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Principal Chief BigHorse vetoes six legislative bills

By

Benny Polacca

As of April 30, Osage Nation Principal Chief Scott BigHorse vetoed six pieces of legislation passed by the Third Osage Nation Congress before the legislative body adjourned the 2014 Hun-Kah Session on April 28.

Those six vetoed bills included executive messages by BigHorse, stating reasons he would not sign the bills into law. Those bills are:

– BANISHMENT BILL: Chief BigHorse vetoed ONCA 14-14 (sponsored by Congressional Speaker Raymond Red Corn and passed by Congress on April 23), which sought mandatory banishment of at least five years as punishment toward convicted drug dealers in ON Trial Court. The bill targets those convicted of dealing dangerous drugs such as methamphetamine on Osage Nation lands including the three Indian villages.

In his written veto message, Chief BigHorse stated reasons he would not sign ONCA 14-14 including: “this bill has unintended, or at least unforeseen, consequences in its application. First of all, under federal law, since Indian tribes only have criminal jurisdiction over Indians, this amendment has absolutely NO effect on the activities of non-Indians, who are still free to commit Dangerous Drug offenses without fear of tribal prosecution, while our Osage people and other Native Americans will be banished from all Osage tribal lands for a minimum of five years. While tribes have inherent authority to banish any person from their lands under a civil code, adding a mandatory banishment provision to the criminal code only affects our own people.”

BigHorse added: “This amendment takes away judicial discretion because it mandates a minimum five-year banishment and thus allows no exceptions or conditions. Since this amendment only applies to Osages and Native Americans, and not to non-Indians, the result is that a judge cannot take into account any special circumstances for ordering a lesser banishment period, such as for a first offense by a young person who might inadvertently or unknowingly possess a parent’s prescription painkiller or marihuana [sic].”

BigHorse also noted that if a drug dealer’s case is before a tribal judge, “the judge cannot issue an order to allow an offender to attend the funeral of a family member or to participate in the Inlonska (dances) or other Osage cultural event or family event or to vote on site. Why? Because banishment means banishment from all tribal trust and restricted land, including the Villages, the tribal campus, the casinos, the hotels, our chapels, our cemeteries, and all restricted homesteads and properties.”

– WORKFORCE FAIRNESS ACT: A new law (ONCA 14-13, Red Corn, passed by Congress on April 23) to authorize ON government employees to bring wrongful termination claims against the Nation for limited damages and to authorize a waiver of sovereign immunity.

BigHorse said in his veto message: “While I agree in principle with the ability of employees who are wrongfully terminated to have a judicial forum for their grievances, the Nation already has procedures in place to ensure this. The Osage Nation Court also has rules in place governing wrongful termination and which require all other procedures to be exhausted before filing suit. This Act does not establish that requirement for exhaustion and as such, conflicts with and makes all existing laws and procedures moot.”

– SURPLUS PROPERTY: A new law (ONCA 13-37, Congresswoman Shannon Edwards, passed by Congress on April 23) establishes directives for disposal of ON government surplus property. If signed into law, ONCA 13-37 would have charged the ON Accounting Department with creating rules for the Nation’s government entities to advertise and dispose of surplus property.

Chief BigHorse vetoed this bill stating the proposed law “is unnecessary because the existing system for disposal of surplus property is fair and equitable across all properties. It is also problematic because it does not address Accounting Department concerns over how this bill would be implemented, namely the changes to the current system, the personnel burden, the lack of space, and cost of implementation. Increasing and developing new procedures for just the tribal programs will require additional personnel to oversee, track and manage.”

– UNCLAIMED PROPERTY ACT: A new law (ONCA 13-47, Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn, passed by Congress on April 23) to establish an unclaimed property act for the Nation. If passed, this law would establish presumptions for unclaimed property that is then subject to disposal or becoming property of the Nation.

“The bill as written would be fine for only Osage Nation unclaimed property that resides in the Treasury or in Departments and programs. But it goes beyond these. It also includes all property abandoned in its commissions, enterprises, boards, or businesses. This is problematic because at least for the gaming properties, federal and tribal regulations and laws are already in place for handling of property that is abandoned or forfeited or unclaimed … This bill could be easily amended to either be consistent with other existing laws and regulations, or to except out gaming or other entities or programs subject to federal law.”

– PENALTIES FOR NOT COMPLYING WITH REQUESTS FROM THE OFFICE OF FISCAL PERFORMANCE AND REVIEW: A new law (ONCA 14-30, Congressman William “Kugee” Supernaw, passed by Congress on April 23) to establish penalties for violation of the OFPR which conducts audits of the Nation’s government entities that are reported to the ON Congress. If passed, this law would’ve penalized any person who fails to comply or a person who directs another to not comply with a request for production of documents or a request for access to records or property by the (OFPR) in the administration of its duties as authorized by Osage law.

Chief BigHorse wrote: “The bill does not allow for exceptions. I have no issue with giving OFPR access to tribal documents and records so that OFPR can perform compliance or other authorized audits on operations. However, if OFPR is requesting private confidential records of clients or patients or private Osage citizens or former employees or applicants that contain confidential or HIPAA information (health-related information protected by federal law), or that contain their CDIB records or membership records, I feel compelled to protect the privacy interests of constituents who may have federal protections.”

– PENALTIES FOR UNAUTHORIZED SPENDING OF OSAGE GOVERNMENT MONEY: ONCA 14-29 (Supernaw, passed by Congress on April 24) sought to amend an Osage law that states no money shall be drawn from the ON Treasury except by appropriation in accordance with Osage law and the 2006 constitution. This amendment called for penalties to be placed against those convicted of unauthorized spending of government money, which included a $1,000 to $5,000 fine, a one-year jail term, or both – plus that person is also subject to a civil fine of not more than $5,000.

Chief BigHorse vetoed this bill April 30 and wrote in his veto message:

“Since Indian tribes only have criminal jurisdiction over Indians, a violation by a non-Indian only subjects them to a civil fine. Refusal by an Osage or other Indian subjects them to jail, plus a criminal fine, plus a civil fine. This is discriminatory and unfair. It may also violate the Equal Protection clause of our Osage Constitution … ‘The Osage Nation government in exercising sovereign powers shall not: ‘… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws …’ This bill should be amended to apply civil fines only, so that it punishes all violators equally.” 


Original Publish Date: 2014-05-12 00:00:00

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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