Government

Osage Congress passes, votes down legislation in two special sessions

In preparation for the 2021 fiscal year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which temporarily closed the seven Osage Casinos, the Sixth Osage Nation Congress approved a bill authorizing the Gaming Enterprise Board to have an additional month to submit its annual plan of operations.

During the June 1 special session held by videoconference, the Congress voted 12-0 to pass ONCA 20-43 (sponsored by Congressional Speaker Joe Tillman) that authorizes “a temporary waiver of the requirement for the (ON Gaming Enterprise Board) to submit the Annual Plan of Operations 90 days prior to the beginning of the fiscal year and extend the submission date to Aug. 15, 2020.”

During the May board meeting held also by electronic means, Osage Casino management officials and the gaming board discussed seeking the extension to provide the most updated information for Congressional consideration and action. The Congress meets for its 24-day Tzi-Zho Session each September to consider and approve the following fiscal year’s budgets for the Nation’s government operations and other matters, including approval of the annual plan of operations for the Gaming Enterprise.

The annual plan of operations contains plans and budgets for the Nation’s seven-Osage Casino enterprise operations and is considered a confidential business document.

According to the bill, the “Nation has faced an unprecedented pandemic that has forced the closure of businesses and offices throughout the Nation. This closure extended to the Osage Nation Casino facilities causing significant economic disruption to the Enterprise and the Osage Nation. Osage Casinos has just recently opened its doors to the public and there is uncertainty in predicting how the revenue will look going forward into 2021. The (gaming board) has requested that they be authorized to delay the submission of the Annual Plan of Operations until (Aug. 15) so they will have a longer snapshot of revenues on which to estimate the 2021 revenue and distribution.”

ONCA 20-43 passed with a 12-0 vote during the single-day special session.

The Congress also met May 13-14 and May 19-20 for its sixth special session with two other legislative items that did not pass:

- ONCA 20-41 (Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn), which sought to amend Osage law establishing the Congressional members’ compensation to reduce the 12 members’ annual salary. Whitehorn said she filed the bill as part of taking proactive measures for the Legislative Branch to reduce its costs, including salary reductions by 10% due to the Nation’s revenue shortfall caused by the casino closures.

According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, it’s noted the current Congressional annual salary for each member is $65,000 and the 10% reduction would amount to $6,500 per member annually. The legislation also sought to eliminate the Congressional 401K program and the Speaker and Second Speakers’ annual expense allowances by 50%. The bill failed with “no” votes from Congress members Alice Goodfox, Brandy Lemon, John Maker, Angela Pratt, RJ Walker, Scott BigHorse and Paula Stabler. “Yes” votes came from Eli Potts, Maria Whitehorn, Shannon Edwards and Tillman. Congressman Archie Mason abstained.

- After the ONCA 20-43 vote, Whitehorn withdrew ONCR 20-05, which she also sponsored. That resolution is one “to authorize the Principal Chief of the Osage Nation to enter into and execute a Tribal Council Member Agreement with the U.S. Social Security Administration to allow the Osage Nation to extend Social Security coverage to the Members of the Osage Nation Congress.” Whitehorn said the resolution was a companion bill with ONCA 20-41 and since it did not pass, she motioned to withdraw the resolution to avoid a conflict in the current law. The motion to withdraw passed by majority 10-2 vote.

- ONCR 20-19 (Potts) is a resolution to approve the 2021 fiscal year annual revenue projection of the Nation with updated revenues. The resolution failed with a 6-6 tie vote. Voting “yes” were Maker, Mason, Potts, Stabler, Whitehorn and Edwards. “No” votes came from Pratt, Walker, BigHorse, Goodfox, Lemon and Tillman. Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn broke the tie with a “no” vote and the resolution failed. 

For more information regarding ON Congressional regular or special sessions, filed legislation and Congressional committee meetings, visit the Legislative Branch website at www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch