The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) hosted the annual Summer Legislative Summit at their headquarters near Capitol Hill today.
The summit was held at the Stanley Crooks Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Tribal Leaders Center and brought member tribes together to discuss legislative and regulatory issues with members of Congress and administration officials.
NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., welcomed the attendees: “It is great to bring our leadership together once again. We are ready to do our job in a diplomatic, straightforward and hard-working manner here in Washington, D.C.” He added, “We know that while we are strong and united in our positions, we stand here on behalf of Indian country knowing we have work to do and we must continue to accept that challenge because it is about improving the lives of our tribal communities. The National Indian Gaming Association and our sister organizations are ready and willing to face these challenges.”
Through the day, the leadership heard from Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT); Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-MT); Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK 3rd); Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK 4th); Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ 6th); Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS); Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA 46); Rep Tom McClintock (R-CA 4th); Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI 5th); Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA 8th); Rep. Mimi Walters (D-CA 45th); and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI 4th) who provided updates on issues central to tribal leader concerns, including the Department of Interior proposed changes to the 25 CFR 151 Fee to Trust process, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (TSLA), the 2018 Farm Bill, and the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services proposals that would diminish tribal sovereignty.
John Tahsuda, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, addressed tribal leadership and provided updates on the proposed fee to trust regulation and reorganization of the Department of Interior. He discussed the consultations hosted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
Joel Williams of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) provided a Supreme Court update on behalf of NARF. The update included a discussion on nominees and cases soon to be heard by the highest court that could impact tribal sovereignty.
The legislative summit agenda also included a panel entitled “Economic Development, Diversification and Taxation Discussion,” facilitated by Mark Van Norman. The group brought together David Bean, Vice President of NIGA, Aurene Martin of Spirit Rock Consulting and Ron Allen, Chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
Jonodev Chaudhuri, Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), finished the day’s agenda with an overview on their regulatory initiatives in Indian Country. The NIGC recognized the continuing strength of Indian Gaming’s revenue growth to a record $34.2 billion and the resulting positive economic impacts on our reservation economies.
Tribal leaders then joined a roundtable discussion hosted by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ 35th) and Gila River Governor Stephen Roe Lewis.
The first day concluded with an evening reception at the NIGA headquarters with tribal leaders and members of Congress and congressional staff. Chairman Stevens recognized Governor Stephen Lewis for his contributions to the Arizona Indian Community and his recent re-election as Governor. Chairman Stevens also recognized the memory of Governor Lewis’ late father Rodney “Rod” Lewis, 77, a giant of the legal profession in Arizona and a champion for Indian Country nationally, who passed away on April 11, 2018.
NIGA also honored outgoing American Gaming Association (AGA) President & CEO, Geoff Freeman. Mr. Freeman coordinated with Tribal gaming on common issues across the gaming industry. Chairman Stevens presented Mr. Freeman with a NIGA Tribal Blanket as a memento for his work with Indian Country. Freeman who has led the AGA since 2013, has accepted another executive role. Chairman Stevens said, “Because of Geoff’s leadership at the AGA, we have been successful in building a strong relationship between the two gaming industries. We wish him well in his next endeavor, and we look forward to continuing to build upon that momentum in our coordinated efforts and open dialogue with the new leadership at AGA.”
Day two of the Legislative Summit will cover additional issues impacting Indian Country such as Indian Healthcare, tax reform issues, and the Department of Interior’s proposed re-organization.