Senate committee to take up land-into-trust reform legislation

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Photo from SCIA

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is holding a business meeting on Wednesday.

Two bills are on the agenda. One is S.1879, the Interior Improvement Act. The bill includes a fix to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. It ensures that all tribes, regardless of the date of federal recognition, can follow the land-into-trust process at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

S.1879 also makes reforms to the way the BIA handles applications. It requires more public notice and more transparency, including a provision that requires applications and decisions to be posted online, something that doesn't happen currently.

The bill encourages tribes to enter into cooperative agreements with and local governments regarding. While many already do that, S.1879 includes incentives -- these land-into-trust applications will be given "weight and preference" at the BIA.

The committee has not held a hearing on the bill but tribal leaders have been pushing for a fix for six years.

The other item on the agenda is S.1125, the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act. The measure settles the water rights of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. The committee has not held a hearing on the bill either.

The meeting takes place at 2:15pm in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. It will be immediately followed by an oversight hearing on the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010.

Committee Notice:
Business Meeting to Consider S. 1125 & S. 1879 (December 2, 2015)

DOI Solicitor Opinion:
M-37029: The Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)

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