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President Obama plans to sign Indian housing measure into law

President Barack Obama plans to sign an Indian housing bill into law, the White House said on Tuesday.

The Senate passed H.R.205 by unanimous consent. The bill, known as the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act (HEARTH) Act, streamlines Bureau of Indian Affairs review of tribal housing sites.

"The HEARTH Act promotes greater tribal self-determination and will help create jobs in Indian Country. Under the Act, federally recognized tribes can develop and implement their own regulations governing certain leasing on Indian lands," the White House said in a statement.

The House passed the bill in May under a suspension of the rules. It was largely considered non-controversial in both chambers.

But in a somewhat unusual move, the Senate passed the House's version of the bill rather than its own. Indian Country Today reports that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada), the Senate majority leader, took action over the objections of Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Akaka's committee approved S.703 over a year ago. However, that version includes a controversial fix to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar and it has never come up for consideration on the Senate floor.

Still, Akaka praised the Senate's action on the HEARTH Act. "This bill will streamline the leasing process for tribes and will reduce delays to economic development opportunities on Indian lands," he said in a press release.

ICT notes that the passage of the bill provides ammunition for Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) in his closely-watched campaign for Senate. “This is about building homes, creating jobs and protecting tribal sovereignty,” he said in a press release.

The press releases from Akaka and New Mexico's Congressional delegation specifically single out Heinrich's involvement. The National American Indian Housing Council also praised the candidate.

"Today we savor this victory and extend our thanks to Congressman Heinrich, House and Senate leadership and the Indian housing advocates who have worked diligently to advance a piece of legislation that will change the face of surface site leasing in Indian Country," said NAIHC Chairwoman Cheryl A. Causley in a press release.

Get the Story:
Tribal Lease Bill Clears Senate After Carcieri Wrangling (Indian Country Today 7/18)
Senate passes tribal lands bill (The Hill 7/17)

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House considers measure to improve Indian housing process (5/15)
House committee passes bill to speed Indian housing process (11/22)
House Natural Resources Committee markup on 3 Indian bills (11/17)
Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee sets hearing (11/2)

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