Capitol Alert

California tribal deal sailing toward ratification

A revamped casino compact between the Brown administration and a prominent San Diego County tribe seems headed for quick ratification after brief informational hearings this week and Assembly approval Friday morning.

The renegotiated compact between the state and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians would replace a decade-old agreement between the tribe and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That pact, celebrated during a packed Memorial Auditorium signing ceremony in June 2004, allowed the tribe and four others to operate an unlimited number of slot machines in return for making revenue-sharing payments to the state.

The renegotiated pact, announced last week, makes the revenue-sharing payment a percentage of casino earnings instead of a flat fee.

“What you’re doing is really creating a scenario here where the state of California will share with you in the good times and in the more difficult times we will share with you as well,” state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, the chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, said Thursday during an informational hearing on the pact.

The Viejas tribe’s casino is among the largest in California. Tribal leaders approached the state about renegotiating the pact earlier this year, prompting a state audit that confirmed the tribe’s financial difficulties, Brown’s senior adviser for tribal negotiations Joginder Dhillon told the Senate committee.

Tribal chairman Anthony Pico said casino revenue has helped improve the lives of tribal members. “Now we just want the government to let free enterprise roll,” he told the panel.

The ratification measure is Senate Bill 1356. The Senate is expected to consider the bill early next week.

Besides the Viejas tribe, the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians in Yolo County and the United Auburn Indian Community in Placer County were part of the June 2004 deal.