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Cole Supports Hearth Act's Tribal Economic Development Reforms

May 21, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04) made the following remarks on the House floor in support of HR 205, the Hearth Act

"I rise today in support of HR 205, the Hearth Act and commend the gentleman for working so hard for passage of this important piece of legislation. Increased economic opportunity is the best way to raise the standards of living for tribal members. This legislation will help break down barriers to economic development by making needed forms to tribal leasing regulations. HR 205 will streamline the existing bureaucratic process for leasing tribal trust lands by providing Indian tribes with the option to develop and manage their own surface leasing regimes.

"Existing law requires that each lease of tribal surface lands be approved by the Secretary of the Interior. The secretarial approval process is costly, time consuming, often results in lost business and economic opportunities for tribal communities and far too cumbersome to be helpful to those it's designed to protect. These lease reforms come from a pilot program which implemented this same regime on the Navajo reservation over a decade ago.

"Based on the success of that pilot, it's only natural that these reforms be available to all tribes. under HR 205, once a tribe's own surface regime is approved by the Department of Interior, the tribe can approve leases on land under its control. passage of HR 205 will allow tribes to assume responsibility for their land and encourage more housing and economic development on Indian lands resulting ultimately in job creation. This bill has strong bipartisan support, is a priority for Indian country and is strongly supported by the administration. It empowers tribes, encourages tribal self-government, decreases the dependency of tribes on self-government and speeds up economic development in Indian Country. I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of HR 205, the Hearth Act. Again, I want to commend the gentleman from New Mexico for his hard worked on this important legislation."