New CN policy requires five sponsors on new legislation

Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor E.O. Smith explains his support for a policy change that requires at least five sponsors for proposed legislation. 

TAHLEQUAH – A policy change that at least five sponsors back proposed Cherokee Nation legislation was introduced May 26 in committee and approved later the same session.

The measure, which was voted onto the Rules Committee agenda at the request of Tribal Councilor Rex Jordan, passed 12-3.

“This is just to keep someone from coming in here – and we’ve had it happen to us before – bringing in some kind of legislation that doesn’t really amount to nothing, but we’ll sit here for an hour listening to it then vote it down,” Jordan said. “If you can’t have five sponsors … then we probably shouldn’t listen to it. That’s my take on it.”

According to the change, the five-sponsor threshold includes the legislation’s original author.

“If I really had something I wanted to shoot through there, I can find me four people if it was something that mattered,” change proponent and Tribal Councilor E.O Smith said. “So that’s why I went with it because we’re wasting so much time, and it’s all for politics and all this, and I realize that. That’s why I want to stop it.”

Some councilors indicated they were caught off guard by the amendment and requested additional review time.

“I knew nothing about this until the vote was taken,” Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said. “The opportunity to even digest this change has not, in my book, been given to us. This is a substantial change to the policy and procedure of how we do business.”

Councilor Julia Coates said she “literally got this five minutes before the meeting started.”                    

“I don’t agree ever with things being thrown at us immediately before a meeting, even if it does seem like a relatively small change,” she added. “It’s not necessarily that I disagree with the change, but I would like to understand the change better. I want to hear, you know, some arguments back and forth so that I can make a decision.”

A motion made by Councilor Johnny Kidwell to table the issue for at least 30 days failed 8-7. Because the agenda addition was a policy change, it was finalized in committee, according to the tribe.

In other business, councilors backed a resolution to recognize retiring marshals via a new program.

“As a marshal who is honorably retired, he or she, if this passes, will be able to maintain their badge and a credential that says they’re a retired Cherokee Nation marshal just like our counterparts in the state or federal system,” Marshal Service Director Shannon Buhl explained. “This would only be granted to members of the Marshal Service that honorably retire from here. One of the reasons why we came into this body is I cannot give tribal property away to people. So our badge costs something to manufacture. Our credentials, or ID, costs money to manufacture.”

The council pushed forward the appointment of Jon Michael McGrath II to the CN Environmental Protection Commission. Also supported was the appointment of Julie Eddy Rokala and Brenda Thompson to fill vacant seats on the Cherokee Nation Businesses, LLC board.