Congress passes bill to reduce War Memorial Fund by $350,000

With eight working days left in the 2013 Tzi-Zho Session, the Third Osage Nation Congress is considering several cuts and delays on several appropriation items on the table so the 2014 fiscal year governmental budgets may pass before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Per the Osage Constitution, the Congress also has the option to extend the 24-day session up to three days, which would push the session’s end date to Oct. 3 with two-thirds Congressional approval.

On Sept. 19, Congress approved one of the first bills (ONCA 13-99) geared at saving money for this year’s proposed spending requests by reducing the $500,000 Osage War Memorial Fund by $350,000. The vote was 10-1 with a “no” vote from Congressman John Maker. Congressman John Jech was absent from the session.

The $500,000 fund was originally established in a 2011 law also sponsored by Standing Bear, but the money has not been used and no War Memorial Commission members have been appointed and confirmed to administer the memorial’s construction.

Coming from the budget brainstorming process held in the Congressional committee meetings, Standing Bear proposed the idea to use the funding and sponsored ONCA 13-99 to authorize the fund reduction. He also sponsored the War Memorial legislation in 2011 (ONCA 11-86).

In the ONCA 13-99 legislation, Standing Bear notes: “since the enactment of (ONCA 11-86) on September 29, 2011, no appointments to the Commission have been made by the Principal Chief, no actions have been taken to further the purposes of this law, and no funds have been obligated or expended from the Osage War Memorial Fund.”

According to ONCA 11-86, the bill’s intention is “to follow the Osage Nation tradition of honoring Osage Veterans” and “to provide a physical reminder to the present and future generations of the contributions and sacrifices of the Osage veterans and their families by building the Osage War Memorial at the Osage Agency Campus.”

Only Osage tribal members are eligible to serve on the five-member commission. Three of the positions must be filled by veterans. Members of the Grayhorse and Hominy War Mothers and women auxiliaries of veteran organizations are encouraged to apply. Compensation is available for those selected to serve.

The legislation does not terminate the War Memorial Commission nor prevent the Principal Chief from appointing members. The fund will have a $150,000 balance plus accrued interest since the fund was established in a revolving fund so the unused money does not rollback into the treasury at the end of each fiscal year.

Standing Bear said he would like to see the $350,000 go toward another project being considered in Congress geared at cultivating fish and locally-grown vegetables.

The Congress is considering ONCA 13-78 (sponsored by Congressman Daniel Boone), which is an act to provide $350,000 to the Nation’s Environmental and Natural Resources Department “for hydroponic cultivation of fish and vegetables.” The bill faces a committee action in the Commerce and Economic Development Committee before a floor vote can be taken.

ONCA 13-99 will be sent to Principal Chief John Red Eagle’s office for consideration of action. The Sept. 20 session of Congress is Day 16 of the Tzi-Zho Session. Further updates will be posted to when available.