Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Bill to regulate drinking water for tribes went to the governor

AUGUSTA, Maine ( Associated Press) — The Maine Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill to let the Pasmaquadi tribe at Pleasant Point regulate their own drinking water, setting up a possible veto by the governor.

Democratic Governor Janet Mills has concerns about parts of the bill, which have received strong support from lawmakers.

The proposal would extend sovereignty to the Pasmaquadi tribe at Pleasant Point, which wants to handle water regulation after dealing with decades of poor water quality.

The bill would empower people to drill wells on tribe-owned land and work with the US Environmental Protection Agency, rather than state agencies, to ensure safe drinking water.

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This represents a major change in Maine where Native Americans are subject to state law unlike their Aboriginal counterparts across the country.

Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Maliseet traded certain rights to the state authority under an $81.5 million agreement that was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Mi’kmaq are subject to the same conditions under their own agreement adopted in 1991.

The Pasmaquadi water bill passed the House with a veto-proof, two-thirds majority, but it was two votes away from that limit in the Senate.

Two Democrats were absent from an earlier roll call vote in the Senate. Those absent MLAs can provide the required margin.

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It is one of two tribal sovereignty bills in the Legislature.

The second is much more elaborate, making changes to the Land Claims Settlement Act to ensure that tribes have control over their land. Right now, reservations operate more like municipalities, subject to state law.

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