Maine lawmakers adjourn without acting on tribal sovereignty | Nation / world
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — In a bitter disappointment for Maine’s Native American tribes, the state legislature adjourned Monday night without acting on a landmark proposal to expand tribal sovereignty rights.
There was always the possibility lawmakers could resuscitate the proposal when they return to face vetoes next month.
Maine’s tribal reservations are treated like municipalities, subject to state law, and the state and tribes have previously clashed over the years over environmental, fish, and wildlife rules.
Native Americans in Maine had seen the proposal as their best chance to make history before the midterm elections, with a Democratic governor and Democratic control of the Legislature.
But the proposal generated an election-year split between legislative Democrats and Governor Janet Mills. Pressing for incremental change, Mills encouraged lawmakers and tribal leaders in a letter published Monday to delay their efforts – allowing him to avoid a high-profile veto.
“I do not want a confrontation,” wrote the governor. “It would serve no constructive purpose and would only inflame emotions on all sides of the discussion.”
The letter was written Thursday evening, the day before the appropriations committee refused to fund the bill.
Maggie Dana, chief of the Passamaquoddy tribe in Pleasant Point, told The Associated Press last week that she hoped the governor would be “on the right side of history” and agree to the changes the tribes are longing for.
The effort to amend the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1980 also comes within the domestic context of the Biden administration seeking to partner with tribes to manage land and ensure that ‘they are consulted early on policies or actions that affect them.
But the tribes won a legislative victory on Monday.
The legislature has sent the governor a proposal to provide online sports betting revenue to the tribes. This bill also contains provisions on tribal collaboration and certain tax breaks.
Lawmakers earlier approved — and the governor signed — a bill that gives the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Pleasant Point the right to regulate their own drinking water, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in instead of state regulators.
For the tribes, it’s been a long and frustrating battle since they traded some rights with the state as part of an $81.5 million settlement signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
This settlement for the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Maliseet, along with a 1991 agreement for the Mi’kmaq, put the tribes of Maine on a different footing from tribes elsewhere in the country. More than 570 other tribes have greater autonomy and associate with the federal government.
Critics of extending tribal sovereignty, including the governor, feared there would be unintended consequences and more lawsuits.
Among other things, the governor said she is concerned about stripping nearly 300,000 acres of land held in trust from state or local regulations governing everything from fish and game to land use provisions and management practices. logging to health care and law enforcement.
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