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Legislation to issue 5% COLA to ON merited employees postponed

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear called the 8th Osage Nation Congress into a special session for 10 a.m., Oct. 31. On the agenda is tribal appropriations

During the 2023 Tzi-Sho Session, the Osage Nation Congress postponed action on a resolution approving a 5% cost-of-living-adjustment for merited government employees pending receipt of financial data to support the proposed wage increase.

As the 24-day session neared its second half, the Congressional Appropriations Committee noted they still needed updated information amid an absence by Acting Treasurer Tyler McIntosh at the time due to family emergency reasons. The COLA resolution, ONCR 23-19 sponsored by Congresswoman Jodie Revard, ultimately received a motion to postpone by the committee on Sept. 20.

Congressional Speaker Alice Goodfox told the committee that given the Treasurer situation, Congress can revisit the COLA resolution in a special session following the Tzi-Sho Session. Goodfox also acknowledged another salary-related bill, ONCA 23-95 sponsored by Congressman Eli Potts, that sought to raise the minimum wage for ON government employees to $15.75 per hour starting with the 2024 fiscal year now in progress.

ONCA 23-95 also received a motion to postpone on Sept. 20 following discussion.

During the meeting, the members heard a calculated cost of the wage increase by Congressional Budget Analyst Jordan Frasier, but he noted the calculation is based on information that is two years old.

“I think that the committee needs to decide whether or not they’re comfortable with that – and I really thought a lot about this in the last 24 hours – If we don’t feel like we don’t have good numbers that are solid and we feel like we’re voting a little bit in the dark by not having those numbers, I was going to suggest that we vote in committee, pass everything (FY 24 budget legislation) out the way it is, understanding that the Treasurer has some things going on and he is out of pocket, and coming back to address (the wages legislation) in a special session in the near future like maybe a month from now,” Goodfox told the committee.

Amid the information requests and McIntosh’s absence, Congress was on a deadline to approve the FY 2024 government budgets by Sept. 30 in time for the new fiscal year starting the next day.

Revard, who is Appropriations Committee chair, said she does not have a problem with the suggestion to revisit the legislation and meet the recently hired Human Resources Director Julio Nuñez “and let’s look at this and do it in a smart manner … with regards to these two bills.”

Potts also agreed he was fine with ONCA 23-95 being held for a special session for further consideration. “It seems ludicrous to plan a special session while we’re in (a regular) session, but I certainly understand the circumstances, so I’m happy to address (the bills) at the same time,” Potts said.

Goodfox said, “the reality is we don’t have everything we need, and we are getting closer to the day that we need to have everything passed out … And I think rushing things through and not knowing when it comes to numbers is dangerous and we shouldn’t do that.”

Congressional Second Speaker Pam Shaw acknowledged the Treasurer situation and added “It seems to me that we need to get to a point where if the Treasurer is not available, then the next-in-line should be able to fill that gap and provide the information for us, but I understand we’re not there, so I will be more than happy to go along with what the committee wishes.”

Revard added, “we have a Treasury Department, we have a (Human Resources Department) and I feel like I wish that we didn’t have to depend on one person so that we could address these two bills as such, but that’s not in our purview, that’s under the Executive Branch in the way they handle their business, but when we do go into special session, I would like all the players at the table so we can make good decisions because it affects our employees and if you remember, it’s about our inflation.”

Nuñez said he is supportive of the COLA “and the adjustments that we’re working through, I do agree from my perspective as the new HR director I’d like to give a lot more input and ideas of what we’re moving toward and to assist the Nation.”

Harrison Perry, recently hired as the Nation’s accounting controller, attended the meeting virtually and noted he “hasn’t been involved in the budgetary side yet and next year that will be the next step to get me more involved in that process … I’ve been more focused on the federal (accounting) side and audit readiness in getting us where we need to be … Once we’re through that, the next step is to get more involved on the budgetary side.”

Goodfox motioned to postpone ONCR 23-19, which received a unanimous vote. Potts also asked for a motion to postpone ONCA 23-95 and both motions passed. As of Oct. 6, neither an executive proclamation nor a legislative proclamation has been issued to call for the next special session. For more Congressional information on sessions, and committees and to view filed legislative bills/ resolutions, visit the Legislative Branch website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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