Past Present and Future Navajo Nation Legislative Process
How we got here • Relations Between Executive and Legislative Branches • Initiative Story • Stipulations • Question Approved • The 88 became 24
Guiding the Change • Shirley v. Morgan SC-CV-02-10 citing In Re Two Initiative Petitions Filed By Joe Shirley SC-CY-41-08 • When the existing Code was adopted a promise was made to Navajo People that the final form of government shall be decided by the Navajo People….only the Navajo People can determine the structure of their government. • The Council may not independently change Title II in that regard but must defer to the People.
Impact • So no structural change for this Council…it is to reorganize its existing powers of the legislative branch…no expansion or delegation
Guide Two • Nelson v. Initiative Committee No. SC-CU-03-10 p.22 • The 22 nd Council shall prioritize, develop and approve the reorganization plans as an initial order of business….
First Regular Session • First Regular Session meets • and works long into the final statutorily mandated final day of the session—Friday, without a resolution for reorganizing. • The Council is facing going forward with no committee structure and business to be done…
First Regular Session • Literally the 11th hour a draft of the Committee of the Whole concept that we had discussed at the beginning to the week was introduced. • Committee of the Whole
Spring Regular Session • Next regular session comes in April…. • takes most of that entire session to hammer out an agreed upon change based on discussions and work sessions held in the intervening months.. • Product is CAP-10-11
What was combined • to understand the full scope of work the Delegates are now responsible for: • Public Safety/Judiciary = Law and Order • Res/Eco Dev/TCDC = Resources and Development • Health/Social Services/Education = Health Education and Human Services • Budget and Finance remains • Ethics and Rules, Gov’t Services/ IGR = NaabikityatiCommittee • in addition to infusing traditional concepts into legislative process
Is it working? Are the 24 doing as much as the 88 • What’s your measure? • Going by Requests for legislation : • the 88 over four years requested 1043 • the 24 over three years requested 850
Legislative workload • Where 10 committees handled over 1000 proposed bills • And no member served on more than one committee • Now five committees handle 850 and members serve on one committee but de facto 3 or 4 previous committee subject matters
Legislative process • The Naa’bik’iyati Committee was established to introduce Navajo traditional decision making methods into the legislative process. The concept of meeting together to talk things through in an exploratory resolving manner was introduced to apply to all issues the Council felt warranted such a deliberative approach. • The Naa’bik’iyati Committee is made up of the entire Council and in the beginning there was often confusion as to which body was functioning. In addition it is charged with recommending the agenda for all Council sessions; so all legislation on its way to Council must be heard at Naa’bik’iyati Committee. • Its membership size made obtaining a quorom and maintaining it difficult.
Legislative Process • The agenda setting function could be assigned to another committee, to the Speaker’s Office thereby relieving the Delegate’s as a body of dealing twice with every bill. • Quorum, making it and holding it was problematic; this could be remedied by having membership composed of all Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs and Speaker as Chair of the Committee.
Legislative process • The addition of public notice, originally five days now four, adds time to the legislative process in an effort to make public input a viable part of law making. • The end of the wait period doesn’t always coincide with the next committee meeting date. • In essence a trade off with favor to public notice and input.
Frozen in time • Delegate’s receive a salary that was set in 1989 at $25,000 p/yr. • Political “hot potato” to get increased. There is an elaborate meeting compensation matrix developed to provide additional revenue’s to the Delegates. • A straightforward salary that is commensurate with the responsibilities of the office and a clear open system of reimbursement of related expenses is an essential step in maintaining the integrity of the institution
Constituent services workload • Where 110 Chapters were represented by 88 Delegates , Chapters becoming used to having a Delegate at their immediate call and attending all meetings at the Chapter level….. • Now 24 Delegates represent the same number. With some Delegates representing 7 Chapters
An outcome • Experienced conscientious delegates will have burn-out from the geographically overextended responsibilities of the office and/or inability to deal with expense of the job…compounded by the stresses of political competition….
Future considerations • Increase the Council to 48
Future considerations • Establish a 48 member Navajo Nation Council drawn on same districting lines and require election of two delegates from each District and law one shall be male and one female • 24 Women • And • 24 Men