Council to select new speaker during winter session

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, January 24, 2013

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W hen the Navajo Nation Council meets for the winter session starting Jan. 28 the delegates will select and confirm a speaker for the second term of the Council.

Following that selection the Council will consider a variety of bills as listed on the proposed winter session agenda.

One of those bills proposes to amend the percentage amount deposited into the Navajo Nation Veterans Trust Fund.

Each year four percent of the tribe's projected revenue is transferred into the Veterans Trust Fund, which was established to provide assistance for veterans programs, projects and services or activities.

The bill proposes the amount transferred be divided into two percent deposited into the Veterans Trust Fund and two percent distributed to the 110 chapters.

Alton Joe Shepherd (Cornfields/Ganado/Jeddito/Kin Dah Lichíí/Steamboat) is sponsoring the legislation.

During his presentation Jan. 17 to the Council's Naa'bik'iyáti' Committee, he explained that two percent distributed to the chapters would be divided with half used for equal distribution among the chapters.

The other half would be distributed based on the number of veterans registered at each chapter.

Shepherd said his reason for proposing the change is to help veterans at the local level, which is a concern that he has repeatedly heard.

"I'll do anything for the veterans out there," he said.

Department of Navajo Veterans Affairs Manager David Nez told the committee that the No. 1 need for veterans is housing followed by health care, elderly group homes, financial assistance, education and jobs.

This list was based on surveys conducted at veterans town hall meetings and public hearings on the proposed Veterans Act that was held last year, he said.

By amending the Veterans Trust Fund distribution, it would provide a source to address those needs, Nez said.

Other bills that appear on the Council's proposed agenda include legislation that would prohibit individuals who owes restitution to the tribe from running for elected office.

Shepherd is also sponsoring this legislation and informed the Naa'bik'iyáti' Committee that more than $611,000 is owed to the tribe by some recently elected individuals and several former elected officials, who violated the tribal ethics laws and were ordered to repay the tribal funds that they stole.

Shepherd said that restitutions include ethics cases from the 1960s.

He noted there is nothing in the law that prevents former public officials who owe restitution from running for office after the legal limit of five years.

The Ethics in Government Act mandates that an elected official convicted of an ethics violation or violations cannot run for office for five years.

Other items on the winter session are granting final approval to the energy development agreement between the tribe and solar power plant developer Nabeeho' Power LLC, which Charles Damon II (Bááháálí/Chichiltah/Manuelito/Rock Springs/Tsayatoh/Tsé Lichíí) is sponsoring.

Danny Simpson (Becenti/Crownpoint/Huerfano/Lake Valley/Nageezi/Nahodishgish/Tsé 'íí'áhí/Whiterock) is requesting $122,000 from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund for the Church Rock Incubator Center and Training Facilities and $416,522 from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund for the Navajo Election Administration for the 2012 chapter election.

Jonathan Nez (Navajo Mountain/Oljato/Shonto/Ts'ah bii Kin) is sponsoring a measure to lower the initiative signature requirement from 15 percent to five percent of registered Navajo voters.

Nez is also sponsoring a bill to approve a limited waiver of sovereign immunity allowing the tribe to be sued in federal district court regarding compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act in carrying out the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants.

Leonard Tsosie (Baca-Prewitt/Casamero Lake/Counselor/Littlewater/Ojo Encino/Pueblo Pintado/Torreon/Whitehorse Lake) is the prime sponsor to override Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly's veto to amendment Title 2 of the Navajo Nation Code.

The Council approved the amendments at the fall session in October and Shelly vetoed the language in November.

The Council is also scheduled to consider confirming the probationary appointments of Leonard Livingston, Roy Tso Jr. and Victoria R. Yazzie as Navajo Nation District Court judges.

As of press time Wednesday, the agenda included five additional pieces of legislation to amend certain sections of the Navajo Nation Code.

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