HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 21Issue 24Federal Legislation Introduced to Clarify Indian Gaming Laws

On Tuesday, July 28, 2015, Senator John Barasso (R-WY) introduced legislation that, if passed, would alter the Department of the Interior’s (“Department”) tribal land acquisition process in an effort to make the process more streamlined. The legislation has been introduced, in part, to address legal and regulatory issues that have arisen since the Supreme Court’s decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, 555 US 379 (2009), which limited the Department’s ability to take land into trust for tribes that had not received federal recognition prior to 1934.

Senate Bill 1879, The Interior Improvement Act (“SB 1879”), would permit the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for all federally recognized tribes regardless of their date of federal recognition. The legislation is also designed to streamline the Department’s review process for land into trust applications by codifying certain regulations, requiring increased consultation and communications with tribes, encouraging cooperative agreements between tribes and government agencies, as well as increasing the ability for stakeholders to comment on land applications. In addition, the legislation would reaffirm the trust status of lands that have already been placed into trust.

Trust lands are used by tribes for a number of governmental and economic development initiatives. In addition, the land into trust process is an important consideration for tribes seeking to operate gaming facilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. According to a press release from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the bill “dramatically improves the Department of the Interior trust land acquisition process for Indian tribes.” Senator Barasso also stated that “[t]his bill clarifies existing law and streamlines outdated, cumbersome, and costly land into trust processes within the Department of the Interior.”

SB 1879 has been referred to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, where Sen. Barasso is the Chairman. 

 

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