Government

Bills addressing Nation’s budget pushed through during 4th Special Session

Citing the Treasurer’s requests for several budget amendments and a revised projected revenue figure, Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear called the Sixth ON Congress into a special session on June 17, which stretched for seven days.

“Last Thursday, June 12, I received an updated justification for budget amendments,” Standing Bear told the Congress in his executive address at the session’s start. “As you will hear from the Treasurer and Executive Staff, the amendments required involve a multitude of departments, including law enforcement, education, financial assistance, membership, and many more” 

The session took place after the four-day Hominy Inlonshka wrapped and during the break time before the Pawhuska Inlonshka started its own four-day duration on June 27.

“Other matters we have asked the Congress to approve at this Special Session include the recommendations by the Treasurer for an amendment on projected revenue,” Standing Bear said.

In his first special session as Congressional Speaker, Congressman Joe Tillman also addressed the Congress in his legislative address at the session’s start. Tillman thanked the 11 members present amid the quick turnaround from the Sunday Inlonshka that ended less than 24 hours earlier. Congresswoman Shannon Edwards was absent for the duration of the special session.

“We have committeemen, we have singers, we have dancers and I know that you’re tired and I know it’s been a long eight days, but those are eight days of joy and some of you were up until the wee hours of the morning breaking down camp, getting ready to move to new camps, so I want to thank you for your commitment to excellence today for being here,” Tillman said. He also thanked the Executive Branch for meeting deadlines and requests for support documentation for the legislative branch to consider the various bills and resolutions in the special session.

Those legislative items passing in the special session include:

- ONCA 19-47 (sponsored by Congressman RJ Walker) to revise Osage law concerning capital asset projects to establish a capital asset fund to fund capital construction projects and capital asset purchases.

- ONCA 19-49 (Congresswoman Alice Goodfox) is a bill to appropriate $455,000 to the newly established ON property improvement fund with the money coming from the commercial properties fund.

- ONCA 19-50 (Goodfox) is the bill establishing a revolving fund for the ON property improvement fund. The fund is intended for capital improvements, regular maintenance, emergency repairs, utilities, taxes and insurance for ON properties, according to the bill.

During the session, Executive Branch Director of Operations Casey Johnson and Deputy Director of Operations Jodie Revard met with the Congressional Appropriations Committee regarding the bill and planned property repairs. According to a recent accounting, Johnson said the Nation owns about 76 buildings with several of them old and needing new roofs, which leaked during the May torrential rains including the Osage News, Election Office and Heritage Center, which houses both the Wah-Zha-Zhe Cultural Center and Language Department all in Pawhuska.

Johnson said a wishlist has been compiled for other improvements including new HVAC units to replace aging ones at the Pawhuska Fitness Center, Civic Center and Wah-Zha-Zhi Early Learning Academy gymnasium.   

- ONCA 19-51 (Goodfox) is a bill to amend the FY 2019 budget for Executive Branch departments and programs. The amended bill provides $2.7 million in supplemental appropriations and $5.2 million in appropriation reductions, Tillman said.

- ONCA 19-52 (Congressman Eli Potts) is a separate bill to amend the FY 2019 budget for Executive Branch departments and programs. This amended bill provides $5,019,079 in supplemental appropriations and $3.3 million in appropriation reductions, Tillman said.    

- ONCA 19-53 (Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn) is a bill to appropriate $168,240 to the Nation’s Education Partnership Fund with the funding coming from the education partnership with TransCanada, which did work in Osage County and wished to foster a relationship with the Nation with money geared toward educational purposes. The fund was then created in a 2015 Osage law passed by Congress.

- ONCA 19-54 (Whitehorn) amends the Education Partnership Fund to provide for educational materials and services. According to the bill, the purpose of the act is to establish a fund for educational expenditures in furtherance of the Nation’s pursuit of a premier education system for Osage students.

- ONCA 19-57 (Potts) is a bill seeking amendments to the Nation’s Budget Control Act. Potts said the amendments include allowing the Executive Branch more authority and ability to execute their budget with regard to non-tribal funds (i.e. federal grants awarded to the Nation for specific departments/ purposes).

- ONCA 19-58 (Potts) repeals four sections of Osage law that were placed in amended form in a separate section of law. Those repealed sections are placed in ONCA 19-57, Potts said.

- ONCR 19-15 (Congresswoman Paula Stabler) is a resolution to approve a new FY 2019 annual projected revenue figure with updated revenue numbers.

- ONCR 19-16 (Congresswoman Angela Pratt) is a resolution to authorize and approve execution of a contract for treatment services or other integrated services with the State of Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and to authorize a limited waiver of sovereign immunity from suit and consent to jurisdiction.

- ONCR 19-17 (Potts) is a resolution to approve an FY 2020 annual projected revenue figure with updated revenue figures and to establish budget outlays for the three government branches for the next five years.

According to the resolution, the Nation projects to receive $53.8 million in tribal revenue (i.e. gaming and Tax Commission revenue) for government operations and $33.7 million from non-tribal revenue sources (grants). The Nation’s Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center is projected to make $4 million from its third-party income, which includes patient health insurance billing for services and medications received at the Pawhuska clinic. Those numbers add up to $91.5 million for the 2020 projected revenue figure.

Per the Osage Constitution, the Nation’s annual budget shall not exceed the projected revenue figure. After the bills and resolutions made their way through the legislative processes, the Congress adjourned the special session on June 24.