Council will select new speaker to serve for two-year term

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FARMINGTON — The first order of business when the Navajo Nation Council convenes on Monday will be selecting and appointing a speaker for a two-year term.

The winter session will start at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of the Department of Diné Education in Window Rock, Ariz. Delegates are meeting at the education department because the council chamber is closed for renovations.

The speaker's duties include presiding over council sessions and Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee meetings, supervising Legislative Branch personnel and recommending the branch's annual operating budget.

As part of the selection process, delegates make nominations during the session. If the current speaker is nominated and accepts the nomination, a pro tem speaker will be appointed. Candidates then give a 15-minute presentation explaining their platform for the position.

After that, delegates will vote by secret ballot, with the Navajo Election Administration assisting in the process.

After the selection of a speaker, the council will hear the State of the Nation address from Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.

On Tuesday, the council will start considering legislation on the adopted agenda.

Among the bills on the proposed agenda is a measure sponsored by Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty that would prohibit the scheduling of additional committee and commission meetings when the council is in session or when the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee is meeting.

The proposal also prohibits the payment of stipends or reimbursements for delegates if they attend chapter meetings during council sessions or Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee meetings.

Crotty is also sponsoring legislation to amend the plan of operation for the Diné Uranium Remediation Advisory Commission, which makes recommendations to the tribal president for policies, laws and regulations that address the impact of uranium mining and processing on the Navajo Nation.

Delegate Raymond Smith Jr. is proposing legislation to amend the number of years a delegate serves on a standing committee. Under current law, a delegate serves four years on a standing committee, and Smith's proposal would reduce that to two years.

Navajo lawmakers will also be asked to approve changes to the structure of the Navajo Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.

A bill sponsored by Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd proposes decreasing the number of commissioners serving on the board from eight to five.

It also proposes forming a nomination committee comprised of the president, speaker and the CEO of NHA. The nomination committee would oversee the selection process for serving on the board.

Shepherd's bill would also amend the qualifications for commissioners and would have the Resources and Development Committee handle the confirmation of nominees to the commission.

Delegate Dwight Witherspoon is sponsoring a bill to rescind a 2013 council resolution that exempted the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Co. from the tribe’s fuel excise tax.

The bill states the tribal enterprise received the exemption to invest in the development of a convenience store and gas station in Twin Arrows, Ariz.

Last year, the council approved funding from the Síhasin Fund to build the travel center near Twin Arrows, and, with that action, the exemption for NNOGC is no longer necessary, according to the legislation.

There are also bills to appoint Rodgerick T. Begay as the deputy attorney general and to confirm the permanent appointment of Cynthia Thompson as a district court judge for the tribe.

Other bills seek the confirmation of Herbert Clah Jr. to serve a four-year term on the board of directors for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise and to confirm Philmer Bluehouse to serve on the Commission on Navajo Government Development.

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

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