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Navajo Nation Council winter session to open with selection of speaker

Attendees will also hear the State of the Nation address from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
The Navajo Nation Council chamber is pictured in 2016 in Window Rock, Arizona.

FARMINGTON — Attendees will confirm a speaker to preside over the legislative branch when the Navajo Nation Council convenes for the winter session Jan. 25.

The process to select and confirm a delegate to serve the two-year term will be the first item of business when the session starts.

"The session will take place at the Navajo Nation Council Chamber in Window Rock in hybrid format with council delegates attending in-person within the chamber or immediately outside the chamber in their respective vehicles," a Jan. 22 press release from the Office of the Speaker states.

After Delegate Seth Damon received the most votes for the speaker seat, he hugged runner-up Delegate Edmund Yazzie on Jan. 28, 2019 during the winter session in Window Rock, Arizona.

Current Speaker Seth Damon was sworn-in on Jan. 28, 2019 and is eligible for selection again, but any delegate can nominate another delegate for the seat.

Under the council procedures, there is no limit to the number of nominees and each one is required to make a 15-minute statement that outlines their platform.

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After the presentations, staff from the Navajo Election Administration oversee the voting process as delegates cast ballots to determine who will serve.

The bill to confirm the speaker does not explain how this process will take place this year since delegates are meeting by teleconference.

After the speaker is confirmed, the council will listen to reports, including the State of the Nation address from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

A copy of the entire proposed agenda is available on the council's website.

Among the bills listed is one to purchase property in Washington, D.C.

Two buildings occupy the property and would be used to house the Navajo Nation Washington Office.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Rick Nez submits his ballot to vote for a speaker on Jan. 28, 2019 during the winter session in Window Rock, Arizona.

The bill seeks to use approximately $5.1 million from the principal of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The amount would cover the purchase, closing costs, renovation, architect design and construction.

Another piece of legislation proposes the Division of Public Safety receive any fines or fees collected from individuals found guilty of violating curfews associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

The tribe has been under a public health state of emergency since March 11, 2020. As part of the effort to keep tribal members safe, the Navajo Department of Health has implemented curfews and lockdowns.

The Navajo Police Department has been tasked with issuing citations to those violating the restrictions.

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The bill states that the fines, which could be up to $1,000, are deposited into the tribe's general fund but the division is "in dire need" of supplemental funding to cover operational and personnel expenses in response to the pandemic.

If the legislation is approved, the division will need to develop a fund management plan then present the information to the Law and Order Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee for final approval.

The winter session is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Jan. 25. It will stream online on Vimeo and YouTube under the Navajo Nation Council name and on the council's Facebook page.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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