Capital Briefs: Bill proposes funds for judicial branch, elections
On Sept. 10, Speaker Seth Damon sponsored a bill to allocate more than $1.8 million from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance for unmet needs in the judicial branch and Navajo Election Administration for fiscal year 2022, the speaker’s office reports.
Supplemental funding amounts include $1.2 million for the judicial branch to cover shortfalls in operation costs impacted by the pandemic and to process district court cases promptly.
The judicial branch plans to open its offices safely in 2022.
And $600,000 is for the Navajo Election Administration to plan, prepare, and coordinate the 2021 chapter primary election.
This includes funding for voter education materials, poll site operations at the 110 chapters, and personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“When we met with the president and chief justice during a three branch chiefs meeting in June, we agreed that it would be in the best interest of the Navajo Nation that unmet needs be funded through a UUFB appropriation,” Damon said.
“There should be no reduction of a branch’s budget allocation or any cutting of services because of this bill,” he said.
“The full operation of our courts and the judicial branch is an important public service to the Navajo people,” said Damon. “We are exercising our fiscal responsibility under the law.
“There is a legal obligation for the legislative branch to expend funds for upcoming elections,” he said, “and to maintain the health and safety of our poll workers.”
The Navajo Nation Supreme Court, in the case Tsosie v. Navajo Board of Election Supervisors, said that the Election Code mandates the use of funds necessary for the operation of the code.
If approved, Damon’s bill proceeds to the Law and Order, Budget and Finance, and Naabik’íyáti’ committees — before the Navajo Nation Council for consideration.
Power-line extension to deliver electricity to 24 families
WINDOW ROCK – On Thursday, an agreement was finalized between the Navajo Nation and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to extend power lines to provide electricity at least 24 families in Dilkon, Ariz.
Many Dilkon residents attended the signing ceremony and talked about the challenges and financial constraints they have had to endure due to the lack of electricity.
Several expressed appreciation with tears and relief that they no longer have to rely on generators or batteries to power their homes.
Pearl Yellowman, director of the Division of Community Development, said, “We are excited for the 24 families that will receive electricity. They will have the ability to buy and store fresh produce, meats and medication in cold refrigerators.
“Their children can also do homework at night with the lights on and charge their laptops or phones at home,” she said. “Working together can provide many positive changes for families and future generations.
Last week, President Jonathan Nez signed an agreement to connect 23 homes to the electric grid in Tonalea, Ariz.
Funds for Nazlini senior center OK’d
WINDOW ROCK – On Sunday a grant agreement was signed by President Jonathan Nez for the construction of a $1.9 million senior center in Nazlini, Ariz.
The old senior center was ordered closed due to deficiencies in its structure. The new 3,900-square-foot building will include a cafeteria, kitchen, office space and a paved parking lot with handicapped accessibility.
Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr. said, “The prayers of the Nazlini community have finally been answered! Our senior center staff can now operate from comfortable offices and provide comfort and services for our elders. We are forever grateful.”
The project is funded through the Síhasin Fund. The senior center will provide direct services to Nazlini and elders from surrounding communities.
Eastern chapters discuss Chaco Canyon with Fernández
WINDOW ROCK – Eastern Agency chapters hosted a teleconference meeting New Mexico Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández on the future of the Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, the speaker’s office reports.
Discussion included rights-of-ways for roads and land access, the concerns of allottees, the Build Back Better Act, the proposed $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill in Congress and the proposed Chaco Canyon Heritage Area Protection Act.
Speaker Seth Damon said, “These conversations with New Mexico congressional leaders are important to the national dialogue on the protection of sacred sites in Indian Country. We must respect the rights of the allottees to develop their land and ensure the Navajo people are the first priority.”
Fernandez, a Democrat, reported that the Chaco Canyon bill passed the Natural Resources Committee and will be heard in the House of Representatives later this fall.
She reaffirmed her commitment to having open conversations with Navajo residents being impacted.
Delegate Mark Freeland, who represents chapters in the area, said, “We are planning an in-person meeting with New Mexico leaders so they can hear directly from chapter officials, allottees, and the families being affected. Their voices are important to make the best decisions going forward.”
Biden declares disaster in Apache, Coconino, Navajo counties
WASHININGTON – On Monday, President Joseph Biden Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the state of Arizona and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms and flooding from July 22 to July 24, the White House reported.
Federal funding is available to state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and flooding in the counties of Apache, Coconino, and Navajo.
Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, named Benigno Bern Ruiz as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
September is national ‘Preparedness Month’
WINDOW ROCK – A proclamation was signed Sept. 1 recognizing the month of September as “Navajo Nation Preparedness Month,” the president’s office reports.
The proclamation encourages Navajo people to practice self-reliance and self-determination and to plan, prepare, and be ready for any emergencies.
After the monsoon season, winter storms are anticipated in the coming months and everyone should prepare emergency kits that include non-perishable food, bottled water, blankets and first-aid kits.
The proclamation also encourages programs, businesses, non-profit organizations, civic groups, faith-based groups and organizations and schools to be proactive.
For more information about National Preparedness Month, visit: https://www.ready.gov/september.
Grijalva introduces bill for parity for urban Natives
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., on Friday introduced the bipartisan Urban Indian Health Confer Act to require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to confer with urban Native organizations on health care policies and initiatives.
Currently, only the Indian Health Service is required to confer with urban Natives despite the fact that the vast majority of Native Americans — roughly 70% — live a in urban areas outside of IHS jurisdictions.
A news release from Grijalva’s office said the absence of a legal requirement for HHS to confer with urban Natives has exacerbated already severe inequities for Native Americans around the country.
American Indians and Alaska Natives see far worse health outcomes than other Americans, including higher rates of disease such as diabetes and liver disease.
During the coronavirus pandemic, HHS did not make urban Natives aware of the need to weigh in on the department’s vaccine rollout plan until the day of the deadline, despite congressional and tribal support for urban Natives being included early in the process.
As a result, vaccine distribution for many urban Natives was delayed.
The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., Tom Cole, R-Okla., Karen Bass, D-Calif., Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.
The bill is endorsed by the National Council of Urban Indian Health.