In their first special session as legislators, the Third ON Congress passed five legislative bills and elected Raymond Red Corn as Congressional Speaker on July 20.
The 12 Congressional members also elected Daniel Boone as Second Speaker as well as chairs for the Congressional standing and select committees during the single-day special session. Congress voted to fast track the five legislative bills through the legislative process for final votes.
Red Corn, who was Second Speaker while on the Second ON Congress, called the session to order with the knock of the gavel. He is the fourth Speaker to preside over the legislative sessions since the 2006-reformed government launched.
In his executive message at the session’s start, Principal Chief John Red Eagle acknowledged the incoming Congress members and said he would make a commitment to work with whichever leader is elected. “We all serve one people, the Osage people,” Red Eagle said. He added he would need the Congress members’ help in areas they are educated in.
Red Corn expressed appreciation for Chief Red Eagle’s remarks and added: “I feel it’s time for cooperation.”
In the elections for Speaker, Congress members nominated Red Corn and Congresswoman Alice Goodfox for the position.
Congress members voted by raising their hands for each of the nominees with Red Corn earning seven votes and Goodfox five. Congress members voting for Red Corn were RJ Walker, Archie Mason, John Maker, John Jech, John Free, Boone and Red Corn himself. Goodfox received votes from Maria Whitehorn, Geoffrey Standing Bear, Shannon Edwards, William “Kugee” Supernaw and Goodfox herself.
For the Second Speaker position, Congress members nominated Boone, John Free and Archie Mason. Mason asked to be withdrawn. Boone won the Second Speaker spot with 11 votes and Free received one vote from Mason.
“Thank you, Archie,” Free said as the Congressional Chambers filled with laughter.
Bill ONCA 12-69 restricts the eligibility requirement for the 2012 Economic Development Grant program to enrolled Osage citizens. It passed with an 11-1 vote.
The grant program awards up to $25,000 to applicants who are seeking to provide economic development opportunities within the Nation’s physical boundaries. The grant has already been advertised without requiring the applicants to be Osage. Red Corn, who sponsored the bill, filed the amendment to add the Osage requirement. The grant application deadline is July 29.
Edwards questioned whether the economic grant program could be made available to applicants outside the Nation’s boundaries where it could hire Osages not living in Osage County, such as Tulsa. Red Corn said he wasn’t in favor of the suggestion adding the grant program is a starter and preferred to see how the program runs in the first year with the restriction to Osage Nation projects.
ONCA 12-69 passed with 11 “yes” votes and one “no” vote from Edwards.
The Congress also approved ONCA 12-71 to add about $1 million to the newly created Tribal Development and Land Acquisition Department. The department has a goal of buying back land within Osage County. The bill passed unanimously with 11 “yes” votes and one “no” vote by Jech.
ONCA 12-72 is an updated budget for the Nation’s Farmer’s Market program. The program received an updated federal grant amount and needed Congressional approval. The program will receive a total of $31,325 in the 2012 fiscal year and requires a tribal contribution of $2,282. It passed 12-0.
ONCA 12-73 is a supplemental budget appropriation for the Nation’s Treatment to Street Crime (TASC) program for the remainder of FY 2012. The amended budget shows an increase in tribal funds appropriated from nearly $179,000 (originally appropriated last fall) to $224,608, according to the bill. It passed 12-0.
ONCA 12-74 is an appropriation for the Communities of Excellence program. The program focuses on smoking cessation. The Nation received funding for the program’s 2013 fiscal year to include $50,000 in federal funding and requires about $6,700 in matching funds from the Nation and $150,000 from the state of Oklahoma.
The bill passed with an 11-1 vote. Edwards cast the lone “no” vote because she took issue with the intent of the federal funding for a staff position she did not believe had enough work duties. “Our federal government has the responsibility to spend our tax money responsibly,” she said.
The session adjourned around 5 p.m. Several Congress members said another special session could be held Aug. 16, but no proclamation has been issued. The first regular session for the Third ON Congress is the Tzi-Zho Session and begins Sept. 4.