How the Navajo Nation Council voted during their Winter Session in January 2014

Opening ceremony of the Navajo Council winter session included the posting of colors by Tohatchi, N.M., Color Guard on Jan. 27, 2914. Photo by Marley Shebala

Opening ceremony of the Navajo Council winter session included the posting of colors by Tohatchi, N.M., Color Guard on Jan. 27, 2914. Photo by Marley Shebala

As I’m sitting here still waiting for Naabik’iyati Committee to get a quorum, I’ll start sharing more information from the Navajo Council’s Winter Session, which was from Jan. 27 to 30.

Speaker Johnny Naize’s public information staff released the
“LEGISLATIVE BRANCH NEWS – WINTER SESSION 2014” which includes the voting record of Council Delegates on legislation that the Council acted on during their Winter Session.

But you’ll have to read through Naize’s flowery “Speaker Message” about the Council. According to Naize, “At times the discussions were contentious, however, I believe it displayed the passion within our leaders when confronted with controversial and difficult issues that will impact their constituents for years to come.” I’m pretty sure that Naize was referring to Delegate Katherine Benally’s outburst of rage during the debate over LEGISLATION 0011-14 which was the next legislation after LEGISLATION 0003-14.

Both pieces of legislation were sponsored by Delegate Alton Shepherd and the legislation were both to remove Delegate Johnny Naize as speaker for losing his legally required “good standing” status to serve as speaker when the Special Prosecutors filed 11 criminal charges against him for conspiracy to committee bribery and bribery in connection with the now defunct discretionary funds or emergency assistance for the most needy Navajo individuals.

Legislation 0003-14 was for the Council to remove Naize with a 2/3 vote of the 24 member Council or 16 “yes” votes. The Council vote was 12 in favor, 11 opposed and so Legislation 0003-14 failed. Legislation 0011-14 was for the Council to select a new speaker and Legislation 0011-14 only required a majority vote. If a majority vote was required for Legislation 0003-14, then it would have been approved and Naize would not speaker. With that thinking in mind, the 11 delegates who supported Naize started questioning why 0011-13 was even on the agenda because it was tied to 0003-14 and so it should be automatically removed from the Council’s agenda. But under Navajo law, legislation that was properly placed on the Council agenda cannot be automatically removed. There is a process and the Council was advised by Navajo Department of Justice that only the Council could remove legislation from their agenda and only with a 2/3 vote. But Naize’s attorney said that the speaker could remove Council legislation by simply calling legislation out of order because the legislation was deficient. Deficient was defined as the legislation having errors. And so Speaker Pro Temp Edmund Yazzie ruled Legislation 0011-14 out of order which the Council immediately challenged but lost. During this very heated debate over Legislation 0011-14 is when Delegate Katherine Benally stood up, pounded her hands on her desk and accused the 12 delegates of retaliating against Naize because they “didn’t get the girl.”

I mention Legislation 0011-14 because it’s not listed among the Legislation that the Council acted on during its Winter Session. This section where the legislation is located and how each delegate voted is in the back of the Legislative News report, which also contains interviews with each of the chairpersons of the Council’s four standing committees.


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