CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On March 2, 2009, H.R. 326 is being considered on the floor under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) on January 8, 2009. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which has taken no official action.
H.R. 326 directs the Secretary of the Interior to take lands in Yuma County, Arizona, into trust as part of the reservation of the Cocopah Indian Tribe. Under the bill, 423 acres of Cocopah lands purchased by the tribe would be put into trust, adding to the 5,934 acres of the current reservation. However, the legislation specifically forbids the land being given to be used in an way for gambling.
The Cocopah Tribe was established by an executive order signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917. That reservation is made up of 3 noncontiguous tracts of land in Yuma County, Arizona. The Tribe purchased 7 additional parcels of land to assist in their infrastructure.
Land on Native American Reservations may be held two separate ways. Land held "in fee" means that it is owned as private property and therefore cannot be gambled on, under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Such landowners are subject to the same laws that a private property owner is. They cannot operate the land as a sovereign entity. When land is transferred "in trust", it means the land has been given to the Native American tribe and they are now allowed to operate the land as a separate sovereign entity. This means they can determine the laws of the land, and they are not subject to state and local taxes. The House considered identical legislation (H.R. 673) in the 110th Congress. The bill passed the House by unanimous consent on July 30, 2007.
A CBO score for H.R. 326 was not available at press time. However, a CBO score for H.R. 673 (an identical bill considered in the 110th Congress) estimated that the legislation would "have no significant costs on state, local, or tribal governments."