Shelly: Sunshine over speed in tribal gov't

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, August 8, 2013

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N avajo Nation President Ben Shelly vetoed two pieces of legislation this week: one that would have increased government efficiency at the expense of transparency, and one that would have supplemented youth employment funding from the already battered Undesignated Unreserved Fund.

The first bill would have amended Title 2 of the Navajo Nation Code. The bill proposed reducing the number of calendar days pieces of legislation are posted on the Council's website from five days to four. It would have also allowed the speaker to designate an alternative meeting place on the Navajo Nation for the Council.

According to current law, the Council is to meet in the Council chamber in Window Rock for all scheduled regular and special sessions. The president vetoed the measure Monday saying that the five-day comment period is already too short.

Shelly wrote that he understands the Council's viewpoint is to improve government efficiency, but reducing the public's chance to comment is not the way.

A solution, he wrote, is to explore categorizing legislation by the subject matter.

As for allowing the speaker authority to schedule Council sessions outside of the chamber and the nation's capital, Shelly wrote it does not allow the Navajo people to view their government and it would be an added expense.

"In order to consider this additional authority a cost analysis should be provided, at least an estimate from different areas within the Navajo Nation that could host a council session," he wrote.

Shelly did applaud the Council's effort to show its sessions online so Navajos and the public can watch those sessions anywhere in the world.

The second would have provided $2.5 million in supplemental funding from the Undesignated, Unreserved Fund Balance to the Chapter Summer Youth Employment.

In the Aug. 2 memorandum to Speaker Johnny Naize and the Navajo Nation Council from Shelly, he reported that the UUFB is $9.5 million and the minimum fund balance is $17.3 million.

The president noted that at the beginning of fiscal year 2013, he was determined to maintain at least a $20 million balance above the minimum fund balance because of uncertainties surrounding the federal budget due to mandated spending cuts.

However, Shelly admitted to approving $16.8 million in supplemental funding requests because they either supplied necessary or emergency funding.

Shelly wrote that he would meet with the Division of Community Development, the Local Government Support Center and other chapter programs to address the funding issue.

He advised chapters to direct students to use the Navajo Workforce Development program for employment opportunities.

Line-item vetoes are not subject to override by the Council, according to tribal law.

This is the second time Shelly line-item vetoed funding for Chapter Summer Youth Employment.

He issued his first line-item veto July 8, after the Council approved using $2.5 million from the UUFB for the Chapter Summer Youth Employment. It was included in a bill to also provide $2.5 million for chapter scholarships and $1.5 million for the chapters' Public Employment Program.

The Council approved that supplemental request during a special session June 28.

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