Navajo Nation Council ends winter session

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation Council delegates passed bills that will provide millions of dollars for building construction and wastewater projects before adjourning the winter legislative session on Thursday in Window Rock, Ariz.

FARMINGTON — Before adjourning the Navajo Nation Council winter session on Thursday, tribal lawmakers passed bills that will provide for millions of dollars in building construction, pay tribal officials' stipends, and fund water and wastewater projects.

Delegates voted 21-1 on Tuesday to pass a five-year expenditure plan for using $125 million in generated income from the principal balance of the tribe’s Permanent Trust Fund.

The plan proposes spending the money over five years to fund projects that include the development of shopping centers in Nahata Dziil Chapter and Ganado Chapter in Arizona; and construction of a convenience store in Crownpoint, a retail store in Dennehotso Chapter in Arizona, and a convenience store and police substation near Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort in Arizona.

There was no discussion on the bill and Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty cast the sole opposing vote.

Also on Tuesday, the council voted 13-7 to pass the proposed Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Agreement, which addresses the tribe's water claims in the upper Colorado River basin in Utah, and, in a separate bill, approved amending language in the Navajo Nation Code for the distribution of appropriations to chapters.

During the four-day session, they passed legislation to provide approximately $1.8 million in supplemental funding from the tribe's Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to provide stipends for members of district grazing committees, farm boards and the Eastern Navajo Land Board.

Another supplemental funding request passed by the council authorizes $300,000 to the Judicial Branch.

That money would be used to finish construction of new modular buildings in Window Rock, Ariz., that would house the Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts. The offices were forced to relocate after the building they were occupying was closed due to its poor condition.

Construction of the modular buildings started in August 2014 but stopped in October due to lack of funds, according to the bill.

Delegates approved $2 million in supplemental funding for the 110 chapters to use for emergency preparedness.

Navajo lawmakers also adopted an expenditure plan to use a portion of the principal from the Síhasin Fund — established by the $554 million settlement the tribe received in 2014 from a lawsuit filed against the federal government. The money would provide funding for water and wastewater projects developed by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and the Navajo Nation Water Branch Management.

Delegates voted 20-0 to establish the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration and Navajo Nation Veterans Advisory Council.

The administration would be under the tribal president's office and the advisory committee would assist the president on veteran issues.

The council approved the tribe’s parks and recreation department's plan to use $3.2 million from a fund balance to renovate and build structures in four tribal parks, including the Four Corners Monument.

Delegates confirmed the appointment of Jim R. Parris as tribal controller.

Navajo lawmakers tabled bills for supplemental funding requests for a fencing project in Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter, to renovate a modular building used by the Dzil Yijiin District Court in Arizona, and to help Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Co. pay a loan the company received from Wells Fargo Bank.

At the request of Delegate Kee Allen Begay, the council deleted from the agenda three pieces of legislation Begay sponsored. One of the bills proposed creating a Navajo Nation Business Court.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.