State House Bill Introduced to Create Office of Tribal Legislative Liaison

Tribal Leaders Demonstrate Support of House Bill 5600

Introduced by State Rep. Carrie A. Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor), House Bill 5600 seeks to create an Office of Tribal Legislative Liaison (OTLL) in Michigan.

Rep. Carrie Rheingans during the virtual conference with NHBP Tribal Council Chairperson Jamie Stuck
and Sault Ste. Marie Tribal Councilman Austin Lowes.

During a virtual press conference on March 21, Rep. Rheingans discussed the introduction of her bill to create the OTLL. This legislation seeks to better facilitate government-to-government relationships through consultation in the policymaking process between legislators and the 12 federally recognized Tribes in Michigan.

“I am excited to introduce this legislation that would strengthen communication, collaboration, and partnership between our State Legislature and the 12 federally recognized Tribes that share borders with Michigan,” Rheingans said. “The Office of Tribal Legislative Liaison (OTLL) will serve as a centralized hub for us to deliberately seek consultation on matters of mutual interest including economic development, environmental stewardship, healthcare, education, public safety, and more. The creation of this office will be a tangible commitment to government-to-government relationship building, honoring treaty rights, and advancing the well-being of all Michiganders.”

During the conference, the President of the United Tribes of Michigan (UTM) and NHBP Tribal Council Chairperson Jamie Stuck spoke of the efforts to introduce the bill.

“This has been three years in the making on our end, through many conversations among the 12 Sovereign Nations in our state, and we are hopeful that this can get over the finish line,” said Stuck. “True collaborative relationships are established between the Tribal governments and the State of Michigan, and we cannot afford to govern in isolation.”

If signed into law, the OTLL would be responsible for:
• Maintaining relationships with all 12 federally recognized Tribes in the state.
• Guiding members of the Legislature and their staff on legislation that impacts the Tribes.
• Informing the Legislature about the impact of specific legislation.
• Providing annual training to members of the Legislature and their staff on how to consult with the Tribes and the history and current state of the Tribes.
• Creating an annual report available to the governor, the leadership of both chambers, each committee chair, and the public. The report details concerns presented by elected Tribal leaders during the development of legislation in the previous year.

As for the Tribal governments and citizens in Michigan, the benefits would be vast.

“This Office will help empower elected Tribal leaders to be better informed and to engage better with the citizens that they serve, as each Sovereign Nation has different priorities, and this bill allows for the individual, not just the collective, consultation with Tribes,” said Stuck. “The approval of this position will promote a more respectful and cooperative collaboration, by including Tribal leaders during the development of legislation impacting our communities, leading to a more inclusive and equitable process where our voices are heard.”

Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribe of Indians Tribal Council Chairman and Vice President of UTM Austin Lowes also demonstrated his support of House Bill 5600 during the conference.

“A liaison would carry on the institutional knowledge of the Tribes and pass that on to legislators because, every couple of years, we Tribal Leaders have a new group of legislators to build relationships with,” said Lowes. “We educate them on our issues, like boarding schools, loss of land — all these issues that are so important and that have caused so much harm to Indian Country —by the time they reach that necessary level of understanding, they are out of office.

“I think it is wonderful that this bill is asking Tribes who we want to have in this position,” said Lowes. “So often we work with people that we don’t have any input on, so that this appointment will be filled based on the recommendations of the 12 federally recognized Tribes is a powerful statement by the State of Michigan.”

House Bill 5600 builds on the work of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Directive 2019-17, which established that each department and agency in the State of Michigan must adopt and implement a process for consulting on a government-to-government basis with Michigan’s federally recognized Indian tribes. If this bill passes, then two branches — both the Executive and Legislative — will have laws protecting and requiring formal consultation with federally recognized Indian Tribes.

For the Crain’s Business Grand Rapids story, please click here:


Related Articles

Shining a Light on the People Who Inspire Us

Shining a Light on the People Who Inspire Us

A Tale of How Dedicated NHBP Volunteers Make a Difference Held in April every year, National Volunteer Month celebrates and recognizes the contributions of volunteers who donate their time and energy to others. This month-long observance serves as a poignant reminder...

A Taste of NHBP: Creamy Vegetable & Chicken Bake

A Taste of NHBP: Creamy Vegetable & Chicken Bake

Creamy Vegetable & Chicken Bake 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 can cream of mushroom soup 1 can of peas, drained and rinsed 1 6.5oz can of sliced button mushrooms, drained & rinsed 1/2 can chicken brothOlive oilBrown rice for serving Preheat oven to...

Share This