Navajo Council vote on Speaker Pro Tem is a Tie

The 23rd Navajo Nation Council is holding its first special session. After invocation and introductions, the Council took up its first legislation, which is to elect a speaker pro tem.

The nominations for Speaker Pro Tem are Delegate LoRenzo Bates and Kee Allen Begay. The Speaker Pro Tem will serve for two weeks, or until the Council’s Winter Session, which is when the Council will elect a Speaker for a two-year term.

DELEGATE LORENZO BATES says that the Council selected him to be Speaker Pro Tem during a time when the Council faced many challenges. And yes this position is only for two weeks but during those two weeks there are meetings with Arizona State Legislature and the New Mexico State Legislature. And during the next two weeks, there will be no changes in the Office of the Speaker until the Council votes for a Speaker. YOU all bring exciting, bright ideas that we want to move on and that can only occur when there is a Speaker. One of the major discussions is with President Ben Shelly for Winter Session and that will take cooperating, especially from the Council on how the Council wants the President to proceeed, which will involve meetings with the President. And that is the responsibility of your Speaker Pro Tem. We also need to prepare for the Council’s Winter Session, which includes the sponsorship of legislation without committee reviews/action since there are no standing committees. I recognize the fact that you recognize my ability but that experience came from being a delegate. I look forward to listening to you in the next two weeks on how we deal with issues on the table. The speaker pro tem must listen and provide guidance. If you vote otherwise, that is your perogative and I will continue to give advice. Thank you for the nomination.

DELEGATE KEE ALLEN BEGAY says he had the opportunity to serve with Bates and with Vice President Rex Lee Jim while serving on the Council’s Judiciary Committee. I am very familiar with Executive Branch. we can accomplish certain things within this limited time. It’s like throwing a coal into a train that will operate on coal. We also need to understand that we have legislative staff here and they have always been support staff that promotes leadership of Council. We can form a position paper to present to leadership of Arizona and New Mexico. I have confidence that they will prepare our position papers. I will not be able to go but I would like to seek you leadership in presenting these papers to Arizona and New Mexico legislature. I am confident that I can serve as your leader for this short time. Here the Navajo people when they say that they want the Navajo language spoken at this level, I can do that. I can inform people at chapter level. I will have no problem in delivering those messages. I leave that decision to you. I also ask colleagues to be respectful with their decisions and I will be respectful of their decisions.

(Begay’s presentation is done entirely in the Navajo language. Bates’ presentation is done entirely in the English language.)

DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE says that as the two candidates were speaking that the voting was finished before Delegate Kee Allen Begay finished speaking. (Legislative staff were handing out the ballots before the candidates spoke.)

DELEGATE LEONARD TSOSIE says that this is a simple thing. We should vote openly instead of by secret ballot. And the Winter Session vote for Speaker is more important.

Bobby Notah, who is with the Legislative Services, and Dorothy Aquirre, a Navajo Board of Election supervisor, are counting the ballots for speaker pro tem in front of the Council. It is now 6:06 p.m.

The Vote is 12 for Bates and 12 for Begay.

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