By RICHARD G. SNEED
Work on our legislative agenda continues. This month, I have submitted a resolution for approval and support from Tribal Council. Several issues are included on a single resolution concerning the upcoming legislative session in the North Carolina General Assembly. The Tribe will request an exemption for EBCI members from state hunting and fishing license fees; a change in qualifications for a NC teacher’s certification for Cherokee language teachers at the Kituwah Academy; EBCI Tribal specialty license plates which would be issued by the state of North Carolina and available only to EBCI enrolled members; a request to rename Highway 74 as the Trail of Tears Memorial Highway; an opposition to the general legalization of sweepstakes betting in North Carolina; an awareness of the general legalization of fantasy sports betting in North Carolina; and a request for the state to protect EBCI member access to and benefits from the N.C. Medicaid program. Each of these issues directly affects tribal members and I believe Tribal Council will agree. Our efforts in the General Assembly will require a significant amount of attention during the short session. The Tribe has worked for many years to improve our relationship with state leadership and that work must continue.
The Tribe has been limited in accessing the N.C. Medicaid Program. This limitation impacts on our ability to realize health care revenue and to access Medicaid information for our tribal members. This request would provide our health care entities with access to Medicaid information which can bring unrealized revenue to these vital programs.
Another item on the Tribal Council agenda is a resolution establishing the question for the upcoming referendum concerning alcohol sales outside the casino property. The Tribal Alcohol Beverage Control board has granted permits to businesses which fall within the area covered by the Blue Ridge Law. This resolution will fulfill the requirements of a previously passed resolution authorizing a referendum. If the referendum is passed, there would be a tremendous amount of work to develop regulations for its implementation.
The Tribe is also requesting the renaming of Highway 74 to the Trail of Tears Memorial Highway. The Highway is currently titled Andrew Jackson Highway and runs the length of the state. I feel this is an insult to our people. I believe members of the General Assembly would be grateful to hear and understand our concerns.
The other issue under consideration by the General Assembly involves a couple of gaming measures. We must work to ensure that our gaming issues are understood and that our perspectives are heard. The expansion of gaming in North Carolina is an issue that all state residents should be aware of and we must educate the communities which benefit from our two gaming operations about the potential effects the passage of these two measures might have on our businesses.
Our ability to hire Cherokee language teachers has been challenging. We are requesting the State consider the North Carolina Teacher’s certification qualifications regarding our Kituwah Academy. The North Carolina legislature has worked to enhance language programs in Cherokee and at other institutions. This change would allow more Cherokee language speakers to join our educational system.
There are many challenges facing our Tribe, and I am committed to working with the North Carolina General Assembly and the U.S. Congress to bring those issues to light and to seek some resolution to those challenges. I am grateful that the EBCI Tribal Council is also committed to working together in meeting with state and national leaders.