President Expands Self-Governance to Department of Transportation

On Friday, December 4, 2015, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act into law, expanding Self-Governance beyond the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) for the first time ever.

The FAST Act authorizes of a version of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Tribal Self-Governance Program that Tribes have been advocating for several years. Essentially this provision would extend many of the Self-Governance provisions of Title V of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) to DOT.

Except for a couple helpful clarifications, this version of the Tribal Self-Governance provisions mirrors the House reauthorization bill H.R. 3819. That bill, in tum, largely tracked the standalone DOT Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Act, H.R. 1068, introduced by Representatives Peter Defazio (D-OR) and Don Young (R-AK).

The Tribal Self-Governance Program, if enacted, would require DOT to establish a Tribal Self-Governance Program modeled largely on Title V of the ISDEAA, and it would extend to all programs available to Tribes within the Department (e.g., it would allow Tribes to include transit funding, discretionary grant funds, and federal-aid funds transferred by a state agency in their funding agreements (FAs). Additionally, because this draft amendment is modeled on Title V, it would provide Tribes with a tested and successful model to implement the principles of Tribal self-determination with protections provided under the ISDEAA.

You can review the law here and a summary here.