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Agua Caliente Revenue Distribution Act

Rep. Rick Hill

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Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 700) to remove the restriction on the distribution of certain revenues from the Mineral Springs parcel to certain members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, as amended.

The Clerk read as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

(a) In General.--The fourth undesignated paragraph in section 3(b) of the Act entitled ``An Act to provide for the equalization of allotments on the Agua Caliente (Palm Springs) Reservation in California, and for other purposes'' approved September 21, 1959 (25 U.S.C. 951 et seq.), is amended by striking ``east: Provided,'' and all that follows through ``deceased member.'' and inserting ``east.''. (b) Effective Date and Agreement to Make Payment.--The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply with respect to net rents, profits, and other revenues that accrue on or after the date of distribution of the payment, as provided in Tribal Ordinance 22 dated August 6, 1996, to those persons referenced in Exhibit B of Tribal Ordinance 22.

Pursuant to the rules, the gentleman from Montana [Mr. Hill] and the gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Kildee] will each be recognized for 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Montana [Mr. Hill].

Rep. Rick Hill

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Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 700 would remove a revenue distribution restriction created in Public Law 86-339, a 1959 statute which related in part to the distribution of certain revenues to 85 members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

The 1959 act exempted lands known as the Mineral Springs lots from an allotment process which had been developed to distribute the band's public lands to individual members. The Mineral Springs lots were set apart and designated as tribal reserves. Revenues generated by the Mineral Springs lots were designated in the 1959 act to be used to offset inequities in the allotments to 85 members of the band and their heirs created by the withdrawal of the Mineral Springs lots from the allotment process.

H.R. 700 would endorse a 1996 ordinance enacted by the band which would compensate those members of the band, or their heirs, entitled to a cash payment or equalization allotment in satisfaction of the requirements of the 1959 act.

The amount of the compensation for each of the 85 members, $22,000, has been placed into escrow by the band.

The provisions of H.R. 700 will take effect on or after the date of the distribution of the aforementioned compensation to the 85 members of the band.

This is a fair and equitable bill. It will have no impact on the Federal budget, contains no intergovernmental or private sector mandates, and would impose no costs on State, local, or tribal governments.

I recommend that H.R. 700 be adopted by this body.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Rep. Dale E. Kildee

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Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

(Mr. KILDEE asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Rep. Dale E. Kildee

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Mr. Speaker, this legislation will bring an end to a long-standing problem that has affected the ability of the Agua Caliente Tribe of California to govern its own sovereign tribal lands.

H.R. 700 was introduced by our colleague, the gentleman from California, Mr. Sonny Bono. His legislation will allow the Agua Caliente Tribe to compensate allottees or their heirs who currently have exclusive rights to a parcel of land that is located at the site of the tribe's casino. H.R. 700 will simply allow the tribal government to use its gaming revenues to address the social problems facing the tribal members.

Mr. Speaker, I have personally visited this reservation and I have seen this problem firsthand. I know the tribal government has worked endlessly to ensure this plan was fair and equitable. I want to applaud Chairman Richard Milanovich and the Agua Caliente Tribal Council for the hard work they have put into this bill.

I also want to thank the gentleman from California [Mr. Bono] for introducing this important bill to help the residents of his district, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

Rep. Sonny Bono

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Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill. Along with my colleague, Congressman Dale Kildee, I am the proud author of H.R. 700, The Agua Caliente Equalization Act.

The Agua Caliente Tribe, located in California's 44th congressional district, has been suffering a dilemma for nearly 50 years. This bill seeks to resolve this dilemma.

This legislation provides the solution to a long standing problem that the tribe has already addressed within their governmental process and structure. This body must consider this issue because, in 1959, the Federal Government imposed restrictions on how the tribe was to resolve an internal issue.

This legislation has been reviewed by both the Justice Department and the Department of the Interior, and has passed constitutional muster. The administration has raised no objections, nor do I know of any opposition within this body.

This legislation virtually mirrors H.R. 3804, which I introduced in the last Congress and was approved under suspension. Had the Senate not adjourned, this bill, which has been cleared for floor action, would have been taken up in that body.

What this bill seeks to accomplish is to recognize the exclusive rights that were provided to 85 unallotted members of the tribe to a parcel of land owned by the tribe. The tribe, from its own revenues, would make a one-time payment to these 85 nonallottees or their heirs in exchange for the tribe to utilize any future revenues derived from this parcel of land for the benefit of the entire tribe.

This bill is a result of many meetings with the tribe and my personal knowledge of the Agua Caliente Reservation. I realize that there are many things that the tribal council need in order to assist their members. The council has informed me that they intend to provide health insurance and decent housing for their members. The council has also made commitments for both educational and employment opportunities for its members. This bill will provide the necessary mechanisms for the tribe to make these goals a reality.

The bill enjoys the overwhelming support of the tribe and the 85 affected allottees. Over 60 percent of the voting age members of the tribe have taken the time to write this committee expressing their support of this bill.

I want to commend the tribal council for its efforts to accommodate the concerns and interests of all members of the tribe. The final vote on support of this bill was unanimous by the council, illustrating the hard work and dedication of the council in addressing the needs of their tribe.

Finally, this bill reflects an agreement that the tribe and the allottees have reached themselves. As such, it reaffirms our commitment to furthering the Federal policy of self-determination and self-governance. This bill deserves the support of this body. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

Rep. Dale E. Kildee

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Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

Rep. Rick Hill

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Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.

The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Montana [Mr. Hill] that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 700, as amended.

The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.

A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.