible suspension of health benefit privileges – at minimum. The bill passed with an 11-0 vote.

ONCA 19-11 (Edwards) is a bill to amend the Nation’s Pay for Performance Act to authorize base pay adjustments and merit recognition. The bill passed 10-1 with then-Congressional Speaker RJ Walker voting “no.”

ONCA 19-15 (Potts) is an act to authorize the Osage News Editorial Board to host and conduct a fair and unbiased debate or forum leading up to the Osage Nation elections. The bill passed with an 11-0 vote.

ONCA 19-21 (Congresswoman Angela Pratt) is a bill to appropriate $83,076 in tribal funds to the Nation’s Capital Asset and Improvement Fund for Wildland Fire Management equipment purchases. The bill passed with an 11-0 vote.

ONCA 19-34 (Pratt) is an act to amend the Nation’s 2019 Executive Branch budget to appropriate $262,619 in federal funding to the Community Health Representative (CHR) program and to reduce the tribal appropriation in the same amount of $262,809. The bill passed with an 11-0 vote.

ONCA 19-35 (Pratt) is an act to amend the Nation’s 2019 Executive Branch budget to appropriate $114,639 in federal funds to the Education Department’s Johnson O’Malley Program and to reduce the tribal appropriation by $69,158. The bill passed with an 11-0 vote.

ONCA 19-36 (Pratt) is an act to establish a competitive bidding law for the Nation’s Gaming Enterprise – doing business as Osage Casinos – and the business enterprises of the Nation. According to the bill, the new law takes the Nation’s casinos and business entities out of the current bidding act, which applies to the Nation’s government entities seeking competitive bids for respective sealed bid projects, and those business entities will follow the new competitive bidding law for projects with contracts exceeding $250,000.

Stabler said she is satisfied with the majority of the bill but said she would vote “no” because she believes the $250,000 threshold is too high. Pratt thanked the entities involved in working on the bill including the Congressional commerce committee, the Gaming Enterprise Board, casino management and the Gaming Commission and said the new law allows the casino to better seek future projects in a competitive business environment. The bill passed with a 10-1 vote.

ONCA 19-38 (Pratt) is an act to amend the Nation’s 2019 Executive Branch budget to provide a supplemental appropriation of $400,000 to the Historic Preservation Office. According to the bill the HPO’s budget is adjusted to reflect department revenue raised from its services. The bill passed with a 9-2 vote with “no” votes from Congressmen Joe Tillman and Scott BigHorse.

ONCA 19-42 (Edwards) is an act to amend the Nation’s 2019 Executive Branch budget to provide a supplemental appropriation of $100,000 to the Treasury Department for financial consultant fees. Edwards said the Congress was alerted the Treasury Department will have a shortfall in operational funds due to a financial management fee made for investing the Nation’s permanent fund, should a supplemental appropriation not be made. The bill passed with an 11-0 vote.

ONCA 19-43 (Goodfox) is an appropriation bill for $454,843 in federal funds to the Nation’s Family Violence Prevention Department – Tribal Victims Services Program. Goodfox said the funding will be used for trainings for staff, as well as Congress members, Judicial Branch judges, ON Police Department and prosecutors. The bill passed with an 11-0 vote.

ONCA 19-44 (Goodfox) is an appropriation bill for a $3 million federal grant awarded to the Osage Minerals Council for well plugging purposes. Goodfox said the Bureau of Indian Affairs grant funding is for professional fee costs to plug abandoned wells and the funding was approved by the OMC at a recent meeting. The bill passed with an 11-0 vote.

ONCR 19-08 (Whitehorn) is a resolution to approve a new 2019 fiscal year annual revenue projection of the Osage Nation with updated revenues. Whitehorn, who served as Congressional Appropriations Committee chair, said the new figure includes changes to some departments and program revenue.

ONCR 19-11 (Whitehorn) is a resolution to approve the Nation’s 2020 fiscal year revenue projection figure.

All passed legislation will be sent to Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s office for consideration to be signed into law. The two approved resolutions seeking Constitution amendment questions (ONCR 18-20 and ONCR 19-07) do not require the Principal Chief’s signature and will be placed on the next election ballot.

For more information on the 2019 Hun-Kah Session and filed bills and resolutions that were considered, visit the Legislative Branch website at https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch