By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – With the passage of two pieces of legislation during its regular session on Thursday, Jan. 12, Tribal Council has authorized EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) officials to work with North Carolina lawmakers regarding cannabis issues and the state income taxation of EBCI tribal members.
Council passed Res. No. 492 (2023), submitted by Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed, which states, “…the Tribe and its agents and representatives are authorized to present appropriate language to the North Carolina General Assembly to further the intent of effectively and efficiently coordinating the administration of medical cannabis laws across the jurisdictions of the State of North Carolina and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”
In speaking on the legislation, Chief Sneed noted, “As a matter of tribal law (Cherokee Code Sec. 117-50b), before anybody does any work engaging with the state or federal legislature, we have to have permission of the legislative body (Tribal Council) to do so. So, any Tribal Council member, Chief, or Vice Chief who engages in Raleigh or in D.C., we need essentially marching orders to do so. As this next legislative session in Raleigh gets started and we’re down there doing lobbying work, this just grants us permission to talk to them about medical cannabis and the subsequent North Carolina law that will probably be on the floor during the next General Assembly.”
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy commented, “I’d like to be in on those discussions when they happen, and I think that this is good legislation and it is time for us to start those discussions.”
She made the motion to pass the legislation. It was seconded by Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle and was passed unanimously by Council.
Also passed by Council on Thursday was Res. No. 493 (2023), also submitted by Chief Sneed, which states, “…the Tribe considers it a legislative priority, and supports the drafting and approval of legislation to amend state law in North Carolina, to provide an exemption from state income tax for citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who do not reside on tribal trust lands but who do reside within the ancestral territory of the Tribe, also known as the established service area.”
Information from Res. No. 493 states that around 15 percent of EBCI tribal members live in the State of North Carolina off of EBCI tribal trust lands.
Chief Sneed commented during discussion on this resolution, “I’m very excited about this piece of legislation. Like the previous piece of legislation that was just on the floor, this is essentially asking permission from Tribal Council to approach the North Carolina General Assembly and also to craft language to have a North Carolina statute passed that would exempt tribal citizens from state income tax for those citizens who reside off of tribal trust lands.”
He added, “Currently, if you live and work on the (Qualla) Boundary, you’re not subject to state income tax. We would ask North Carolina to create an exemption in North Carolina state law that if you’re a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and you reside in the service area, that you would be exempted from the state income tax. This is asking for permission to engage and to carry that out.”
The five-county service area of the EBCI includes: Cherokee County, Graham County, Jackson County, Swain County, and Haywood County.
Yellowhill Rep. T.W. Saunooke made the motion to pass the resolution. Vice Chairman Albert Rose seconded the move, and the legislation passed unanimously.