CA Tribal Compacts Approved without Environmental Report

A California bill that seeks to ratify tribal gaming compacts and exempt the tribes from providing an environmental review was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom this week.

‘In Deference to Tribal Sovereignty

SB 900, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Melissa Hurtado and co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Rep. Devon Mathis and Dem. Eduardo Garcia, Dem. James Ramos, and Dem. Rudy Salas, Jr., sets provisions for the tribal compacts to be exempted from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

CEQA requires any project that may have a significant effect on the environment to prepare an environmental impact report but SB 900, “in deference to tribal sovereignty,” treats the compacts with the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe and the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California as projects outside of the purposes of CEQA.

To comment on the news, the office of Sen. Hurtado released a statement, hailing the economic and community benefits the compacts will provide without mentioning the CEQA exemption. Hurtado is currently running for the state’s 16th Senate District seat.

“For decades the Tachi Yokut Tribe has been a valuable partner in the Kings County Community. The tribe provides scholarship assistance, job training and adult education programs, health and welfare assistance and other social services. I am pleased that the Tachi Yokut Tribe will receive the recognition they deserve.”

Sen. Melissa Hurtado

Hailing Efforts to Pass the Bill

The release included comments from the Tachi Yokut tribe’s chairman Leo Sisco, who thanked both Gov. Newsom and Sen. Hurtado for their efforts to pass the tribal compact.

“We are pleased to continue our role as a positive economic force in the local community while maintaining the important opportunities and resources for our members, many of which are made possible by our gaming enterprise.”

Chairman Leo Sisco, Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe

In March, Gov. Newson signed the tribal-state gaming compacts that reflect both the Governor’s and the tribe’s “mutual commitment to a respectful government-to-government relationship, promoting tribal economic development and self-sufficiency, and a strong tribal government.”

Both compacts expressly stated that the tribes are not authorized to operate any Class III Gaming that the State of California “lacks the power to authorize or permit” under the California Constitution.

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