Navajo president vetoes bill to abolish government reform

Window Rock, Arizona (AP) 11-07

Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. has vetoed legislation that would have given a Tribal Council committee the authority to make laws and review tribal enterprises, including casinos.

The measure sought to empower the council’s Economic Development Committee with the authority to take legislative action to implement the tribe’s Business Site Leasing Regulations of 2005.

In his veto message to Speaker Lawrence Morgan during November, Shirley said the measure “diminishes the power of the council to enact legislation, usurps the power of the president to sign or veto legislation and violates the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.”

Of particular concern to Shirley was that the measure would have allowed the committee to receive reports and review the operation of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which was established by the council to oversee the development of casinos on the reservation.

“The plan of operation states that the enterprise shall operate under the legislative oversight of the Navajo Nation Council and does not include standing committee oversight,” Shirley said.

The president also vetoed a bill that would have abolished the Commission on Government Development and placed its office under Morgan.

The commission, which was created by the council, has quasi-independent authority to institute reforms to ensure an accountable and responsible government. It’s made up of representatives from each of the five Navajo agencies, the three branches of government and other specialty areas.

Shirley said eliminating the commission would undermine the intent of its creation and would not achieve any real results. Developing reform is supported by and reflects the will of the Navajo people, Shirley said.

Shirley recommended that the council maintain the commission, confirm the necessary members to serve and direct them to obtain public input through a series of government reform conferences.

The council had voted in favor of the measures during its fall session.