U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines’ legislation to improve the Indian Health Service passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today. Immediately after the vote, Daines championed priorities important to Montana’s Indian tribes in a committee hearing, including funding for the Blackfeet water settlement and maintenance improvements at Bureau of Indian Education schools. This week, he also sponsored a bill to provide Indian tribes much-needed tax relief.
Funding Priorities Important to Montana Indian Country
Following Secretary Ryan Zinke’s visit to the Blackfeet Reservation last month to authorize the first transfer of funds for the Blackfeet water rights settlement, which Daines and Zinke worked together to enact when Zinke was in Congress, Daines pushed the Department of the Interior during the hearing to secure as much funding as possible to implement the settlement so it can become enforceable by the 2025 deadline. Watch video HERE.
Daines also highlighted the need to address the maintenance backlog in Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, emphasizing that Montana’s BIE facilities, such as the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School, have severe infrastructural needs.
Strengthening Tribal Healthcare
Prior to the hearing, Daines’ bill to improve healthcare services for Montana’s tribes, the Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act of 2017, passed the committee. The legislation would hold Indian Health Services (IHS) accountable and encourage better recruitment and retention of medical personnel to address the medical needs of Montana’s tribal communities. Read full bill text HERE.
Reducing Tribal Tax Burdens
This week, Daines also sponsored a bill to give tribal communities tax relief, the Tribal Tax and Investment Reform Act. This bill updates the tax code to ensure that Indian tribal governments are treated in the same way as state governments for a number of tax and finance purposes. The bill would enable tribal governments to issue private activity bonds for economic development purposes and provide tribes stronger jurisdiction over Indian adoptions by permitting adopting parents to receive an Adoption Tax Credit when a tribe has made a determination that a child has special needs, among other provisions. Read full bill text HERE.