Farmington — Two proposed pieces of legislation are giving members of the Navajo Nation Council a chance to override a pair of presidential vetoes.
In February, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly exercised his veto authority to kill bills that would have created the Healthy Diné Nation Act and would have eliminated a 5 percent sales tax on fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, water, nuts, seeds and nut butters. Both bills were passed by the council during the winter session in January.
In a memorandum outlining the reason for the vetoes, Shelly wrote that the tribal government is not prepared to implement and collect taxes on junk food.
A provision under the Healthy Diné Nation Act would have added a 2-percent sales tax to junk food purchased on the reservation.
Revenue collected from the junk food tax would have been deposited into a Community Wellness Development Projects Fund and used by chapters to develop recreational opportunities for tribal members.
The legislation defined junk food as sweetened beverages and prepackaged and non-prepackaged snacks low in essential nutrients and high in salt, fat and sugar. Included were snack chips, candy, cookies and pastries.
Fresh fruits and fresh vegetables were defined as produce sold in fresh form and considered perishable.
The call to tax junk food while eliminating the tax on healthy food was part of a two-year initiative by the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, a group comprised of community health advocates from across the Navajo Nation.
"The two pieces of legislation were meant to bring awareness and take responsibility of our health problems, to address access to healthy foods and the consumption of junk foods, and to initiate a health policy that would be sustainable for our people," the group said in a press release after Shelly issued the vetoes.
Both of the override bills were posted on the council's website and will be eligible for committee action on Wednesday. They were assigned to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee and the council, where final authority rests.
Delegate Jonathan Hale, who represents Oak Springs and St. Michaels chapters in Arizona, is sponsoring the override bills.