WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) delivered the following address at the National Indian Gaming Association’s 2016 Winter Legislative Summit.
Chairman Barrasso’s remarks focused on the work the committee has done so far, the bills that remain to be passed, and some of what the committee hopes to accomplish in 2016.
Senator Barrasso’s Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:
“Good Morning. I want to thank the National Indian Gaming Association for inviting me to address you all here at your annual Winter Legislative Summit.
“I want to say a special thank you to Chairman Stevens for extending the invitation and for all your work for Indian people.
“It has been my honor to serve as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs since the beginning of this Congress.
“It has been a busy year since I last addressed your summit.
“The Senate passed several of our Indian bills last year, including the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments, and the Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act.
“These bills will help get Washington out of the way, and help Indian communities to thrive.
“I expect both of these pieces of legislation to pass the House of Representatives and be signed into law this year.
“We were also able to boost badly needed funds for tribal road safety projects as part of the new highway law.
“We passed a total of 29 bills out of committee. So far, five have been signed into law by the president.
“As part of the committee’s oversight duties, we held hearings on topics like economic development, Native youth suicides, juvenile justice, addiction, Indian schools, victim services, and housing.
“We also held hearings holding the EPA accountable for the Gold King Mine disaster.
“The National Indian Gaming Commission serves an important role with tribes across the country, and it needs to be appropriately staffed to be effective.
“With more than 450 Indian gaming facilities in 28 states, and more than $29 billion dollars in gaming revenue, this industry needs effective regulation.
“Last summer, I told you that Senator McCain and I had urged the Secretary of the Interior to fill the two vacant commissioner slots.
“I was pleased that the secretary finally appointed one commissioner, Sequoyah Simermeyer, to one of those posts.
“Sequoyah is a former staffer here at the committee, and I know he will do well at the National Indian Gaming Commission.
“Finally, on this point I would like to thank the National Indian Gaming Association for joining me on this matter and its role in the passage of an NCAI resolution calling on the secretary to fill the vacant commissioner seats.
“The National Indian Gaming Association has always played a key role in fostering conversations about tough issues in tribal gaming.
“We must ensure that the integrity of Indian gaming remains strong for future generations.
“My committee will continue to conduct oversight as new issues arise in tribal gaming, and we will make sure the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act meets the demands of today’s gaming culture.
“2015 was a busy year for the committee and 2016 will be even busier.
“I expect several important bills that we passed out of committee to be brought before the full Senate.
“One of the most important is the SURVIVE Act, which stands for Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment.
“It will help empower tribes to deliver greatly needed, culturally appropriate victim services.
“We have other legislation to improve long-damaged tribal irrigation systems. We are working on reauthorization of the Indian housing bill.
“And there’s the Interior Improvement Act, which reforms the Department of the Interior’s land into trust processes for tribes.
“Last week, NCAI President Brian Cladoosby said that this Interior Improvement Act is legislation that a majority of tribes could support.
“I thank President Cladoosby for his support of my legislation. I am asking NIGA for your support.
“All of these bills need to be signed into law this year. Every one of them has been pending for too long – some of them for several Congresses.
“It’s time that we marshal our efforts, our energy, and our priorities, and start moving these bills to the finish line.
“I will continue working with other members of Congress to advance measures that will help tribes thrive.
“None of us can do it alone. That’s why I urge you to assist Indian Country and work with members of Congress to ensure swift passage of all these Indian bills.
“Thank you again for the invitation to speak today. Have a great conference.”