ON Congress passes updated gaming plan and bill regarding potential land purchase

On Day Two of the Osage Nation Congressional Special Session, the following legislative items received approval from the Fourth ON Congress and were signed by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear on the same day:

•           ONCA 16-19: A budget modification (sponsored by Congressman Otto Hamilton) for the Child, Family and Senior Community Services Division. The bill adjusts the division budget to allow for additional staff for the Food Distribution program.

•           ONCA 16-24: A bill (sponsored by William “Kugee” Supernaw) that authorizes and appropriates “a sum of money in the amount and for the purchase” stated in sealed confidential documents pertaining to the potential land purchase being discussed in the Congress. Supernaw said the bill is “putting into motion the process required to make an offer on even more property for the Osage Nation.”

The bill passed 10-1 with Congresswoman Shannon Edwards casting the lone “no” vote and one absence from Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead.

Congressman RJ Walker said he spoke with Buffalohead the day before and she asked that he convey the message she would’ve voted “yes” for the bill. While maintaining confidentiality of the issue, Walker noted the sealed document “may or may not be what we are going to do with this opportunity” pending further business regarding the land purchase process.

Edwards said she supports the Nation purchasing land, noting she’s sponsored bills in the past to purchase land throughout the former reservation. Before voting “no”, Edwards said: “At a different price and under different circumstances, I could support an offer to purchase this land, however I cannot vote to spend the people’s funds in the amount authorized today for this land without an appraisal, which I asked for but did not receive, or other evidence of financial planning and documentation.”

Congressman John Maker said the decision is “practical” for him as well as “historic.” Maker recalled speaking with Osage elders about the issue 10 years ago. One elder said a dream of his was to “get back some of our lands that had been lost” once other basic needs were taken care of. Maker said 90 percent of people he’s recently spoken with are also in favor of the land purchase efforts.

Congressional Speaker Maria Whitehorn said three long executive session meetings were held to discuss the land purchase issue, which included receiving financial documents and other information. “We negotiated, we did some heavy lifting and we’ve worked hard on this,” she said before encouraging the Congress to vote “yes.”

•           ONCR 16-08: A resolution (Supernaw) “declaring Congressional consent and approval of the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise Board’s Annual Plan of Operations for fiscal year 2016. “The plan contains plans and budgets for the Nation’s seven-casino enterprise operations and is considered confidential.

During session, Edwards said the resolution also approves an additional $20 million in gaming distribution to the Nation for this fiscal year, which will be deposited into the Treasury. As a result of the additional tribal money approval, the Congress also voted to amend its FY 2016 projected revenue figure to reflect the additional $20 million, so that projected revenue figure now stands at $66.3 million with other revenue from state/ federal grants, program revenue and accrued interest all included.

The Congress will next meet for Day Three of the 10th special session on Friday Jan. 22 at 10 a.m.