Tag Archives: Marley Shebala

10/17/2011 Navajo Times: Changes aim to protect cash from spending

10/17/2011 Navajo Times: Changes aim to protect cash from spending By Marley Shebala: There’s nearly $45 million in the tribe’s Undesignated Unreserved Fund but it may not be there for long if the Navajo Nation Council approves amendments to the Appropriations Act next week. Twelve members of the Nabik’yati’ Committee voted Tuesday to give the amendments a do-pass recommendation, making its passage a good bet during the Council’s fall session next week. The amendments, sponsored by Lorenzo Curley (Houck/Klagetoh/Nahata Dziil/Tse si’ani/Wide Ruins) would expand Ð instead of waiving – rules limiting the Council’s ability to spend the money, most of which is a one-time cash infusion from settlement of a lawsuit against Peabody Energy.

The intention is to protect the money from the chaotic methods of passing supplemental spending bills used in past years, said one Council leader, although some provisions would arguably reduce some restraints imposed under the current law.

The amendments moved at warp speed through the committee process, with the Budget and Finance Committee and the Law and Order Committee meeting during the Nabik’yati’ Committee’s lunch break to review the legislation, which they both gave a “do-pass” recommendation.

The proposed amendments would add language to the Appropriations Act that would allow the Council to make supplemental appropriations earlier in the budget year.

The current budget year started Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2012.

The tribe’s spending law now prohibits the Council from making supplemental appropriations until projected revenues are met and the UUF, the tribe’s rainy day fund, has a minimum balance equal to 10 percent of the prior fiscal year’s budget.

In this case, that would be $17 million since the 2011 budget was $170 million.

The projected revenues for the 2011 budget were not realized until August, two months before the end of the budget year.

The Appropriations Act also mandates that any amendments to it must come from the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, of which Curley is a member.

In presenting his bill to the committee Tuesday, said the reason for the amendments is to update the law and move supplemental appropriations legislation more efficiently through the legislative review process.

“These amendments make it simpler and easier for the Council to serve the needs of more constituents,” he added.

B&F committee Chair LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad/Newcomb/San Juan/T’iistoh Sikaad/Tse Daa K’aan/Upper Fruitland) said in a separate interview that the move to streamline the process for supplemental spending began as soon as the delegates learned that the UUF, which for the last couple of years has been millions in the red, now contained close to $40 million.

Bates, who has championed spending restraint during his years in the Council, said the amendment process was initiated to prevent a repeat of past years where last-minute spending requests would come from the Council floor with little or no explanation or justification.

Approval depended more on the political clout of the sponsor than on the proposal’s merit, with massive expenditures involving a little sugar for every chapter being particularly popular.

Bates also noted that the law currently requires the B&F Committee to hold hearings on the annual budget and supplemental spending bills, although the Law & Order Committee recommended that this responsibility be ceded to the Nabik’yati’ Committee, to which all the delegates belong.

Bates said that the committee’s proposed supplemental spending process would set priorities for allocating funds, such as the Peabody settlement, that are a one-time windfall.

Among the potential competition for supplemental spending are all three branches of the tribal government, which got significantly less than their stated need in the current budget.

According to President Ben Shelly’s 2011 budget message, the executive branch is short by about $65 million.

The much-smaller judicial branch’s unmet needs totaled about $1.6 million, according to previous statements by Chief Justice Herb Yazzie.

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Delegates say lawyer went too far with reform bill

10/20/2011 Navajo Times: Delegates say lawyer went too far with reform bill by Marlley Shebala: Should the people vote on proposed changes to the Navajo Nation Government Development Commission Act? The Navajo Nation Council’s attorney, Edward McCool, says yes. But the chairman and vice chairman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Government Reform say no. The disagreement between McCool and the subcommittee unfolded when Chairman Leonard Tsosie and Vice Chairperson Jonathan Nez saw that McCool had written the subcommittee’s proposal to change the commission as a voter referendum rather than an amendment to the act. Then he posted the referendum legislation on the Council’s Web site for public comment on Oct. 6.

Tsosie and Nez said in separate interviews this week that they believe McCool overstepped his authority, and that the subcommittee is expected to meet Monday, Oct. 24, at 1 p.m. in the Council chamber to discuss his actions.

Both delegates emphasized that the subcommittee had nothing to do with McCool’s decision to make their bill a request to the Council for a referendum.

“His clients tell him to do one thing and he does the opposite,” Tsosie fumed. “He’s just making our life harder.”

McCool said Tuesday that he was asked to draft legislation and he did that.

On Sept. 20, McCool sent a memo to Nez questioning the subcommittee’s plan to amend the law and reduce the commission from 12 members to five, eliminating representation for several groups in favor of putting more delegates on the panel.

McCool stated in his memo that the Navajo Nation Supreme Court noted the “significance” of the commission and its office in a July 2010 ruling: “Of all the entities established by the Title II Amendments, the Commission on Government Development and the Office of Navajo Government Development are the sole entities established according to the wishes of the people expressed through the coordinator of the Government Reform Project.”

Power to the people

McCool also quoted the ruling’s warning for the Council not to usurp the right of the people to determine their preferred form of government, which the commission was set up to determine.

The high court stated that “the power over the structure of the Navajo government is ultimately in the hands of the people and (the Council) will look to the people to guide it” and “that the power of the people to participate in their democracy and determine their form of government is a reserved, inherent and fundamental right expressed in Title I of our Dine Fundamental Law and the Navajo Bill of Rights,” McCool quoted in his memo.

Tsosie said the subcommittee already had a discussion with McCool about whether the Supreme Court’s decision meant the subcommittee’s amendments to the commission had to go before the people as a ballot referendum.

“We didn’t ask for (referendum) language,” Nez said Tuesday. “The chief legislative counsel has his own interpretation of the Supreme Court decision. We, as delegates, have our own interpretation. We’re following the Supreme Court order.”