© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
The elephant in the living room is easy to discern: the CSKT will not negotiate. No matter what the Montana Legislature does to ‘accommodate’ them.
Reality check! If you were given all the ownership of the water, the ability to control all water uses –and tax them to boot, nearly all of the off-reservation water in western Montana to support a right to ‘take fish’, and up to $1.4 billion in federal and state funds, would you give up anything? I mean, negotiate further?
That elephant in the living room has been broadcasting that message for more than a decade, and just as recently as last week. In a Valley Journal article, Tribal Attorney Rhonda Swaney conveyed the Tribes’ true feeling, saying that if the Tribes stay with negotiation, “many feel the Tribe would be asked for more concessions.”
What concessions have the Tribes made in 10 years? None that we can see. All the concessions have been made by the Compact Commission, not the Tribes. After all, the Compact Commission gave away the store.
Without changes in the Tribe’s position, further negotiations are a waste of taxpayer funds.
Additionally, no legislative study will make a difference either. The amended SB 265 has no ‘teeth’ and we are not confident that the interim water policy study committee will take on the hard issues of the CSKT Compact. Indeed, review of the wording of amended SB 265 indicates this ‘study’ could in fact endorse the existing CSKT Compact. The proposed study has no teeth, conveys no confidence, and lacks public support. If it had public support, why was the public intentionally left out of the deliberations?
Two more clues reinforce the belief that the Tribes are not going to negotiate any further. First up is Representative Kathleen Williams’ proposed amendment to SB 265. She proposed that the ‘study’ be completed by 2013, not 2014; such a limited time frame would guarantee the interim water policy committee could only read the 1,000+ page compact, not ‘study’ it. She also proposed that at least one Compact Commissioner attend each Committee meeting, to ‘answer questions’ about the Compact. This indicates a clear intention to continue to push for the approval of the CSKT Compact in the 2013 legislative session albeit by a Special Session called by the Governor. These amendments were narrowly rejected by the House.
Second is that the amended SB 265 passed the third reading with ONLY ONE DEMOCRAT VOTE. Again, the democrats—who vote the way the Governor tells them to– are still planning on pushing the CSKT Compact through this session.
The elephant in the living room—the Tribes unwillingness to negotiate—should have been tasked to come clean: change your negotiation position or SB 265 will be pulled.
Sometimes you need to call the elephant’s bluff. Montana could do no worse in court than what is on the table now.