An overhaul of the state's tribal liaison program is a step closer to approval in the Wyoming Senate.
Members of the Senate Corporations Committee voted Tuesday to advance Senate File 50. The bill creates two tribal liaison's positions in the governor's office. Legislators say the move would quell contracting concerns between the state and tribes.
"There isn’t a mechanism in place that is suitable to promote a dialogue," Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander and co-chairman of the Joint Select Tribal Relations Committee. "Instead of just saying the governor may have a tribal liaison, this says the governor shall select two persons. It allows the governor to set concerns for communications."
Liaisons would be appointed by the governor from lists provided by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes and require Senate confirmation. The state would fund $200,000 annually for the positions expenses and salaries.
A state move to fully fund the program ends the need for private contracting between the liaisons and both state and tribal entities.
"That has been the source of problems with this," Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander and Senate Corporations Committee chairman, said. "It’s clear that this is a benefit to the state of Wyoming, (and) it should be a funded position."
Case said that the change does not preclude the tribes from hiring their own representation at the Legislature.
"I would encourage them to do so," he said. "But these two positions are state positions."
Larsen, the bill's sponsor, said the EPA boundary dispute in Fremont County and increased opportunities for water storage on the reservation are added pressure to improve communication.
"The need for communication between the governor’s office and these two sovereign entities is critical," he said.
Corporations committee members voted unanimously to advance the legislation.
SF50 will be considered by the Wyoming Senate later this week.