ARTICLE XII---RIGHT TO PETITION Section 1 The members of The Tribe reserve to themselves the power to PROPOSE ordinances and resolutions and to ENACT and REJECT the same at the polls independent of the Tribal council upon petition of THIRTY-FIVE of the registered voters within SEVEN (7) DAYS of such actions.
Last year, three (3) petitions were brought forward under Article XII, Section 1 of the Mohegan Constitution.
The first one (petition) involved tribal members who wanted to REJECT the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2009-08. The Tribal Council voted to cancel the ordinance instead of allowing it to go out to a vote by the membership of the tribe.
The second petition involved tribal members trying to ENACT, their own ordinance because of the void created by the Tribal Council cancelling 2009-08. The Election Committee which accepts petitions, refused to accept the petition because the petition ordinance only allows under Article XII Section 1 to REJECT ORDINANCES. THERE IS NO MENTION IN THE ORDINANCE TO ENACT.
The third petition, was to try to REJECT Ordinance 2009-35, which was the new Freedom of Information Ordinance. Ordinance 2009-35 replaced the canceled Ordinance 2009-08. This petition was accepted by the Election Committee and was voted on by the voters of the tribe in August 2009. Ordinance 2009-35 was approved by the tribe.
MICHAEL BARTHA TOOK THE ELECTION COMMITTEE TO MOHEGAN TRIBAL COURT BECAUSE HE FELT THE SECOND PETITION SHOULD HAVE BEEN VOTED ON ALSO. IN COURT, JUDGE JANE FREEMAN RULED IN FAVOR OF THE ELECTION COMMITTEE.
Now the COUNCIL OF ELDERS want to do an AMENDMENT TO THE MOHEGAN CONSTITUTION, ARTICLE XII. Here is what Section 1 will now read.
"The Members of the Tribe reserve to themselves the power to REJECT at the polls ordinances passed by the Tribal council upon petition of FIFTEEN PERCENT (15%) of the registered voters with THIRTY (30) DAYS OF PASSAGE OF SUCH LEGISLATION. The petition shall be accompanied by a cover letter bearing the notorize signatures of at least three sponsors who are members of the Tribe and who registered to vote in Tribal elections. The petition shall be filed in accordance with any other procedures ESTABLISHED BY THE TRIBAL COUNCIL."
(AT PRESENT) In Section 2, the Constitution requires 40% of the voters (SIGNATURES ON A PETITION AND FORCE THE TRIBAL COUNCIL TO BRING IT TO A VOTE) to create their own ordinances. When the vote takes place only 30% of the eligible voters need to vote and the ordinances passes or is vetoed by a majority of the votes counted.
Under the new (PROPOSED) Amendment 20% are needed to force a vote but now 40% must vote. The majority of the 40% will determine the outcome. The 20% is a more obtainable number than the present 40%. This seems like a good thing to change. However the 40% voting could be a problem. If a minority group didn"t want something to pass, they wouldn't vote and no changes would occur.
Under the Constitution (NOW) on Petitions works fine. It makes the government quickly responsible (the Tribal Council) for its actions. Do we want the word ENACT removed? Is the Council of Elders and the Tribal Council worried about a new ruling by another judge? . Could Michael Bartha be right?
THE CURRENT PETITION SECTION WITH 35 MEMBERS SIGNATURES AND SEVEN DAYS WORKS . IT IS FAIR. FIRST YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT THE TRIBAL COUNCIL PASSED, GET A COPY AND READ IT. YOU THEN WOULD DECIDE WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT AND THEN MAKE A PETITION OUT. THEN YOU WOULD GO OUT AND GET IT SIGNED IN SEVEN DAYS.
LET'S PRETEND THE TRIBE HAD ELEVEN HUNDRED (1,100) VOTERS, YOU WOULD NEED TO GET ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE SIGNATURES IN THIRTY DAYS UNDER THE NEW PROPOSAL. I BELIEVE AN IMPOSSIBLE THING TO DO. HOW MUCH DAMAGE COULD A BAD LAW DO IN THAT TIME?
THE CONSTITUTION SHOULD NOT ONLY ALLOW TRIBAL MEMBERS TO CHALLENGE ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS, BUT ALSO POLICIES. UNDER THE CURRENT CONSTITUTION, TRIBAL MEMBERS CAN'T CHALLENGE POLICIES WHICH THE TRIBAL COUNCIL DOES PASS FROM TIME TO TIME.
Tribal Members only have several ways to make their government (the Tribal Council and the Council of Elders) accountable. They are:
1) VOTING in and out elected officials (Tribal Council and Council of Elders),
2) PETITION UNDER ARTICLE XII SECTION 1.
3) LAWFUL PROTESTS (Marches, etc.),
4) SPEAKING UP at meetings or going to the MEDIA
5) take the government to MOHEGAN TRIBAL COURT OR THE FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM.
6) sending out LETTERS to the tribe.
The Council of Elders are holding a meeting on the proposed changes to Article XII (The RIGHT TO PETITION). It is on February 3, 2010.
IF THE PROPOSED AMENDMENT IS VOTED INTO EFFECT, TRIBAL MEMBERS WILL LOSE ONE OF THEIR WAYS TO MAKE THE MOHEGAN TRIBAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE.
Tribal Members should be there and support the current Constitution and OPPOSE THE AMENDMENT. What do you think?