Senate Streamlines Self-Governance with S.286; Time for the House to Step Up

By: Stephanie A. Conduff | Attorney |
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner |

Last month, the US Senate passed the Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act of 2015, S. 286 by unanimous consent. The bill amends how contracts and compacts are negotiated between tribal governments and the Department of the Interior. These are amendments that Self-Governance Tribes have been prioritizing for years in the hopes of improving the approval process. It establishes new guidelines for administering the program.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that, based on the information provided by the Department of the Interior (DOI), there is no significant financial effect on the federal government over the 2015-2020 period. However, the improved program mainstreams the process to empower tribal governments and tribal consortiums to create consistency and administrative efficiencies for Self-Governance Tribes.

“Self-determination and self-governance helps promote local tribal decision-making for important programs that affect their communities,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said when he introduced the bill in February. “For years, tribes have faced bureaucratic roadblocks when trying to implement these programs. By making key improvements to the way self-governance works in the Department of the Interior, this bill gives tribes the tools they need to tailor Federal programs to the needs of their local communities.”  This goes to the real intent of the Self-Governance Act.

The bipartisan bill has the support of the Obama administration. It is non-controversial — consideration took less than 30 seconds when passed by the Committee. The Senate-passed version now moves to the House of Representatives. The probability of its passage in the House during this session of the 114th Congress is good, as the widely supported amendments are not likely to be used as political fodder in the election year.

Stephanie is a member of the firm’s Real Estate and Environmental Team and a member of the Native American Law practice group. She provides advice and strategic policy analysis on national regulatory issues and advises clients of the legal and policy issues.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at and 619.515.3277.