United States & Washington State Colville Tribal Initiatives and proposed bills

At our first retreat the Council decided to set legislative priorities and to have a greater participation with both federal and state legislation.  As a sovereign nation, we are uniquely situated to use law as a public tool to promote the well-being of our lands and people. Federal, State and Private grants and contracts provide the most revenue to our tribal government receiving approximately 80 million of our approximate 160 million dollar budget.  Additionally, federal law creates a framework that governs the relationships among tribes, states, and the federal government that can have positive or unintended impacts to tribes. 

FEDERAL INITIATIVES & LEGISLATION

President Trump’s Executive Order to Promote Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and other Federal Lands to improve conditions and Wildfire Risks and the Indian Tribal Energy Development Act and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017 and the 2018 Farm Bill are all opportunities for the Colville Tribe to improve Forest Health and to enter into a long-term contract with the Forest Service on federal forested lands.   Jack Ferguson provided testimony on Forest Health and utilization of biomass at the early onset of developing the Tribal Energy Development Act.

These initiatives could help us to identify salvage and log recovery options damaged by fire, insects or disease to improve forest health and reduce forest fuels left by the catastrophic fire on the Colville Reservation which burned over 131,000 acres of commercial forest.  This fire left a lot of dead standing and downed trees that add a lot of forest fuel.  This creates the possibility of having another catastrophic wildland fire, which could destroy millions of dollars of forest restoration and tree planted areas. 

To improve forest health, we would also like to explore utilizing small diameter materials and forest residue on both tribal and Forest Service lands for biomass and biochar opportunities. 

In February Joel Boyd, Brian Gunn and myself lobbied congress on many different initiatives, including visiting with the Forest Service Under Secretary Jim Hubbard and Vicki Christiansen, Chief, Forest Service on the long-term contracting initiative.

During this week we met with Rep. Denny Heck, Tara Sweeny, Asst. Secretary – Indian Affairs, Rep. Kim Schrier, Rep. Dan Newhouse, Sen. Patty Murry, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, Sen. Maria Cantwell, and Rep. Derek Kilmer. 

SACRED SITES LEGISLATION

The CCT, together with the National Congress of American Indians, the Wilderness Society, and a couple of other tribes, have drafted legislation that will authorize Indian tribes to manage sacred sites on off-reservation federal lands.  We have approached Rep. Deb Haaland (D-AZ), about being the lead sponsor and have also alerted our own congressional delegation about the effort and to let them know that we want them to consider cosponsoring the bill once it is introduced.

INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE: 

The Restoring Accountability to the Indian Health Service Act:  The Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act (H.R. 2662/S.1250 in the 115th Congress) has been introduced in the House and Senate for the past two congresses and is expected to be reintroduced in the current Congress soon.  The CCT authored Section 109 of the bill, which would authorize an infusion of staff to direct service tribes that have used tribal resources to build their own facilties and have been historically understaffed (i.e., Colville).  This language, if enacted, would provide a mechanism for the CCT to update its staffing ratios in the Colville Service Unit.

Joint Venture Application:  The CCT will likely be applying for the Indian Health Services’ Joint Venture Facility Construction Program.  The program is highly competitive and, if the Tribes’ application is accepted, will ultimately enable the CCT to update its staffing levels for the Colville Service Unit to make them current.  The CCT applied in 2014 but its application was not accepted.  We are more hopeful this year with the prospect of the congressional delegation taking an active role and similar precedent with the Wind River Tribe of Wyoming, which was also initially rejected for the same reason but was successful on its second attempt.

Section 301 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), Public Law (P.L) 94-437 directs IHS to provide to Congress a list of the 10 highest priority inpatient and the 10 highest priority outpatient facilities construction projects. In order to comply with this directive, IHS established the Health Facilities Construction Priority System in 1991.  This archaic system no longer works and a new system needs to be established, responsive to current needs.  With this system no new projects will be added until this list is exhausted which will take many years to complete.  We discussed this with several legislators for our need to construct a new clinical facility for our Omak district.

NEW MARKETS TAX CREDITS

The CCT has in the past supported the Aiding Development of Vital Assets in Native Communities and Environments Act, or the “ADVANCE” Act, which has been sponsored by Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) and cosponsored by other members in Washington state and around the country.  The bill would deploy more New Markets Tax Credits to projects in Indian country.  Rep. Heck is expected to reintroduce the bill soon.  This will be very beneficial for identified capital projects here on our reservation.

BANKS LAKE AND PUMPED STORAGE

In the last Congress and in the current Congress, legislation has been introduced that would amend the Reclamation Act of 1939 to clarify that certain pumped storage projects utilizing multiple Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) reservoirs would proceed through BOR’s permitting process, not Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the BOR processes.  The only project the bill would apply to currently is a 500-megawatt pumped storage project on Banks Lake that Columbia Basin Hydropower has proposed. 

Last year, the CCT negotiated language that protects its interests and reaffirms the CCT’s paramount use of Lake Roosevelt for hunting, boating, and fishing.  We have been told that if the bill moves this year, the version of the bill with the CCT’s language would be what moves.

If nothing ends up passing Congress, the CCT will be fine because the Banks Lake project would have to proceed through both the FERC and BOR review processes, which is the status quo.   It would be good, however, if this bill (with our language in it) were to be become law because it provides some specific protections and reaffirms the 1940 Act and the tribes’ paramount rights on the Lake. 

TRIBAL BROADBAND

The CCT is assisting the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs as they draft a bill to remove regulatory barriers to broadband deployment in Indian country.

HEARING ON FISH PASSAGE

The CCT is working with the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife to have an oversight hearing on fish passage, which will hopefully take place later this fall.  We discussed with several legislators the Colville Tribes efforts to realize fish passage beyond Chief Joseph Dam and Grand Coulee Dam through the negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, the Columbia River Systems Operations Environmental Impact Statement and the negotiation of our Columbia River Fish Accord.

COULEE MEDICAL CENTER – RURAL OBSTETRICAL SERVICES

Obstetric services at Coulee Medical is threatened primarily to loss of tax revenue, since a lot of the lands surrounding the Grand Coulee area is federal, such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Colville Reservation.  We discussed many of the implications for the Colville Tribe and the need to find solutions.

2018 FARM BILL

The 2018 Farm Bill was signed by President Trump on December 20, 2018. These initiatives are announced in the Federal Register and responsible agencies will offer consultation to tribal governments.  Major Policy Initiatives Included in 2018 Farm Bill & of interest to the Colville Tribe include:

Sec. 2408 – Soil and Water Resources Conservation Program.  Creates a National Technical Committee that includes tribal agency representatives to advise the Natural Resources Conservation Service.  This program is of interest to address the status, condition, and trends of natural resources on our reservation and non-Federal lands for soil and water resources conservation, climate change, biofuels production, and the quality and availability of water.

Sec. 2101 – Extension and Enrollment Requirements of Conservation Reserve Program.  Authorizes a state or tribe in consultation with FSA State Technical Committee to submit a request to designate a State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement or SAFE area.  This program can purchase the development rights from farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production to improve environmental health and quality; create, restore, and enhance wildlife habitat; provides a corridor to connect habitat for wildlife and migratory species; Improves water quality; and reduce flooding.

Sec. 2107 – Conservation Reserve Easements.  Allows the Secretary to enter into one or more agreements with tribes to carry out maintenance required for a conservation easement on federal lands.   Council has met on two different occasions with USDA NRCS to discuss applying for conservation easements to protect and preserve root digging areas near our reservation.  We hope to apply for a conservation easement this fiscal year.

Sec. 6401 – Strategic Economic and Community Development.  Requires the Secretary to coordinate with tribes and other governments and provide priority, under any Rural Development Program, to Strategic Community Investment Plans that improve broadband across a multijurisdictional basin, as well as investment from strategic partners such as tribal governments.

Sec. 7120 – New Beginning for Tribal Students.  Creates a new Native American student scholarship fund for tribal students attending land-grant universities and colleges.

Sec. 8401 – authorizes $20 million in grants for cross boundary hazardous fuels reduction projects and includes tribal land within the definition of non-federal land as eligible.

Sec. 8703 – permits the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to enter into 638 self-determination demonstration project agreements with Tribes to take over the management and functions of the federal government under the Tribal Forest Protection Act (TFPA) provided that the Secretaries make any decisions required to be made by NEPA and TFPA and provided further, that the 638 contract be subject to negotiation under U.S.C. 5363(b)(2).

Sec.10113 – Makes hemp farming legal and authorizes new State and Tribal plans and regulations to develop and expand hemp production.  Does not preempt state and tribal laws on hemp production as long as they are consistent with federal law.  USDA can provide technical assistance to tribes and states in the development of plans.  Any person with a controlled substance felony conviction must wait 10 years following their date of conviction to participate.

Sec. 1014 – Interstate Commerce (Hemp).  No State (or Tribe) can prohibit the transportation or shipment through its territory of hemp or hemp products produced in accordance with an approved Tribal or State Plan.

Sec. 12303 – Creates a new Tribal Advisory Council to provide advice to the Secretary on tribal related issues and policies throughout the Department.

WASHINGTON STATE INITIATIVES AND LEGISLATION

HB 1564:  NURSING HOME ENCOUNTER RATE INCREASE

The legislation will allow eligible tribal facilities to receive a higher encounter rate or negotiate an enhanced rate for clients who are tribal members at no cost to the state.  The encounter rate/enhanced rate (encounter rate with annual COLA increase and will be 100% federally matched.  Janet Nicholson lobbied support from Washington State tribal leaders at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and she and Andy Joseph both lobbied this bill at the Washington State legislature.

SB 5415:  INDIAN HEALTH IMPROVEMENT REINVESTMENT ACT

This proposal seeks to maximize to 100% the Federal Matching Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for Medicaid services received by American Indians/Alaska Natives enrolled in Medicaid’s Fee for Service (FFS) program and who are being served by Tribal Clinics.  Andy Joseph and Norma Sanchez testified/lobbied this bill at the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care Committee Hearing.

CAPITAL BUDGET:  KELLER TREATMENT CENTER FUNDING

The House of Representatives have included $4,523,000 in their budget request.  This was not included in the Senate budget request and the next step will be to lobby for inclusion in the final capital budget.  Jack Ferguson and Michael Moran lobbied this effort and Joel Kretz agreed to sponsor the budget request. 

SB 5511:  HOUSE CAPITAL BUDEGET & HB 1498:  SENATE WAYS AND MEANS

This bill expands affordable, resilient broadband service to enable economic development, public safety, health care, and education in Washington’s communities.  By Request:  Office of the Governor.  The bill included a $9 million appropriation in the Capital budget for expanded broadband services.  This will be the “Statewide Broadband Fund” (SBO) under the Public Works Board in the Commerce Department.  Susie Allen provided testimony for this bill.  Additionally, Susie and Rodney Cawston were interviewed by the Seattle Times of the broadband needs on the Colville Reservation.

SB 5214:  TRANSPORTATION APPROPRIATIONS

Several Council members travelled to Olympia to request the following projects to be included in this legislation and Margie Hutchinson testified before the committee:

74 Nespelem School Loop Road & Columbia River Road Improvements 12 FWA $7,300,000

75 Gifford Ferry Road Chip Seal 7 FWA $2,000,000

76 Inchelium Vicinity Road Improvements 7 FWA $2,500,000

77 Kartar Valley Road Improvements 12 FWA $5,000,000

SB 5079:  ENACTING THE NATIVE AMERICAN VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF WASHINGTON-PASSED

Relating to:  Ballot Drop Locations, Nontraditional Residential Addresses, Use of Tribal Identification, Voter Registration and Enforcement, both Norma Sanchez and Margie Hutchinson both testified on this bill.

SB 5779:  CONCERNING BALLOT DROP BOX

At the request of a federally recognized tribe with a reservation in the county, the county auditor must establish at least one ballot drop box on the Indian Reservation on a site selected by the tribe.

HB 1579:  SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALE TASK FORCE RELATED TO INCREASING CHINOOK ABUNDANCE

Addresses the need to increase the amount of chinook salmon in the state's waters by implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force, including fish passage beyond Chief Joseph Dam.  Karen Condon and Casey Baldwin both served on this task force.  Rodney Cawston and Darnell Sam provided testimony.

GOVERNOR INSLEE BUDGET PROPOSAL

$524,000 in the operating budget to examine issues related to increasing the chinook population by reestablishing salmon runs above Chief Joseph Dam in both Puget Sound and the Columbia River.  Rodney Cawston met with Governor Inslee on several occasions to discuss fish passage, including the Washington State Centennial.

HB 1713:  IMPROVING LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPONSE TO MISSING AND MURDERED NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN

This bill creates two missing and murdered Native American Women liaison positions, within the Washington State Patrol, to work to build relationships to increase trust between governmental organizations and native communities.  Joel Boyd and Rodney Cawston testified for this bill.

HB 2097:  ADDRESSING STATEWIDE WOLF RECOVERY

Review the listing status of the gray wolf; examine the relationship between wolf recovery in the Eastern Washington region and its role in wolf colonization in the rest of the state.  Direct DFW to maintain sufficient staff resources in Ferry and Stevens counties for ongoing response to conflicts between gray wolves and livestock, and for continued implementation of proactive nonlethal deterrents.  DFW to develop and implement conflict mitigation guidelines for each wolf recovery region considering the provisions of the 2011 plan.  The Colville Confederated Tribes provided written submission to support this bill.

SB 5572:  AUTHORIZING MODERNIZATION GRANTS FOR SMALL SCHOOL DISTRICTS

This bill addresses eligibility, prioritization, disbursement, and reporting requirements for school construction assistance program modernization grants for small school districts.  Inchelium School would like to apply for construction assistance to update their school facilities.  This issue was brought to the attention of Joel Boyd and Rodney Cawston during a meeting at Inchelium School.  The Tribe through our lobbyist Michael Moran have tracked and supported this bill.

HB 1880:  PROBLEM GAMBLING TASK FORCE AND HB 1975:  SPORTS WAGERING COMPACTS

HB 1880 creates a legislative task force on problem gambling to see whether current state policies and resources meet current and future demand for services.  HB 1975 Authorizing sports wagering subject to the terms of tribal-state gaming compacts.  Richard Swan is our tribal delegate to the Washington State Gaming Commission.  Richard Moses, Jack Ferguson and Richard Swan attended the last gaming meeting to support these initiatives.

TRANSPORTATION BUDGET – FISH BARRIER REMOVAL

The appropriation in this section is provided solely for the list of projects identified in LEAP transportation document No. 2019-Fish development March 25, 2019.24.  This includes Johnson Creek at Okanogan for $1,294,908 for 101 miles and Johnson Creek at Okanogan for .34 miles for $480,670 for Chinook salmon, steelhead, and rainbow trout.  This bill was supported primarily by Casey Baldwin, CCT Senior Research Scientist and Rodney Cawston during a work session.

LUCY COVINGTON ARCHIVE AT EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

Governor’s Inslee submitted a request for $250,000 and Eastern Washington University submitted a request for $250,000 to develop a Lucy Covington Archive at EWU.  Joel Boyd and Mel Tonasket testified alongside representatives from Eastern Washington University during a work session on a funding request for a Lucy Covington Center Archive in the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee.

MCCLEARY DECISION IMPACTS TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Washington Legislature handed its school districts a one-time $2 billion windfall created by the landmark McCleary court decision and used this funding to increase teacher salaries.  To offset the increase in statewide property-tax rate, lawmakers complied with a core McCleary requirement that limited the amount districts can raise through local levies and limits levy rates to $1.50 per thousand of assessed valuation. Districts with a high property value, are able to levy more per student, however this levy cap significantly reduces needed levy revenue in rural Washington State.  Schools on or near the Colville reservation are required to absorb the following budget impacts:  Wilbur School district -$540,684; Keller School District -$52,227; Grand Coulee Dam School District - $827,378; Inchelium School District - $157,748; Nespelem School District - $144,915; Brewster School District - $670,269; Republic School District - $181,445; Okanogan School District - $541,173; Bridgeport School District - $234,227; Omak School District - $868,572. 

OSPI has requested changes the levy lid from the lesser of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per pupil to:

  • the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per pupil for school districts with fewer than 40,000 FTE students; and
  • the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $3,000 per pupil for school districts with 40,000 FTE students or more;

This will allow school districts to run levies at $2.50 vs $1.50 per thousand for FY 2019.  Rodney Cawston has supported this issue with the Office of the Superintendent and with Senate Democrats.

Rodney Cawston and Janet Nicholson both met with Senate Democrats to discuss most of these bills and to answer any questions.  Brian Gunn our Federal Lobbyist and Michael Moran our State Lobbyist have both done extensive work tracking these bills, initiatives, attending committee hearings and keeping our Council informed through providing legislative reports and updates.  Also, Neeka Somday and Alice Koskela meet weekly with both of them and relay this information to our Council.  We have had to juggle our schedules and work with each other to make sure that we provided comment when necessary. 

In closing, I am very proud of our Council for taking on so many initiatives.  We won’t receive all of the requests that we have made, but I think that it speaks loudly that both federal and state legislators were willing to sponsor our bills and budget provisos.  I believe in continuous improvement and I think that we are on the right path of asserting the Colville Tribes interests and rights and looking at ways to find new revenue streams for our people and tribal government.

Rodney Cawston, Chairman

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