Maine House Approves Tribal Bill, Casinos Excluded from Benefits

In a significant development, the Maine House voted in favor of a bill that would enable Native American tribes in the state to benefit from federal laws, overriding a previous land claims settlement. However, the proposed legislation specifically prohibits the application of certain federal laws related to casinos, making it necessary to obtain state approval for their establishment. The bill will now move to the Senate for further consideration.

Maine Bill Seeks to Extend Federal Benefits to Wabanaki Tribes

The tribes in Maine have long been governed by the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980, which subjected them to state law and limited their access to federal legislation. This contrasted with the autonomy enjoyed by the other 570 federally recognized tribes across the country.

The proposed bill seeks to address this disparity by allowing most federal laws that benefit other tribes to extend to the Wabanaki tribes in Maine, reported New England Cable News. However, it is important to note that the bill falls short of granting full sovereignty to the tribes.

The legislation specifically excludes certain federal laws pertaining to casinos, requiring state permission for their establishment. This provision aims to strike a balance between tribal interests and state concerns. Despite the exclusion, tribal leaders and supporters of the bill have expressed optimism about its potential benefits.

Passamaquoddy tribal representative, Rep. Aaron Dana, shared a troubling incident to illustrate the urgent need for change. He highlighted how his tribe was unable to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when a cold snap caused pipes to freeze at a health clinic. Dana stated that he believed the bill could be considered the single most important in recent history ufa800 due to the immediate and critical impact it could have on the Wabanaki tribes.

Critics Voice Concerns as Maine Tribal Bill Raises Potential for Conflicts and Lawsuits

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However, critics of the bill have raised concerns about potential conflicts and lawsuits that could arise from its implementation. Governor Janet Mills’ chief legal counsel urged the tribes to collaborate with the administration to find mutually agreeable solutions rather than pursuing a bill that may create new complications.

The bill’s passage in the Maine House reflects a significant step forward in rectifying the inequities faced by Native American tribes in the state. While it falls short of full sovereignty, it represents progress toward achieving greater parity with other federally recognized tribes.

The Senate will now deliberate on the bill, and its fate will be closely watched by tribal communities and supporters throughout Maine. The Native American tribe bill comes at a time when the state of Maine is preparing to launch its sports betting market. The head of the state’s gambling regulator, Milton Champion, suggested that sports betting could go live in time for Thanksgiving, pending the review and approval of the revised rules.