The opinions expressed in The Sacramento Bee’s editorial “State is no potted plant in casino decisions” (Editorials, May 10) are very concerning and full of misleading information on the state compacting process.
With the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, Congress reaffirmed the sovereignty of tribal governments and each state by creating a government-to-government process where sovereign governments negotiate terms that are beneficial to their constituents.
In 2001, the voters of California authorized the governor, through a constitutional amendment, to negotiate with tribal governments for a compact to engage in Class III gaming on Indian lands through a three-part process – negotiation with the governor, ratification by the Legislature and ultimate approval by the secretary of the interior.
The role of the Legislature is to ratify or not ratify the terms of the compact as negotiated with the governor. The Legislature does not have the ability to define what Indian lands are eligible for gaming. Federal law is clear that if a tribe has land in trust that is eligible for gaming, the tribe may engage in gaming on that land. If they want to participate in Class III games, a compact with the state is needed.
This process has worked for the state and tribes. The use of referendums in the compact process is troubling as it undercuts this longstanding government-to-government process.
The editorial board’s assertion that “some tribes seek to open new gambling palaces in more urban settings, with or without state approval” is completely misleading. In order for any tribe to operate a casino, the land must be held in trust by the federal government. Gaming on land acquired after the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act goes through an exhaustive federal process; the governor must then concur with the taking of the land in trust.
In the specific cases in the editorial, Gov. Jerry Brown concurred with the federal government, making gaming eligible.
In regards to HR 511, it clarifies that tribal governments are treated equally as other governments. No government is subject to the whims of a politically appointed body like the National Labor Relations Board. Tribes in California have longstanding tribal labor-relations ordinances that are negotiated with the state and provide protections and due process for tribal government employees. Our employees are extremely important to us, which is why tribal governments provide higher-than-average wages and benefits to our employees.
Steve Stallings is the chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.