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Congress passes bills for funeral facility, minimum wage increase, criminal law updates

All legislation was then sent to Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s office for consideration of signature to take effect.

On April 13, the Seventh Osage Nation Congress unanimously passed five bills to start funding and planning a Nation-owned funeral facility, to increase the employee minimum wage and updates to the criminal code and open meetings law.

Those passed legislative bills are:

ONCA 20-77 (sponsored by Congressman Billy Keene) is “An Act to amend the criminal code at Title 6 Crimes against Property to add Larceny and Receiving Stolen Property – Presumption.”

Keene referred to a past incident where an Osage member had stolen property items that ended up in a smoke shop (on Indian land) and she had to “go through numerous hurdles to get her stolen goods back. So, I got with the (Attorney General’s Office) and we consulted together, and we thought it would be common sense to amend our criminal code to prevent this type of act from occurring again … And I think it’s important for us to have really good criminal laws on the books,” he told the Congressional Government Operations Committee before the vote.

ONCA 22-31 (sponsored by Congresswoman Alice Goodfox) is “An Act to amend the Open Meetings Act to require executive sessions to be recorded by the body and to prohibit public bodies from excluding elected officials from executive sessions on a limited basis.”

Goodfox sponsored the bill that updates the open meetings law to specify: “All Advisory Boards, Business Boards, Health Boards and Nonbusiness Boards (as defined in Osage law) shall make meetings available electronically, including the executive sessions, to the elected officials of both the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch of the Osage Nation.”

ONCA 22-35 (sponsored by Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt) is “An Act to authorize and appropriate the amount of $3 million to the Capital Asset Fund of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the purchase of land, design, engineering, and construction of a funeral services facility within the territorial boundaries of the Osage Nation.”

Pratt said the Osage public discussion requesting a funeral facility has been a long-time discussion item for years and she filed the bill to put action to the chatter. “We – as the eyes, ears and voice of our people – need to prioritize their needs if we know that is being requested … I think it has a lot of support from the community and my colleagues … If our needs are not being met, then we as a people have the right to exercise our sovereign authority to take care of the needs of our people.” 

ONCA 22-37 (sponsored by Congressman Eli Potts) is “An Act to amend the Osage Fair Minimum Wage Act (in Osage law)” to $15 per hour starting Oct. 1, 2022, when the 2023 fiscal year starts.

Last year, Potts sponsored ONCA 21-26, which intended to raise the Nation’s minimum hourly wage in yearly step increases to $15 per hour for government employees by FY 2024, but ONCA 22-37 moves the increase to take effect in the fall with the new fiscal year.

Potts said he sponsored the bill due to the current economic situation due to inflation impacting prices. He said the FY 2023 start date would allow for the Executive Branch to prepare for implementing the higher pay rates for impacted job positions.

ONCA 22-51 (sponsored by Congressman John Maker) is “An Act to amend (the trespass law in the Osage Nation Code) in Chapter 1 Crimes Against Property for the protection of restricted and non-restricted Osage landowners.”

Maker said he sponsored the bill to address trespassing to protect Osage landowners and Nation-owned lands, including the ranch.

All legislation was then sent to Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s office for consideration of signature to take effect.

For more information on the Legislative Branch, filed legislative bills/ resolutions, session and committee meetings, visit: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch

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Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org
Benny Polacca started at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter and has covered various stories and events impacting the Osage Nation and Osage people. Polacca is part of the News team awarded the Native American Journalist Association’s Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 and other NAJA Media Awards and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter awards for news coverage and photography. Polacca is an Arizona State University graduate and participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. He previously worked at The Forum newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. region as the weeknight reporter.
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