Submitted by Tosh C. Welch on behalf of Tribal Council
The purpose of Tribal Council’s travel is nationwide coalition building and lobbying state and federal legislators. Many questions get asked when elected officials are on travel. Such as, are they on vacation? Is this travel necessary? The public has the right to ask those questions, and EBCI Tribal Council has the right to answer them. Yes, some of your elected officials have been all over the country. They are working diligently to advance the political and economic agendas of the EBCI.
In recent years, the long-standing relationships between EBCI Tribal Council with state and federal legislators had diminished. Some of the disconnect can be attributed to the onset of the Covid pandemic. As well, some legislators retire or vacate office, some simply lose dialog with EBCI elected officials, and some legislators aren’t fully informed as to the nature of the indigenous issues being debated on the congressional floors in Washington D.C. and Raleigh.
Recognizing the importance of legislative power, the EBCI Tribal Council has made a sound effort to become a presence on the state, federal, and tribally affiliated national coalition scene. Simply put, a Cherokee presence is noticed, and becomes influential when congressmen and congresswomen meet during regular session to pass legislation. Indigenous people and Native American tribes are very simply a stronger voice when they show up together in Washington DC. Likewise, state level initiatives are more influential when EBCI has worked with members of the NC Senate and NC House of Representatives to build support for the issues pertaining to all citizens of the EBCI.
Additionally, the EBCI Tribal Council and Principal Chief met with Governor Roy Cooper at the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh, NC. The conversations were productive, as Gov. Cooper agreed to have open discussions with the EBCI on all matters important to our Tribal Nation, and he was positive in remarks about the EBCI’s role in pushing the statewide Medicaid Issues.
Given the update on news from the meeting with NC Governor Roy Cooper, EBCI Tribal Council has provided the following list of interests that are being addressed on your behalf on the state and federal levels.
State Level Issues for the EBCI in Raleigh, N.C.
Tribal ID Cards for all purposes and purchases
North Carolina, at present, does not allow for Tribal ID Cards to be used for all purchases or purposes. If passed, the legislation put forward by EBCI will allow for EBCI Tribal ID Cards to be used for the purchase of all items to include alcohol, tobacco, medications, etc. Since EBCI Tribal ID cards are Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) approved, they meet the highest standards. If EBCI members can use their Tribal ID Cards to fly anywhere in the United States, we believe they should be good for all purchases and purposes.
The move to make Medicaid available to eligible persons statewide would increase the number of people in the rural WNC communities to have health coverage. This offsets the costs for the Tribe for those living off boundary, and for non-enrolled community members who reside on boundary or in the 5-county service area.
Online Sports Betting
Legislation to pass online sports betting in the State of NC would have an impact on gaming revenues for the EBCI. EBCI’s interest in this matter is that when individuals are on the Qualla Boundary, the bill would require them to use the EBCI’s system of online betting, thus providing additional gaming revenues to the EBCI.
NC Income Tax Exemption
EBCI has initiated legislation in Raleigh to provide a NC Income Tax Exemption for enrolled members of the EBCI who live off-boundary. At present enrolled members of the EBCI who reside and work on Qualla Boundary are exempt from paying NC Income Tax. This becomes a matter of equitable treatment of enrolled members as some individuals work on Qualla Boundary, but due to shortage of available housing, are limited to housing that’s off-boundary. EBCI Tribal Council is working diligently to get this passed in the NC General Assembly.
Compassionate Care Act
The Compassionate Care Act is a bill that has been introduced onto the floor of the NC General Assembly to legalize medical marijuana in the state of North Carolina. As EBCI has already made medical marijuana (cannabis) legal, the Cannabis Dispensary on Qualla Boundary looks to open in April. If this bill passes both the NC House and Senate, then the EBCI Cannabis Dispensary will be the only operational and legal dispensary in the state of NC as the industry spreads statewide. This would make Cherokee cannabis more profitable at the onset of legalization of medical marijuana. This would not only directly affect revenues for the EBCI but would also create more jobs for the immediate Cherokee community and service area.
The conclusion (Part 2) in next week’s One Feather.
(Tosh Welch is the legislative public relations specialist for the EBCI Tribal Council)