CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, September 12, 2016, the House will consider the House amendment to S. 246, the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act, under suspension of the rules. S. 246 was introduced on January 22, 2015 by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and was referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, which ordered the bill reported, with an amendment in the nature of a substitute on February 4, 2015. S. 246 passed the Senate with an amendment by unanimous consent on June 1, 2015. S. 246 was received in the House and referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, which order the bill reported, as amended, by unanimous consent on July 13, 2016.
S.246 establishes an 11-member Commission on Native Children within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice to conduct a comprehensive study regarding the federal and local programs, grants, and support available for Native communities and Native children.
The Commission would include experts in the areas of Indian affairs including juvenile justice, social work, education, and mental and physical health. The Commissioners are appointed by the President and House and Senate leaders. Three years after the date on which the Commission is fully appointed and fully funded, the Commission shall issue a report with its recommendations on how to improve the use of existing federal resources, increase coordination among federal agencies, obtain measurable outcomes, strengthen the quality of data, enhance private sector partnerships, and implement best practices.
Major House changes to S. 246:
The federal government has a trust responsibility to provide for the education, health, and safety of Indian children. Today, Native children are the most at-risk population in the country, facing significant disparities in these areas.
The Commission proposed by S. 246 is named in honor of two tribal leaders. The first is Alyce Spotted Bear, a former tribal chairwoman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in North Dakota, a passionate advocate for Native children, and a recognized leader in education. The second is Walter Soboleff, a Tlingit from Alaska, a noted educator, a cultural and traditional historian, a religious leader for Alaska Native people, and the first Alaska Native Chairman of the Alaska State Board of Education.
Protecting Native children and providing safe and supportive communities has been a top priority identified by tribal leaders. Yet, the lack of sufficient coordinated research on the full scope of the causes, existing issues, and challenges inhibits the Federal and tribal governments from developing appropriate, tailored programs to deliver the most efficient and targeted services to these children.
 A federal Indiana trust responsibility is a legal obligation under which the U.S. “has charged itself with moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust” toward Indian tribes.
 See Senate Report 114-39 at 1.
 Id. at 2.
 Id. at 3.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing S. 246 would cost $2 million over the 2017-2020 period, subject to the availability of appropriations. Enacting S. 246 would affect direct spending because it would authorize the new commission to accept and spend gifts, therefore pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Further, CBO estimates that enacting S. 246 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.