Waiving Navajo sovereign immunity for money

Navajo Nation Council preparing to take up $220 million Bond/Loan legislation at the Council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz., on Nov. 26, 2013. Photo by Marley Shebala

Navajo Nation Council preparing to take up $220 million Bond/Loan legislation at the Council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz., on Nov. 26, 2013. Photo by Marley Shebala

Reading of $220 m. Bond/Loan Legislation over and Debate begins with information by Sponsor – Delegate Katherine Benally:

This legislation is in honor of late Delegate Tom LaPahe, who was among the former Council’s Economic Development Committee that began this process. Many staff, chapter officials, Regional Business Development employees, community members who worked long hours on this Bond package. Also thank Budget & Finance Committee, Navajo Tribal Utiity Authority.

Doug Gough (sp) of Orrick Herrington, Mike Shreder, bond counsel w Orrick, Navajo Dept of Justice Gomez, Navajo Controller Mark Grant, Key Capital Markets, and my agent is Ray Nopah. Other Navajo Division of Economic Development staff involved are Tony Perry.

These project are shovel ready and much work has been done by DED and others. Also DED Deputy Director Deswood informed us about tax breaks and ways to leverage funds.


Expect lively discussion but hope that end of day that Council approves Bond.


At DED we are responsible for generating revenues for communities and Navajo government. And during annual budget process, we look for funding and there is always discussion of unmet needs which is why we look forward to this Bond/Loan legislation because it addresses income and employment issues.

$220 million tax revenue collected from everyday spending at bordertowns and next to bordertown tax is Navajo sales tax which is $100 million less. This legislation would bring back those tax revenues.


I support this 110 percent.


Interest cost is not free which is why some of us don’t support. For example, look at casinos. Some of brightest minds have put us in trouble. Same here, you can draw all the good pictures you want but the Navajo people will have to pay off this loan. And I’m concerned about putting Navajo Nation under jurisdiction of federal courts to settle any disputes from Bond/Loan. And I think this is first time that Council would put Navajo government under federal jurisdiction. And there is disparity between projects, $29 million for Arizona Navajo Reservation and $2 million in Eastern Navajo. Reservation.

And we’re just growing agency headquarters and not outlying areas.

And how are we going to pay this? We are told different accounts: pay with Permanent TRust Fund interest and revenue generated by businesses created by Bond/Loan. So there is really plan for debt service plan.

And finally lawyers need to look at how arrived here. It was tabled at Naabi and didn’t properly come before Council.


as I was reading Bond legislation, these projects came from former Economic Development Committee and only way amend is thru Resources & Development Committee. And so EDC Five Year Plan should have been amended by RDC. Ask Legislative Counsel to clarify.


RDC re-affirmed EDC projects.


We are going outside what EDC approved as Five Year Plan and that RDC re-affirmed. Are we in proper order to proceed with this Bond legislation.


There is law that delegates authority to Controller to negotiate Bond. There are two pages of amendments that Naabi approved and look at amendments, section 7, it talks to Council granting limited sovereign immunity from Navajo courts to federal New York Courts. So my amendment wud read, The Navajo Nation Council hereby authorizes and directs the Controller of the Navajo Nation, to negotiate all terms and conditions of the General Obligation Bonds n one or more series and the Bond Documents – as defined below – consistent with the purposes and intent of this resolution and the Bond Financing Act, and to issue the General Obligation Bonds in whole or in part as tax-exempt or taxable obligations.


This waiver of Navajo sovereign immunity, allowing all legal disputes to be settled in federal New York court, and give all power to Controller to negotiate everything is scary and wrong, wrong, wrong. We are violating our oath of office to protect the people’s sovereignty. I ask that we do not take the Rainbow off.


Mr. Tsosie is making some good statement and so I yield my five minutes to him.


wE’RE doing this all for the sake of making money. And there is higher principle that we came her for and that is protect sovereignty and people. If have to take off sovereignty for money, our people would tell us no. And there is cost in the modern world. Not only wud our sovereign immunity go away but we push paying off loan by our people and the risk of going to New York to settlme any disputes. So we not immune from it anymore. We are biggest tribe in U.S. and we have responsibility to take care of sovereignty. And if biggest tribe doing this, making bad law, then respect from other tribes go away. If u lok at amendment, you have subsidizing of Casinos and we seriously need reports on Casino operations. If Casinos not cutting it, then review. But here we will put more money into it as expense of rural communities which are barely getting anything. I understand Gallup hotel argument but DED deputy director wrong. We shud surround Gallup with economic development so taxes will continue to go to border towns.


I want to address fear mongering by addressing issue of waiver of sovereignty. An Arizona State University professor defines sovereignty as community planning, rather than relying on federal government which has been legacy here and Delegate Tsosie wants that legacy to continue.


For one, in violation of rules, Curley not addressing issue and I’ve never supported federal dependency.


I can’t believe Mr. Speaker that you are allowing personal attacks.


Delegate Curley please address the legislation.


Okay, I won’t call Mr. Tsosie a socialist and communist. I’m sorry but I wud like to have a coal mine and grant for $85 million to invest in community. I’m not crying about it. Bates can take $85 million back to his chapter. I call that Geo-Politics. Let’s get real  people that is what we are dealing with. Let’s put this Bond Plan in motion, the people have been asking for this for a long time.


The amendment deletes Sovereign Immunity Act and Delegate Tsosie claims we are for, if we vote yes, that we are not recognizing our sovereignty. We are waiving immunity, not sovereignty. So we are saying that if we misuse funds or don’t pay back then we will go into federal court instead of saying you can’t sue us because we’re sovereign. These funds are not coming from Navajo Nation but outside entity. If getting funds from China, South America, etc,, they would not loan us money if we hid behind cloak of immunity. So I don’t understand concept shared by Delegate Tsosie.


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