With the 2023 Tzi-Sho Session underway, the Eighth Osage Nation Congress has nearly 30 bills and resolutions filed for consideration, with the priority being appropriation bills containing the 2024 fiscal year operating budgets.
The 24-day regular fall session started Sept. 5 with opening remarks from both Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and Congressional Speaker Alice Goodfox.
Standing Bear said his office has reviewed legislation filed thus far and acknowledged more legislative bills and resolutions will be presented during session. He also said he looked forward to considerations of the annual plans for the Nation’s Gaming Enterprise, Osage LLC and the Health System known as Si-Si A-Pe-Txa.
“It appears to me this is going to be more work than appears on paper,” Standing Bear said. “Assistant Chief (RJ Walker) and I talked a lot about what is the actual distribution availability (of tribal funds) going to be from gaming? We keep hearing different answers to those questions, we’re confident the Congress will settle in on a number, so we’re going to watch that with great interest. Once we know what’s available, we’ll move forward with more confidence.”
The Nation receives most of its tribal revenue used to fund government operations from the seven-Osage Casinos Gaming Enterprise. Other revenue sources include the Nation’s Tax Commission, program services and grant awards.
Ahead of the Tzi-Sho Session, the Congress approved a resolution (ONCR 23-12 sponsored by Congresswoman Paula Stabler) during the spring that stated the Gaming Distribution to the Nation would be $68 million for the 2024 fiscal year starting Oct. 1.
Congress passed ONCR 23-12 in April and a revised projected revenue resolution during the August special session, but a second revised projected revenue resolution is on file for consideration, which is ONCR 23-24 sponsored by Congresswoman Jodie Revard. This revised resolution states the FY 2024 gaming distribution to the Nation will be $71 million and will be considered during the session with initial meetings taking place at the Congressional committee level.
The annual projected revenue resolution is crucial during the budget consideration process because, in accordance with the Osage Constitution, “the annual budget shall not exceed projected revenues.”
During the Aug. 23 Gaming Enterprise Board meeting, gaming officials acknowledged the $71 million tribal distribution for FY 2024 and said the updated figure came after a special meeting held in executive session to revisit the ONGE annual plan of operations. Board chairman Geoff Hager said he is “very proud of the annual plan this year, the whole process we went through … We had some good working sessions, not just among ourselves, but also with those on the (Congressional) committee(s).”
“We strive every year to create record growth for the Nation and this one was a big one,” said Osage Casinos CEO Kimberly Pearson, who added the annual plan is hard work and starts in January with planning and analysis efforts.
Board Vice Chair Claudette Carnett said adjustments to the plan were made regarding the ongoing progress to expand Osage Casino gaming into Missouri as part of increasing revenue and other projects in the annual plan, which is considered confidential business proprietary information.
Also during Day 1 of the Tzi-Sho Session, Speaker Goodfox delivered remarks on behalf of the Legislative Branch. She noted there will be several board and commission appointees to be considered during session for confirmation to serve full terms.
Goodfox said 14 appointees are referred for confirmation consideration and those individuals are required to submit professional information packets by Sept. 14 stating their job and prior board experiences. The appointees will be initially considered at the committee level and motions must be made to refer those individuals onto the full Congress for further consideration.
“And after we receive those, then the chairs of the committees of jurisdiction of where those appointees will go can start looking through their packets,” Goodfox said. She added there are still board vacancies, including two seats on the five-member gaming board.
Once available, all legislative bills, resolutions, including appropriation and budget bills can be viewed or downloaded from the Congressional website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch