Election law legislation returns to Rules Committee
Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, center, listens as other Tribal Councilors discuss an act to amend the Cherokee Nation’s election code during the April 11 Tribal Council meeting. Left is Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd, and right is Tribal Councilor Dick Lay. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on April 12 sent back to the Rules Committee Legislative Act 04-14, which amends the Cherokee Nation’s election code, after several legislators voiced concerns regarding the definition of “term.”
In March, the committee defined “term” as “consecutive full four (4) years in which the elective or appointed officer may perform the functions of office and enjoy its privileges, a term shall not include the remainder of any unexpired term or partial year.”
Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said on April 12 that he could not support the act.
“I feel like the Cherokee people had a constitutional convention and had decided what they wanted in the election code…I think we’re really messing with the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation if we go to changing some of the wording of that act. I could see if this passes as it’s stated, we’re going to have some problems with further elections that come down the road,” he said.
Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen added that from what he’s read in the Constitutional Convention transcripts those involved did not want to add the word “full” when referring to one’s elected term.
“There’s a lot of good stuff in this election law that we looked over for a long time, but at this time, putting that one (definition) in there is going to keep me from supporting this act,” Anglen said.
Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said she felt the committee discussions were geared toward making the election code clearly match the CN Constitution. “And so, I feel like our intent was to match the Constitution, which says in several areas a term is four years. If the Constitution can stand on its own, I’m not opposed to taking out “EE” (the section in the legislation defining term), but I just want to clarify that our intention was to firm it up and match the Constitution.”
Tribal Councilor Dick Lay offered a friendly amendment to remove the section defining “term,” and Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez initially accepted it. She later revoked the friendly amendment and motioned to send the legislation back to Rules Committee. That motion passed with no opposition.
Legislators also unanimously authorized the “approval of a loan agreement and limited waiver of sovereign immunity” as part of the Indian Health Service Joint Venture expansion in Tahlequah.
According to the legislation, the CN will accept and execute a general obligation credit facility loan agreement “with a group of lenders to be arranged by BOKF, NA dba Bank of Oklahoma” and approved by the CN in a principal amount of $170 million to finance construction of the Cherokee Nation Tahlequah Outpatient Facility.
The body also passed an act creating the Cherokee Nation Judgment Fund, which “governs all judgments, inclusive of attorney fees and interest, entered against the Cherokee Nation or any department, agency or subdivision thereof.”
According to the act, “all monies accruing to the credit of the fund are hereby appropriated, and shall be budgeted and expended by the Treasurer for the payment of eligible claims.”
Legislators also approved the three initial members of the Cherokee Immersion Charter School board: Rufus King, Melvina Shotpouch and Russell Feeling.
According to CN Communications, all three are Cherokee speakers and will serve five-year terms.
“Through the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, the Cherokee Nation is cultivating a new generation of Cherokee speakers,” Council Speaker Joe Byrd said. “The revitalization of our language is of the utmost importance, thus making this board extremely vital. We need governing school board members who not only speak our language, but understand the seriousness of the mission of our school.”
The Tribal Council also:
• Authorized interviews and research within the CN by the National Institute of Justice Regarding Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault regarding violence against Indian women;
• Amended Title 21 of the CN code annotated relating to offenses against property;
• Authorized the name change of Sallisaw Creek to National Cherokee Nation Park;
• Allowed CN to lease tribal trust land to the Kenwood Rural Water District for a water treatment plant, tank, pump station and wells; and
• Supported the deployment of the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Aircraft to the 138th Fighter Wing.
Legislators also amended both the capital and operating budgets for fiscal year 2016.