Tribal bills still pending as lawmakers near end of session

Two of the three major bills aimed at helping Maine tribes were still pending Tuesday night as lawmakers scramble to complete their work before the end of the session.

Wednesday is the statutory adjournment date for the 130th Parliament, but lawmakers were asking for an extension of up to two days. Such a request should receive two-thirds support in each chamber.

A bill to give the Passamaquoddy Tribe more control over their water supply was recalled from Gov. Janet Mills’ office and amended by both houses on Tuesday to address the governor’s concerns, although it passed with enough support to overcome a veto. He also resisted a last-minute attempt to weaken the bill in the Senate.

A broader bill to restore sovereignty to Maine tribes sits on the special appropriations table, where its estimated cost of $44,650 next year will be parsed. The bill is opposed by Mills and does not appear to have the two-thirds support needed to override a veto.

And the Senate voted 23-11 late Tuesday night in favor of a compromise bill proposed by Mills that would give tribes exclusive rights to mobile sports betting and change some tax laws. But not before several attempts to change the bill.

Senator Brad Farrin, R-Norridgewock, tried unsuccessfully to remove the mobile sports betting provision from the bill so lawmakers could debate and vote on it separately, in a bid to expand access beyond the tribes.

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And Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, unsuccessfully tried to make the bill more consistent with a previous sports betting bill that languished on the appropriations table, arguing that tribes would benefit more economically.

But the Senate rejected both proposals. Senator Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, said the original bill was about tribal economic self-determination and allowing tribes to generate additional revenue to support tribal government services such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, speaks during the Senate morning session Tuesday at the Maine State House in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“You take away the promise of economic self-determination,” Carney said in opposition to Chipman’s motion, “and replace it by making the (Wabanaki) nation again dependent on others for its income.”

The Senate passed an amendment by Sen. Joseph Baldacci, D-Bangor, that would allow Hollywood casinos to offer in-person sports betting at his casino, rather than at the harness racing track a few blocks away. The bill already included in-person sports betting at Oxford Casino and harness racing tracks.

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The Passamaquoddy Water Bill had passed both houses, but was called back from the governor’s office to make amendments to address jurisdictional issues raised by Mills and other opponents.

The bill essentially grants the tribe the right to drill new wells on their property without being subject to an extraction ordinance passed by the city of Perry after several residents experienced water problems when the tribe drilled a well for a new school.

The original bill would exempt the Passamaquoddy Non-Tribal Aquatic District from municipal property taxes, allow the Passamaquoddy Tribe to add two parcels of land to its territory, and allow the tribe to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. environment to establish higher water quality standards than at present. required by the state.

Amended versions passed in the House and Senate on Tuesday would make it clear that the tribe’s jurisdiction over water quality does not extend beyond its territory and that the tribe does not have jurisdiction over the district of water, a non-tribal entity that also supplies water to Perry and Eastport.

Senator Marianne Moore, R-Calais, unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill further, seeking to remove the tribe’s ability to add the two parcels to its territory without obtaining approval from the city of Perry, which , according to her, could lose $2,700 a year in property taxes.

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“I think the city of Perry should have a say in it,” Moore said.

This measure failed, 22-12.

The Governor’s proposal would make other limited changes, such as removing state sales taxes on certain goods and services produced and consumed in tribal lands or disbursing revenues from such taxes to tribes, and lifting restrictions. state taxes on income earned by tribal members on their reservations. .

This bill was approved by the House in a vote of 81 votes against 53, with seven Republicans in favor and five Democrats opposed.

The fate of the broader tribal sovereignty bill looks bleak, however, as Mills has proposed his own compromise bill. His administration also opposes a bill before Congress, sponsored by U.S. Representative Jared Golden, to allow tribes in Maine to benefit from any new federal laws passed to benefit the tribes.

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The sovereignty bill is one of more than 200 bills, costing more than $1.5 billion, awaiting a tranche of just $12 million in funding before heading to the governor’s office.

Maine tribes have fewer rights than all 570 other federally recognized tribes in the United States due to the Settlement Acts, a pair of federal and state laws passed in 1980 to settle a tribal land claim on both third of the territory of the State. of Maine. Under the agreements, the tribes of Maine are treated more like municipalities than sovereign nations.

The Expanded Sovereignty Billwhich incorporates recommendations from a special task force formed to consider amending the 1980 agreements, would significantly strengthen tribal powers over land use, natural resources, environmental measures, taxation and other matters over tribal lands.


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