The Idaho Council on Indian Affairs is meeting in the state Capitol today, and its members expressed strong concerns about the introduction of legislation today regarding tobacco taxes on reservations without any consultation with the tribes. “Nobody's ever talked to us, approached us,” said Chief Allan, chairman of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. “I'm a little disappointed again that all of our efforts, all of these tribal leaders around the table trying to bridge that gap with the state, we seem to be taking a step backwards again. That's not the way I envisioned this. I would hope we as two government bodies could sit around the table and work our differences out.”
Other tribal leaders agreed. McCoy Oatman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, noted that tobacco plays a significant role in his tribe's culture. “It's a part of our traditional way of life, it's part of our religion,” he said. The tribe needs to consult its elders about the issue, he said. Chairman Nathan Small of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes said his tribe is very concerned about impacts on its tribal tax revenues. “Right now, tobacco taxes are being utilized for good purposes, and for it to be taken away from us, it would have a devastating effect on our people,” he said.
Allan moved to call on the House Revenue & Taxation Committee to hold off on hearing the bill until the tribes have an opportunity to review it, and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, seconded the motion. Council Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, said he supported it as “a worthy motion,” and it passed. Jaquet suggested naming a date, the the council agreed to ask that no hearing be held before March 7; Nonini said a letter making that request on behalf of the council will be sent to Rev & Tax Chairman Dennis Lake and House Speaker Lawerence Denney, the bill's sponsor.