AUGUSTA, Maine — The veto letter Gov. Janet Mills wrote final week opposing a invoice that might let Maine’s tribes profit from extra federal legal guidelines is six pages lengthy.
However underlying it’s many years of debate over the connection between the state and its 4 federally acknowledged tribes that make up the Wabanaki Alliance — the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Mi’kmaq and Maliseet.
This yr’s invoice from Home Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, would let Maine tribes profit from federal legal guidelines that don’t at the moment apply to them as a consequence of a landmark 1980 settlement. The settlement gave Maine tribes cash in alternate for being regulated like cities and cities, which left them with out among the powers that tribes throughout the nation have.
So why does the Democratic governor oppose the laws that tribes and lots of legislators in each events help, and what have the tribes mentioned in response? It comes right down to Mills’ lengthy listing of authorized issues, and tribal issues that she is doing little greater than stonewalling.
Listed below are the 5 principal sticking factors forward of key votes on a veto override scheduled for Thursday.
Battle between state and federal legislation
The tribes mentioned they’d profit from 151 federal legal guidelines which have handed because the 1980 settlement and any new federal legal guidelines going ahead.
However Mills and her authorized group have mentioned only some federal statutes — significantly ones regarding well being care and catastrophe help — don’t at the moment apply to Maine tribes, and he or she is keen to work with tribal leaders to alter that, fairly than signing a extra sweeping invoice.
The state laws would try and “preempt” or “override” federal provisions within the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act governing how U.S. statutes apply or don’t apply in Maine, which Mills mentioned is unconstitutional. The governor famous Lawyer Common Aaron Frey testified the invoice “is probably not efficient at attaining its said intent.”
In response to Mills saying she would negotiate with tribes on legal guidelines that don’t at the moment apply to them, just like the Stafford Act and Indian Well being Care Enchancment Act, Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation mentioned what she is “actually saying is what we wish is the established order, and we wish state veto authority.”
“It’s my perception that this would be the final … governor, interval, most likely, to take these positions, defending an previous guard, an previous mindset and private legacies,” Francis mentioned.
‘Imprecise language’ may result in lawsuits
Mills, who was the lawyer normal earlier than her 2018 election as governor, mentioned the invoice doesn’t determine exactly which state legal guidelines could be “modified,” including they might cowl areas just like the probate code, land use, fish and recreation rules, labor, hearth security and faculty funding.
That might create “nice uncertainty” for Maine residents, companies and municipalities and result in lawsuits that would take many years to resolve, Mills wrote in her letter.
Mills mentioned an modification to the invoice that exempts environmental legal guidelines doesn’t obtain its meant goal, because the carve-outs solely apply to statutes that “instantly or not directly prolong the jurisdiction” of the tribes past their territory. Mills mentioned no federal statutes try this.
Francis mentioned the state had beforehand indicated Congress ought to deal with the difficulty, just for Mills to oppose an analogous invoice led by U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District.
Lobster struggle is ‘cautionary story’
Eradicating almost 300,000 acres of land held in belief by the tribes and any new lands they purchase sooner or later from state or native regulation may result in “federal meddling,” Mills wrote in opposing the invoice.
She talked about the protracted struggle between Maine’s lobster fishermen and the U.S. authorities over proposed federal restrictions geared toward defending endangered whales. A federal appeals courtroom sided in June with the fishermen, discovering the principles may put them out of enterprise.
That case “ought to give us pause and function a cautionary story of the unintended penalties that Maine individuals may undergo below such an settlement,” Mills wrote.
Adjustments could be ‘successfully irreversible’
Mills famous the unintended penalties of the invoice would require the Legislature to repair them solely with the “specific settlement” of every tribe. Below the Maine Implementing Act, tribes have veto authority over any modifications.
“Because of this this invoice would function like a binding contract,” Mills wrote, “and these modifications could be successfully irreversible.”
Francis, the Penobscot Nation chief, argued the Wabanaki Alliance has “tried to make each adjustment, and the very fact of the matter is something past the established order just isn’t going to be acceptable to her.”
Not sufficient public enter
Lastly, Mills mentioned the Legislature the general public didn’t have sufficient time to weigh in on the laws, because it was printed Could 30 after which given a public listening to the following day earlier than the Judiciary Committee authorized a revised model throughout a June 15 work session.
She mentioned the Home and Senate every authorized the invoice on June 20, the identical day the ultimate language was printed and made public.
“It doesn’t should be this manner,” Mills wrote, pointing as a substitute to negotiations with tribes that led her to signal final yr a invoice to repair consuming water points at Nice Level Reservation and help one other invoice this yr associated to a separate settlement with the Mi’kmaq reached after the 1980 settlement however by no means ratified.
However Francis mentioned the vetoed invoice got here out of a years-long debate over sovereignty legal guidelines and that it’s “disingenuous to say this was a late submission.”