Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, was recently able to move four bipartisan bills through the SCIA less than a month into the new Congress.
According to Tester the bills, which passed through on January 4, are designed to improve tribal self-determination and protect Native children.
“America has a trust responsibility to our tribes, and we must do a better job living up to our commitments to this generation and future generations,” Tester said. “These bipartisan bills will ensure folks in Indian country have a brighter, safer future.”
The bills are:
Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act: This bill allows tribes to tailor federal Indian programs to the specific needs of their communities, giving tribes more self-governance authority. The bill also streamlines tribes’ negotiations of compacts with the Interior Secretary and clarifies the criteria the Secretary must use when deciding to approve or deny those contracts.
Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act: The bill clarifies and streamlines the Department of Interior process that tribes must undergo to develop energy projects by establishing deadlines and approval criteria that the Interior Secretary must follow. The bill would also provide greater federal technical assistance to tribes for developing their energy resources.?
Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Sobolef Commission on Native Children Act: The bill would create a commission to study the challenges Native children face and would develop recommendations for improving services to tribes and Native communities. Native American children are more at-risk for suicide, depression, drop-outs, victims of crime, and health challenges than their peers across the country. ?
Native American Child Safety Act: The bill would increase protections for Native American children by requiring tribal agencies to expand background checks for all adults living in foster care homes, not just the foster parents.
After passing through the SCIA the bills were introduced in the 113th Congress.