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Effort to include direct assistance bill on July 8 Congressional special session proclamation fails

By

Benny Polacca

Photo caption: The Osage Nation Congress met via Zoom for a July 8 special session to consider the purchase of real property. Osage News/Screenshot

An effort to have the Seventh Osage Nation Congress consider a bill to provide direct assistance relief payments to all Osage constituents with federal American Rescue Plan Act funds failed on July 12.

However, the bill is not dead, nor is the discussion of direct payments to all Osage citizens. The Congress will discuss the matter in its upcoming July 24 special session.

“In my press release of June 3, 2021, it is clearly stated individual assistance is not a new idea as last year we distributed almost $13 million dollars to 14,000 Osages. I said then and I repeat now, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA) provides new opportunity for Osage individual assistance,” said Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear in a statement. “Our ARPA task force has had a plan for months and we have been ready to execute upon it but, as we know, the new law requires we go to the Osage Congress first. We are looking forward to having the Osage Congress approve the plan developed by our ARPA Task Force. This will be presented in detail in the upcoming (July 24) Special Session. The ARPA Task Force plan and any other ARPA use of funds will be subject to federal final rule compliance.”

After the Nation learned it would receive $108 million in federal ARPA funds, discussion and debate on funding use commenced among the Osage public and elected officials, including whether to issue direct assistance checks as the Nation did with its 2020 CARES Act funding.

Failed motion

Standing Bear issued an executive proclamation calling for the July 8 special session on June 23 with one subject matter for the 12-member Congress: Consideration of purchase of real property. A bill filed by Congressman Joe Tillman, ONCA 21-52, which requests approximately $46.5 million in ARPA funds for direct assistance payments ($2,000 each), was not on the proclamation.

As the July 8 special session got underway, an effort by Congressman Eli Potts to add ONCA 21-52 onto the special session proclamation failed. Voting “no” to amend the proclamation were Congress members Brandy Lemon, Second Speaker Jodie Revard, Paula Stabler, Alice Goodfox and Pratt. “Yes” votes came from Billy Keene, John Maker, Potts, Pam Shaw, Tillman and RJ Walker. Congressman Scott BigHorse was absent during the vote.

Per Osage law on Congressional special sessions, once the proclamation is filed with the Clerk of Congress, it may only be amended up to 72 hours before the first day of the special session. The proclamation may only be amended by an affirmative vote of consent by two-thirds of the Congress members.

Congress proceeded with the special session and passed ONCA 21-60 (sponsored by Pratt), a $7.3 million appropriation bill for land purchase purposes in Osage County, and an updated projected revenue resolution (ONCR 21-13 sponsored by Revard).

July 24 special session

Several bills are now on file and dated “as introduced” for the July 24 special session requesting ARPA funding for respective projects and endeavors, including Tillman’s legislation ONCA 21-52 for direct assistance payments.

Online debate

After the session adjourned, Potts thanked the six Congressional members who voted to move up consideration of ONCA 21-52 on his social media page. “Thank you for joining me in supporting this critical step to getting direct assistance to the Osage People in a timely manner,” he said.

Keene said: “I am disappointed we were not able to expedite ONCA 21-52 on the agenda for (July 12). But, I am confident Congress will get Covid relief checks passed when we meet again later this month. I understand the general anxiety a lot of Osages have and their pleas for financial help during this time. Osage people everywhere are still suffering from Covid effects. I thank all my Osage constituents for voicing their concerns.”

Goodfox issued a statement: “On July 24, we have been called into special session to discuss and vote on appropriations using ARPA dollars. Based on what has already been filed, what could be filed and what we have been told we are receiving, it is likely we will need to prioritize. I felt it was best to consider all ARPA bills (or as many as we could) during the same special session and not start voting on a few here and a few there. The proclamation on July 24th is ambitious … There is a lot to cover in 10 days. I support direct assistance, and I also believe senior housing and the PRT appropriations filed should be a priority. All three can benefit Osage’s everywhere. For elders that are wanting to move home to retire there will now (hopefully) be more homes, for those dealing with addiction issues we will (hopefully) have a larger facility to take more individuals so they do not have to be on a waitlist.”

Government shutdown

On July 15, the Office of the Chiefs issued a statement regarding the forthcoming workload in the July 24 special session. “The Executive Proclamation includes 24 items of high importance to Osage Nation constituents and community members. While the majority of items are the appropriation from the American Rescue Plan Act funds, also known as ARPA funds, the Proclamation also includes the approval and appropriation of Fiscal Year 2021 Federal budgets and grants. Osage Nation Congress approval and appropriation is required per a bill enacted in May 2021 requiring all non-tribal funds be appropriated by Osage Nation Congress before expenditure. If the Fiscal Year 2021 Federal budgets and grants are not approved by Osage Nation Congress during the Special Session, the Osage Nation Government will shut down on Monday, July 26, 2021 … Item #10, the appropriation from ARPA funds for individual assistance, has brought considerable discussion among the Osage community. The amount per Osage and conditions of receiving the monies may be the subject of intense debate at this Special Session.”

Special sessions may last up to 10 days and may be extended up to three additional days at two-thirds of Congress members’ written request. Otherwise, Congress members can motion and vote to end a special session once all legislative business is deemed complete.

For more Congressional information and to view filed legislative bills/ resolutions, visit the Legislative Branch website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch.


Original Publish Date: 2021-07-16 00:00:00

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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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