Government

Congress passes bills, resolutions in 2020 Tzi-Zho Session

In addition to the 2021 fiscal year budgets for government operations, the Seventh Osage Nation Congress passed several legislative items during the 2020 Tzi-Zho Session before adjourning Oct. 2.

Those bills and resolutions received passing votes from the 12-member Congress and were signed by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear afterward. Those approved legislative items include:

- ONCA 20-78 (sponsored by Congresswoman Paula Stabler) is a bill “to reassign an appropriation of restricted third party revenue from the Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center to the Health Clinic Construction Fund in the amount of $2 million.”

Stabler said the bill reassigns $2 million in clinic revenue from previous years “to the clinic construction fund so they (the Health Authority Board and WHC officials) can continue working on their project,” which includes land purchasing and survey and construction-related costs. The bill passed 12-0.

- ONCA 20-82 (Congressman RJ Walker) is an act “to authorize the Indirect Cost Departments and Tribal Works to expend monies appropriated through the FY 2021 appropriation bills.

According to the bill, the Nation is budgeting to spend $8.1 million (a 9.3% decrease from FY 2020) for the IDC departments and entities, which include Human Resources, Accounting, Archives, Communications, Compliance and Grants, Information Technologies, Strategic Planning and Tribal Works. The bill passed 12-0.

ONCA 20-83 (Stabler) is an act amending the Nation’s Health Benefit Act “to prohibit the accrual of unused health benefits,” which ceases the rollover of unused health benefit funds from one year to the next. Stabler said she filed the bill as an effort to manage the increased spending associated with the health benefit programs available to all enrolled Osages.

Stabler said the impact of the bill won’t be seen for two years in FY 2023 and the bill seeks to stop “the (associated costs) bleeding”, adding she does not want to take away health benefits from the Osage people during a Sept. 28 Congressional Health and Social Services Committee meeting. The bill does not change the annual amounts available to eligible Health Benefit program participants which include an annual benefit card amount of $500 for Osages under age 65 and $1,000 for Osage elders age 65 and over.

ONCA 20-83 passed with an 8-4 vote with Congress members Scott BigHorse, Alice Goodfox, Billy Keene, Brandy Lemon, Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt, Revard, Pam Shaw and Stabler voting “yes.” Members voting “no” were RJ Walker, Joe Tillman, John Maker and Eli Potts.

In a Sept. 29 joint statement issued by Potts, Tillman and Maker regarding the budgets and amendments seeking reductions, the Congressmen added: “We remain in prayer for those impacted directly by COVID-19 and those who may be suffering during this time. We also feel the proposed cuts to the direct assistance and services of the Osage Nation government are premature and unnecessary. We are here to serve the People of the Osage Nation and now is not the time for the Osage Nation government to restrict funds or services when the data suggests cuts are unnecessary.”

ONCA 21-01 (Goodfox) is an act to appropriate $35,500 to the ON Treasury to pay the Moss Adams firm for audit fees of Osage LLC. The bill passed with an 11-1 vote with Potts voting “no.”

ONCR 20-25 (Goodfox) is a resolution “declaring Congressional consent and approval of the (ON) Gaming Enterprise Board’s Annual Plan of Operations for fiscal year 2021.” 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. The resolution passed 12-0.

ONCR 20-27 (Goodfox) is a resolution “to recognize and support the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement and to distribute to the governor and legislators of the state of Oklahoma.”

Goodfox said she wished the resolution would be heard in a committee meeting, but due to time constraints for the FY 2021 budget business, ONCR 20-27 was advanced to a final vote on Oct. 2 before the session adjourned.

The resolution reads: “The (Nation) supports the (MMIW) and Murdered and Missing Indigenous Persons movements to put the resources in place to prevent the murder and kidnapping of Indigenous people. The (Nation) further directs that this resolution be presented to (Gov. Kevin Stitt) and the (Oklahoma state) legislators in support” of the two movements. ONCR 20-27 passed 12-0.

ONCR 20-28 (Walker) is a resolution “to authorize the Principal Chief to execute real property leases and rights-of-way easements on restricted Indian lands and trust lands on behalf of the Osage Nation through Oct. 1, 2021.” The resolution passed 12-0.

ONCR 20-30 (Shaw) is a resolution setting the compensation and reimbursement allowance for the Boards and Commissions for fiscal years 2021 and 2022.” It passed 12-0.

According to the resolution, the allowance and stipends available on an annual basis will be paid to the boards/ commissions as follows:

Advisory boards: Chairman stipend is $3,600, other board members will receive $3,000 and the entire board travel to be distributed at board’s discretion is up to $3,000.

Business boards: Chairman stipend is $21,000 and other board members will receive $16,800. Board travel is up to $6,000.

The resolution notes the Gaming Enterprise Board will pay its own board allowance/ stipend costs through its associated entity, which is the Osage Casinos.

Commission boards: Chairman stipend is $9,000 and other board members will receive $6,000. Travel is up to $3,000  

Non-business boards: Chairman stipend is $9,000 and other board members will receive $6,000 and travel is up to $3,500.

Health Authority Board: Chairman stipend is $13,800 and other board members will receive $10,800 and travel is up to $6,000.

ONCR 20-31 (Goodfox) is “a resolution to authorize and approve execution of a Detention Services Agreement with the Sac and Fox Nation; and to authorize a limited waiver of sovereign immunity from suit.” The resolution passed 12-0.

ONCR 20-32 (Revard) is “a resolution to support and express appreciation for the COVID-19 Task Force for their dedication and service in administering emergency federal funding during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.” The resolution passed 12-0.

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