February 3, 2015

Barrasso, Tester Introduce Bipartisan Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act of 2015

  WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jon Tester (D-MT), Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, recently introduced the bipartisan Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act of 2015 (S. 286). The bill amends the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act and streamlines the self-governance process, making it easier and more efficient for tribes to carry out Federal programs available to them.
“Self-determination and self-governance helps promote local tribal decision-making for important programs that affect their communities,” said Chairman Barrasso.  “For years, tribes have faced bureaucratic roadblocks when trying to implement these programs.  By making key improvements to the way self-governance works in the Department of the Interior, this bill gives tribes the tools they need to tailor Federal programs to the needs of their local communities.”
“Time and again we’ve seen that tribal leaders and councils who are elected to serve their communities are best equipped to help folks on the ground.  This bill gives tribal governments the flexibility they need for greater self-governance so they can address the unique needs of their tribes. Indian Country deserves our full support for this bill,” Vice Chairman Jon Tester said.
Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) are co-sponsors of the Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act of 2015.
Since the enactment of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA), Indian tribes have the opportunity to exercise self-determination by asserting more local control over Federal Indian programs. For several years, tribes have complained the DOI has created processes and procedures intended to discourage or impede tribal administration of DOI programs.
The Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act of 2015 (S. 286) serves to reduce Federal bureaucracy and promotes accountability by maintaining requirements that Indian tribes must demonstrate a higher level of responsible governance and administration. The bill has been supported by tribes across the country and the Administration.
S. 286 specifically:
Allows tribes greater access to tailor, plan, conduct, consolidate, and administer Indian programs for their communities.
Clarifies tribal participation in tribal organizations that administer the programs.
Requires certain provisions such as auditing principles to be included in compacts.
Clarifies requirements for Secretarial reassumption of programs, final offers in negotiating compacts, and tribal responsibilities in carrying out construction programs.
Sets forth requirements for participating in tribal negotiated rule-making.
Allows tribes to reallocate funds during the fiscal year and carry over unexpended funds into the next fiscal year.
Clarifies that provisions of water settlements and their authorizing legislation are not affected by the self-governance amendments.
Clarifies that nothing in the bill will expand or limit programs eligible for tribal administration beyond those already authorized to be included by current law.