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Osage Congress passes four items in February special session

Passing the bills is part of Congressional action needed to repurpose building project funds previously appropriated, which would go toward planning for a new building to house the Wahzhazhe Cultural Center and Language Department entities.

The Eighth Osage Nation Congress voted on four legislative items during the 11th Special Session on Feb. 27, including two appropriation-related bills and two items pertaining to travel and allowance for the Gaming Enterprise Board.

Two bills repealing money that was previously appropriated by Congress were considered and passed in the special session. Passing the bills is part of Congressional action needed to repurpose building project funds previously appropriated, which would go toward planning for a new building to house the Wahzhazhe Cultural Center and Language Department entities.

Both entities were housed in an aging Main Street building (known as the Heritage Center) in Pawhuska, but departmental employees are now in temporary office workspaces after the building sustained damage due to the frigid winter temperatures that struck Oklahoma in January.

Legislation receiving unanimous passing votes during the special session are:

– ONCA 24-29 (sponsored by Congressman Joe Tillman) is “An Act to repeal ONCA 23-65 and return two $200,000 to the General Fund originally appropriated for a fire suppression system at the Cultural Center.”

– ONCA 24-30 (sponsored by Congresswoman Brandy Lemon) is “An Act to repeal ONCA 22-112 and return $500,000 to the Property Income Account originally appropriated for improvements to the Osage Nation Legislative Branch Office Building.”

Two legislative items related to the travel and allowance for the Nation’s Gaming Enterprise Board were also considered and passed.

– ONCA 24-31 (sponsored by Second Speaker Pam Shaw) is “An Act to amend ONCA 23-85 to provide a supplemental appropriation to the Executive Branch in the amount of $174,675 for Gaming Enterprise Board.”

Shaw said the bill adds funding to the board’s budget, including conferences/ special events/ meetings, increase in professional fees, as well as travel for board member expense reimbursement for the remainder of the current 2024 fiscal year. The bill passed 11-1 with a “no” vote from Congressman Eli Potts.

– ONCR 24-12 (Shaw) is “A Resolution to revise the compensation and reimbursement allowance for the Boards and Commissions of the Osage Nation for fiscal years 2023 and 2024.”

Potts said he voted against ONCA 24-31 and ONCR 24-12 because he believes the topic “isn’t special session material … This is a regular session bill for me and a regular session problem that we need to be addressing. It’s so regular that we set this compensation by resolution every two years … and even more so than that, it’s in law that we shall do this every two years, specifically stating in the odd years. 2024 is an even year. I’ve got a problem with how we are addressing this in the middle of a fiscal year.”

Potts added the board exceeded its budget in a past year and said he told the gaming board he’d sponsor a similar bill “but I’m not going to do it in a special session.” He also noted in past years that travel was not a problem with board members when they traveled at their own expense and noted the Congressional questionnaire given to all board/ commission appointees has a question asking whether members would serve on a board without compensation and the current board members all selected “yes.”

The discussion on board member compensation and whether to increase it for the gaming board has been a topic at past board and Congressional meetings especially considering two current board members live out of state and travel at least once monthly to Tulsa for the regular meetings. Board Chair Claudette Carnett and Vice Chair Bruce Pollock both live in separate regions of Missouri and each travels more than 200 miles one-way to attend the meetings.

Congresswoman Jodie Revard recalled when the gaming board members previously reached out to ask Congress to consider the budget increase and said she would be voting “yes” for the legislation. “I feel like I don’t want to participate in limiting those that may have a different skill level that live outside of our jurisdiction that have the ability to travel,” she said.

Speaker Alice Goodfox said the discussions on boards could continue in the 2024 Hun-Kah session, as well as possible amendments to the laws regarding them, which begins its 24-day run starting March 25.

“Everyone has one month to start looking at what they may want to address before we enter into Hun-Kah Session and I suggest that we start looking now,” Goodfox said.

The vote on ONCR 24-12 repeated as the prior bill with an 11-1 vote. Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed all legislation following the one-day special session.

For more ON Congressional information on sessions, committees and to view filed legislative documents, 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.

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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