Happy New Year 2016
We want to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous new year, and hope to see you again in 2016 at conferences or here in Washington. The Congress has been very busy at the end of this year and proud of the fact it accomplished the passage of major highway and education bills that had lingered on the congressional agenda for months, and also approved a tax break and spending package, avoiding a government shutdown. Appears that Congress is working again. As Speaker Ryan recently was quoted. “We passed more major legislation in a few weeks than we have in a few years.” See my other recent blog post for details of the recent legislation that broke the congressional deadlock.
WASHINGTON LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL, TAX EXTENDERS, INTERIOR IMPROVEMENT ACT
- For the Indian Health Service (IHS), the omnibus provides a total appropriation of $4.8 billion, a 3.6% increase over FY 2015 levels. This includes flat funding at $914 million for Purchased/Referred Care (formerly Contract Health Services) and $523 for Facilities, a $63 million increase. It also provides an additional $10 million to alcohol and substance abuse for a focus on Tribal youth, and an increase of $12.9 million for staffing.
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is funded at a total of $2.8 billion, a 7.5% increase over FY 2015 enacted. This includes $2.26 billion for the Operation of Indian Programs, a $161 million reduction compared to FY 2015, as well as $852 million for the Bureau of Indian Education. Notably, the bill also contains $138 million for school construction, an increase of $63.7 million, which should complete the 2004 replacement school construction list.
- For Contract Support Costs (CSC) at both BIA and IHS, the omnibus creates an indefinite appropriation using the language, “such sums as may be necessary,” rather than specific amounts. Tribes and Tribal organizations advocated for the CSC line item to be made mandatory on a permanent, indefinite basis in order to stabilize funding, protect funding appropriated to other line items, and help to avoid funding shortfalls. Though the omnibus does not make CSC mandatory, providing for an indefinite appropriation will allow the agencies to pay CSC in full, as required by the Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter, as well as protect other line items in the budget and avoid shortfalls.
- In addition to the omnibus, Congress also passed a $680 million package to extend a number of critical tax provisions that have been expired since the end of 2014. Each of these tax credits is designed to encourage increased investment in projects within Indian Country, as well as increased jobs for Native people and indicate that greater tax reform is around the corner. These include:
the Interior Improvement Act
Federal Court Rules Against Redskins In Legal Battle With Native Americans
JULY 08, 201510:23 AM ET
A federal court has ruled against Washington, D.C.’s, professional football team in a legal battle with Native Americans over the team’s name.
United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office should cancel the team’s trademark of the Redskins name because the name “may disparage” native Americans.
This order does not go into effect until the team has exhausted its appeals. The next step for the team would be the United States Supreme Court.
But as Judge Lee points out, even if the judicial system ultimately sides with the group of Native Americans fighting this in court, the team could still continue to use its name. The decision would mean that the team would no longer be protected by federal trademark protections, which means the team would have a harder time stopping independent sellers from using its logo on jerseys, for example.
As the Washington Post reports, the team has argued that canceling its trademark “would taint its brand and remove legal benefits that would protect against copycat entrepreneurs.”
In Lee’s opinion for the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, he ruled against the team and agreed with a previous ruling from the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Lee wrote: “The Court finds that Blackhorse Defendants have shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to the ‘may disparage’ claim: the record evidence shows that the term ‘redskin,’ in the context of Native Americans and during the relevant time period, was offensive and one that ‘may disparage’ a substantial composite of Native Americans, ‘no matter what the goods or services with which the mark is used.’ … ‘Redskin’ certainly retains this meaning when used in connection with PFI’s football team; a team that has alwaysassociated itself with Native American imagery, with nothing being more emblematic of this association than the use of a Native American profile on the helmets of each member of the football team.”