Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 16
State senator tables legislation on tribal fee-to-trust
BY JEREMY THOMAS
One of the state senators who helped introduce a bill that would effectively muzzle state agencies from opposing tribal fee-to-trust transfers has pulled the proposed legislation from an Assembly committee.
On June 18, Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) sent a letter to the Governing Organization Committee asking it to temporarily remove Senate Bill 162, which he co-authored, from consideration.
Anderson’s request came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Michigan man who sued the U.S. Department of Interior, challenging the agency’s acceptance of land into trust for the Gun Lake Tribe, which has opened a casino on the land. The court voted 8-1 for the plaintiff, David Patchak, deciding he has “legal standing” to challenge the transfer, and allowing his suit to move forward.
In a letter to Assemblymen Isadore Hall (D-Compton) and Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert)—chairman and vice chairman of the Government Organizing Committee, respectively—Anderson explained his reasons for pulling the bill, in light of the federal review of fee-to-trust.
“We want to produce a thoughtful bill that takes into consideration everything that is occurring at the federal level, and understand the full implications of the Patchak case,” Anderson wrote. “Further, we want to fully understand how the State Legislature can best proceed to improve the process to ensure fair treatment for all parties.”
In a separate letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Anderson argued the intent of SB 162 isn’t to prohibit the state from opposing fee-to-trust altogether, but to stop state agencies from deciding against applications before meeting with tribes.
Anderson, along with San Diego County legislators Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad) and Assemblyman Martin Garrick (R-Solana Beach), introduced SB 126 in 2011, and it passed the Senate. A recent amendment, as written, would’ve prohibited state agencies from opposing fee-to-trust transfers, as the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians have proposed for their 1,400-acre Camp 4 property near Santa Ynez.
The bill would also define a federally recognized Indian tribe as one appearing on a register by the Secretary of the Interior. The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is currently listed on the register.
Tribal spokeswoman Nerissa Sugars didn’t respond to a request for comment on the bill.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Anderson voicing its opposition to SB 162, citing the negative fiscal impacts allowing the Chumash to annex the land would have on the county. The letter, authored by 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, also opposed SB 162 on grounds it doesn’t “fully provide for the voice and commentary from all impacted,” and was sent to various state and local legislators.
Other individuals and groups lining up against the bill included 35th District Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara), Feinstein, Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson, Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens, and the Preservation of Los Olivos (P.O.L.O.).
P.O.L.O. board president Kathy Cleary argued the bill would circumvent a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the Secretary of Interior to accepting land into trust from tribes recognized prior to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
“P.O.L.O. thanks Senator Anderson for recognizing the need to further assess the problems of land in federal trust and withdrawing SB 162,” Cleary told the Sun via e-mail. “There are serious and harmful impacts to communities because anything can be built on land in trust. Businesses are not taxed so everyone else has to pay more tax to make up for it, nor do those businesses follow the same rules other businesses have to follow. There can be gambling. Neighboring families have no idea what may end up next door to them.”
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