Governor Fallin today signed into law House Bill 2563, a measure that modifies the qualifications for the position of the newly created Native American liaison.
In the 2011 legislative session, the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission was eliminated and the executive branch position of Native American liaison was created. The governor's office agreed with the intent of that legislation, but after it was signed into law raised legal and policy questions.
House Bill 2563, sponsored by Rep. Paul Wesselhoft and Sen. Josh Brecheen, modifies the qualifications of the position of Native American liaison to address concerns raised by the governor's office.
The bill removes language requiring the liaison be an American Indian of at least one-fourth blood and instead calls for the liaison to be a member or citizen, with valid proof of membership or citizenship, of a federally recognized American Indian tribe or nation with primary tribal headquarters in Oklahoma. HB 2563 also removes language from existing law naming the liaison the governor's designee to negotiate cooperative agreements with federally recognized tribal governments. The bill also extends to Dec. 1, 2012, the deadline for the governor to appoint a Native American liaison.
"My administration has worked closely and will continue to work closely with Oklahoma's tribes on a variety of issues as we work to develop policies that are beneficial to all Oklahomans," Fallin said. "Oklahoma's tribes make a unique and valuable contribution to Oklahoma's economy and culture. I look forward to having the Native American liaison join our administration. I know it will further enhance the partnership and communication between the governor's office and Oklahoma's tribes."
The bill goes into effect 90 days from the end of the legislative session.