Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator John Barrasso
Posted on 2015-01-28
BARRASSO (for himself, Mr. Tester, and Ms. Murkowski):
S. 286. A bill to amend the Indian Self-Determination and Education
Assistance Act to provide further self-governance by Indian tribes, and
for other purposes; to the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation that would further advance the goals of Indian self-governance and self-determination. The legislation is entitled, the Department of the Interior Self-Governance Act of 2015. I thank my colleagues who have joined me as original cosponsors of this legislation, including Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Senator Tester and Senator Murkowski.
One of the cornerstones of Federal Indian policy is the concept of tribal self-determination and self-governance. In 1975, Congress passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. The Act, Public Law No. 93-638 authorizes Indian tribes to carry out certain Federal Indian programs, activities, and functions within the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Health and Human Services.
Self-governance is both a policy and procedure whereby, pursuant to the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, Indian tribes administer Federal programs for Indians. Tribal administration of these programs promotes local control and decision-making for these important programs that affect the local tribal community.
Tribal administration through these processes also serves to reduce Federal bureaucracy. This legislation promotes accountability by maintaining requirements that Indian tribes must demonstrate a higher level of responsible governance and administration. Good governance is vital for continuing this policy.
The act gives authority to the Secretaries of the Interior and Health and Human Services to enter into 638 contracts and self-governance compacts with Indian tribes. Each 638 contact or self-governance compact identifies functions and activities to be carried out by the tribe, as well as any administrative, reporting, or other requirements that must be followed.
Despite the increased flexibility in the tribal self-governance program, Indian tribes have stated to Congress that the Department of the Interior has, for many years, resisted the efforts by tribes to carry out Interior programs. Without additional reforms, the success of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act cannot reach its full potential.
The bill intends to clarify and expand the provisions of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. This legislation will give tribes a better opportunity to advance the policy of tribal self- governance by authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to select up to 50 new Indian tribes to participate in the tribal self-governance program. In addition, the bill clarifies that provisions of water settlements and their authorizing legislation will not be affected by the self-governance amendments. Furthermore, nothing in this will expand or limit programs eligible for self-governance compacts beyond those already authorized under current law.
This bipartisan bill is supported by Indian tribes across the country. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
[[Page S592]] ______ By Mr. DURBIN (for himself, Mrs. Feinstein, Mrs. Gillibrand, and Mr. Blumenthal): S. 287. A bill to establish the Food Safety Administration to protect the public health by preventing foodborne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to foodborne illness, and improving security of food from international contamination, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.