Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act & WMAT Water Rights Settlement (House-Passed)
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by Causes | 11.11.18
This legislation was passed by the House as S. 140 on a party-line 239-173 vote in January 2018, which was subsequently amended by the Senate to serve as the legislative vehicle for the Coast Guard reauthorization.
What is it?
This bill would clarify that the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) is authorized to use funds from the $79 million WMAT settlement fund to plan, design, and build a rural water system. The bill was amended to include the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which would codify the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) pre-2004 policy that specified any enterprise or institution owned and operated by an Indian tribe on tribal land isn’t considered an “employer” and is exempt from the National Labor Relations Act. Since then, NLRB determines its jurisdiction over tribal enterprises on a case-by-case basis, and asserts that jurisdiction unless the enterprise carries out traditional or governmental functions.
Further, the bill was amended to clarify that the 99-year leasing authority granted to the Santa Clara and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblos also extends to leasing their restricted fee lands (which are currently limited to 10 year leases with a single, 25-year renewal).
Argument In Favor
This bill would empower the White Mountain Apache Tribe to build a rural water system, improve the Santa Clara Pueblo’s ability to lease its lands, and ensure that Indian tribes have the authority to regulate businesses on tribal lands without federal interference.
While the portions of this bill related to the Santa Clara Pueblo’s leasing authority and the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s use of water settlement funds are uncontroversial, the provisions undoing the NLRB’s authority to regulate tribal businesses goes too far.
Businesses on tribal lands; the White Mountain Apache Tribe; the Santa Clara and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblos; and the NLRB.
The CBO estimates that the WMAT settlement portion of this bill would have no effect on the federal budget. Further, it estimates that the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act would have no effect on the federal budget.
In-Depth: The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act passed the Education and Workforce Committee on a party-line, 22-16 vote and has the support of 32 cosponsors — including 28 Republicans and four Democrats. Sponsoring Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) said:
“We are leading the way to protect the sovereignty of Native American tribal governments. This bill fights for the inherent right to self-government, free from Washington’s interference, just like local governments and states. Tribes should should be able to develop their own policies that promote jobs, the freedom of work, and economic opportunity. With tribal consensus in favor of this bill, I am confident this is right for our nation because it will help all Americans in the workforce.”
Some House Democrats have expressed opposition to this bill, writing in its committee report:
“This bill cloaks an anti-union agenda in the garb of tribal sovereignty. It is another attempt by Committee Republicans to dismantle labor unions and strip workers of their ability to bargain for better pay and working conditions. We urge the full House of Representatives to reject this legislation.”
The WMAT settlement bill unanimously passed both the full Senate and the House Natural Resources Committee, and was introduced by Arizona’s Republican Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain.
The Santa Clara pueblo leasing bill unanimously passed both the full Senate and the House Natural Resources Committee, and was introduced by New Mexico’s Democratic Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.
- Cosponsoring Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Press Release (WMAT Settlement)
- House Education & Workforce Committee Press Release (Tribal Labor Sovereignty)
- Education & Workforce Committee Report (Tribal Labor Sovereignty)
- Natural Resources Committee Report (Santa Clara Pueblo)
- CBO Cost Estimate (WMAT Settlement)
- CBO Cost Estimate (Tribal Labor Sovereignty)
Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Chris English / Creative Commons)
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