By Adam L. Candler Legislative Counsel
Title 3 of Mille Lacs Band Statutes vests all legislative political authority within the Band Assembly. The Band typically exercises these legislative powers by approving bills and resolutions, but also has the authority to adopt Legislative Orders and annul Commissioner’s Orders and Solicitor’s Opinions. Moreover, the Band Assembly is empowered by Title 6 of Band Statutes to amend the tribal government’s Personnel Policy and Procedures Manual and by Title 12 to ratify Housing Policies.
The Band Assembly passes two types of bills: appropriation bills and authorization bills. An appropriation bill is a proposed law that authorizes the expenditure of tribal government funds and is most often recommended to the Band Assembly by the Band’s Commissioner of Finance, Administrative Policy Board, or both. An authorization bill is a proposed law that authorizes the activities of various departments and programs that are part of the tribal government.
If either type of bill is approved by the Band Assembly, it must be transmitted to the Chief Executive within 72 hours. Subsequently, the Chief Executive has five calendar days from the date of receipt to either sign the bill into law or impose a veto. In the event that the Chief Executive does not sign the bill at all, the bill automatically becomes law at the end of the five-day approval window.
If the Chief Executive vetoes an authorization bill, the Chief Executive and Band Assembly must conduct a compromise hearing within five calendar days of the return of the bill to the Band Assembly. If the compromise hearing is not conducted within those five calendar days, all action on the bill is halted by statute for a period of 180 days. If the hearing is conducted on time, a 15-day negotiation period is allowed to reach an agreement. If an agreement is not reached within those 15 days, all action on the bill is similarly halted for a period of 180 days.
A veto of an appropriation bill by the Chief Executive follows a different process. Namely, the compromise hearing must be conducted within three days, not five. Band Assembly negotiations with the Chief Executive begin on the fourth day, and the Band Assembly cannot legally adjourn until a compromise has been reached.
Authorization bills are presented to the Band Assembly by one of the Band’s three District Representatives. The Band Assembly now employs a Revisor of Statutes under Title 25 to assist the District Representatives with the drafting of authorization bills. Although the Office of the Solicitor General may assist in drafting such legislative items as bills and resolutions in accordance with Title 4, this can only be done if requested by the Speaker of the Assembly.
District Representatives also reserve the option to post any proposed authorization bill for public comment in accordance with Legislative Order 28-20. This procedure has been used in the recent past and will likely be used again soon. The revision of certain Mille Lacs Band statutes also requires a formal public hearing in order for them to be effective. Band members seeking to shape the legislative process are encouraged to (a) provide comments when legislation is posted for public comment, (b) attend formal public hearings when they are scheduled, and (c) contact their District Representatives with ideas and suggestions for proposed legislation.