Legislation and Lobbying
A large part of our practice involves representation of tribes before Congress. This involves daily attention to legislative matters and a close working relationship with congressional delegations and House and Senate committees. A measure of our impact in the legislative arena is that attorneys of our firm have often been invited to testify before congressional committees in key hearings on matters including gaming, tribal sovereign immunity and the trust responsibility.
We have successfully lobbied for a significant number of major tribe-specific initiatives including the:
- Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act, which implements a water rights settlement for the Hualapai Tribe;
- Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Non-Intercourse Act, which enabled the Tribe to implement a land exchange with the county;
- Fort Peck Reservation Rural Water System Act, which authorizes construction of a critically needed water project on the reservation;
- Sandia Settlement Act, which resolved the Pueblo of Sandia's claim to the west face of Sandia Mountain;
- Kickapoo Valley Land Transfer, which authorized the transfer to the Ho-Chunk Nation of 1,200 acres of federal land;
- Colville-Grand Coulee Settlement Act, which resolved the Tribes’ damages claims against the United States arising from the construction and operation of the Grand Coulee Dam under which the Tribes receive annual payments from the Dam’s operation;
- Standing Rock Sioux Equitable Compensation Act, which compensated the Tribe for the loss of use of reservation land flooded for the Oahe Dam project on the Missouri River;
- Seneca Nation Settlement Act, which compensated the Tribe for historic leases of reservation land; and
- Puyallup Tribe Settlement Act, which resolved the Tribe’s claims for losses of land.
In addition, our firm is active on behalf of our many tribal clients on substantive Indian legislation affecting all tribes, with our partners taking a national role in the development of key legislation in areas including Indian self-determination, transportation, tribal jurisdiction, tax, housing, child welfare, and trust reform. For example, our firm was instrumental in the development of the 1988 Indian Self-Determination Act amendments, played a lead role in advocating for the successful 1994 and 2000 amendments to that Act, and continues to advocate for improvements to ISDA. Similarly, the firm played a lead role in securing amendments to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) in 1988, 1990, and 1992, as well as its reauthorization in the 2010Affordable Care Act. We have been at the forefront in lobbying to increase federal funding and tribe-specific programs to improve Indian reservation roads in federal highway reauthorization legislation – including TEA-21 (the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century), SAFETEA-LU (the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users), MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) and most recently in the reauthorization of MAP-21.
We were also actively involved in advocating for the provisions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) that enable tribes to assume criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians regarding acts of domestic or dating violence; the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act of 2014, which extend VAWA’s provision to tribes in Alaska; and the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act, under which important governmental programs and services provided by tribal governments to their tribal members are not subject to federal income tax.
Our legislative activity also focuses on appropriations for our tribal clients, where, in the face of sequestration, rescissions and other measures to reduce the federal budget, it has become increasingly important for tribes to be heard on the long-standing and critical needs for federal funding in Indian country.
In providing Washington representation to our tribal clients, we focus on knowing the tribe and helping the tribe achieve its particular objectives. In this regard, our role is: (1) to work effectively with the tribal leadership to understand the tribe's legislative priorities and objectives, (2) to develop with the tribe appropriate strategies for implementing the tribe's priorities and objectives, (3) to provide timely information and analysis of pertinent legislation, (4) to confer with the tribe in assessing how each piece of legislation affects its particular interests and to develop an effective strategy, (5) to draft testimony, position papers and other documents to support the tribe's initiatives, and (6) to confer throughout the process with appropriate House and Senate offices to advance the tribe's position.