Wyoming lawmakers seek to boost tribal relations committee

January 31, 2020 GMT

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming lawmakers will consider whether to make a select committee on tribal relations permanent.

The Wyoming Legislature’s Management Council endorsed a bill Thursday to boost the stature of the Select Committee on Tribal Relations.

Lawmakers will next consider the change during a four-week legislative session in Cheyenne that begins Feb. 10.

Proponents say the change would improve the state’s relationships with the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes sharing the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The Legislature established the select committee in 2000 as a liaison to the tribes but the panel only meets a few times a year at most.

A typical standing committee meets four to five times a year, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

“I do think it does a lot to help foster relationships,” said Republican Sen. Affie Ellis, of Cheyenne, co-chair of the tribal relations committee.

The Select Committee on Tribal Relations has become significantly more active in recent years. In 2019, it made serious attempts to address concerns on the reservation with irrigation, law enforcement, school absenteeism and ballot access for tribal members.

As a standing committee, the panel would be able to sponsor legislation without assistance from other committees, Ellis said.

“We just want to have that option and ability,” she said.