Posts tagged: Coeur d'Alene Tribe
Catching up on some of the news I missed while off last week, it’s striking how the big political story in Idaho – rift and strife within the state’s supermajority Republican Party – remains the same. Over the course of the week, two dueling dates were set for a party Central Committee meeting: Aug. 2, set as a result of a petition from county party committees, and Aug. 9, set by embattled party Chairman Barry Peterson, who maintains he’s still the chairman despite the lack of an election of officers at the party’s failed state convention in Moscow in mid-June. The central committee meeting – one of them, anyway – ostensibly would decide where the party goes from here.
Mary Tipps Smith, the sole remaining paid staffer at the troubled party’s central office, resigned mid-week as finance director, asking people on Facebook to “pray for the Party during a difficult time.” This was the week after the departure of executive director Trevor Thorpe, whom Peterson said had left to pursue a master’s degree; at that point, Peterson also changed the locks at the party offices.
The day after Tipps Smith’s depature, Peterson hired Judy Gowen, former political director for Sen. Russ Fulcher’s unsuccessful primary challenge to GOP Gov. Butch Otter, as the party’s new executive director. Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey has the rundown at his blog here, at which he also reports that Peterson told KIDO radio’s Kevin Miller on Friday that Otter was angry “because the party would not bend over” to his wishes on a state health insurance exchange.
Meanwhile, the Idaho Transportation Department announced last Monday that every rural stretch of interstate freeway in southern Idaho that’s now 75 mph would rise to 80 mph on July 1, as soon as it could get the new speed-limit signs posted, causing consternation for AAA, which had raised safety concerns about the new law that passed this year – and been assured that only after extensive and specific traffic and safety studies would any particular stretch of freeway see the higher speed limit. On Friday, ITD back-pedaled, announcing that the speed limit increase would be delayed to allow the department to “review input expressed since the announcement.” Now, the ITD board will review the traffic and safety analyses at its July 11 meeting in Coeur d’Alene.
Gov. Butch Otter announced reforms to the state’s Workforce Development Training program, initiated by his new state Labor director, Ken Edmunds; they include higher standards for companies to qualify for aid under the program, aimed at avoiding repeats of instances where companies have gotten lots of money for specific job training for workers, then later failed and laid off those same workers.
With Coeur d’Alene, Boise and Idaho Falls all in competition to get the first mental health crisis center in the state – since the Legislature this year chose to fund only one instead of all three – the announcement came that Idaho Falls would get the center.
And U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill tossed out the state’s lawsuit against the Coeur d’Alene Tribe for opening a poker room at its Coeur d’Alene Casino, calling it premature; the tribe and the state have a gaming compact that calls for arbitration of disputes before any lawsuits can be filed. The tribe argued that the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament play it was offering was legal in Idaho; the state maintained it wasn’t. Rather than enter a 60-day arbitration period, the state filed suit. “The state jumped the gun and violated the provisions of our agreement when it raced to the courthouse with this unnecessary lawsuit,” tribal attorney Eric Van Orden said in a statement; you can read a full report here from S-R reporter Becky Kramer.
This year’s final episode of “Idaho Reports” aired Friday on Idaho Public TV, with analysis of both the comparatively smooth Idaho Democratic Party convention in Moscow and the earlier GOP fiasco and a look ahead to new laws taking effect this week and the election season ahead; you can watch online here.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill heard from both the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the state of Idaho today in the state’s bid to shut down the tribe’s poker room at its Worley casino, but issued no immediate ruling. The federal judge is considering motions from the state for a temporary restraining order to halt the poker play and for injunctive action to block it in the future; and from the tribe to dismiss the state’s lawsuit.
The state contends that all poker is banned in Idaho, both in the Constitution and by state law. But the tribe argues that the type of poker it’s offering – Texas Hold ‘Em tournament play – falls under a legal definition for games of skill, not illegal gambling. That would mean if anyone else in the state is authorized to offer it, the tribe could too, under its gaming compact with the state. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com; the poker room at the Coeur d’Alene Casino opened May 2, and tribal officials said it’s proven popular.
The state of Idaho has filed its reply as its lawsuit against the Coeur d’Alene Tribe over the new poker room at the tribe’s Worley casino heads to a court hearing next week. In the latest filing, the state argues that events like golf tournaments “bear no resemblance to poker where chance is an essentially element of the game.” The tribe is arguing that the type of poker it’s offering, Texas Hold ‘Em tournament play, qualifies as a contest of skill – like a golf tournament – bringing it under an exemption in Idaho’s anti-gambling laws. Even though Idaho bans poker, the tribe argues, that prohibition doesn't apply if the game in question is one of skill, not just luck.
In its reply, the state argues that “any variant of ‘poker’ is plausibly, indeed necessarily, encompassed.” It also argues that the binding arbitration clause of the state-tribal gaming compact doesn’t foreclose it from filing this lawsuit, and discounts the tribe’s contention that Texas Hold ‘Em is widely played in Idaho. “The fact that the law is violated commonly … does not eliminate the illegality,” the state’s attorneys write. “Were the contrary true, speed limits would become legal fictions.” You can read the state reply here. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill will hear arguments in the case Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene, on the state’s motion for a temporary restraining order to shut the poker room down.
Texas Hold ‘Em poker is no different than golf under Idaho law, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe argues in its response to a lawsuit from the state – it’s a game of skill, in which players can pay fees to enter tournaments and win prizes for how well they do. “As the statute provides, even if the game of poker is prohibited, that prohibition does not apply if the game can be shown to be a ‘contest of skill,’” the tribe wrote in legal arguments submitted in court Friday; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
The state of Idaho sued the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in federal court on May 2, after the tribe opened a poker room at its Coeur d’Alene Casino in Worley. The state argued that poker is flat illegal in Idaho, prohibited both by the state Constitution and law. But the tribe said the type of poker it’s offering – Texas Hold ‘Em tournament play – is legal, and is widely played in Idaho. That makes it a type of Class II gaming, not Class III, under federal law, the tribe argues, so if anyone else can offer it in the state, tribes legally can, too.
Coeur d’Alene Tribe officials said late this afternoon that the state never told them it was filing a lawsuit against the tribe, and they've not yet been served with the suit. “We found out from your blog,” tribal legislative liaison Helo Hancock said. “It’s frustrating to have to learn in that manner. This lawsuit is completely unnecessary.”
Tribal Chairman Chief Allan said, “We believe we are well within our right to offer poker. If the state has a problem with our legal analyses, they can invoke dispute resolution under our gaming compact – that’s why we have it – so we can negotiate our differences in a professional setting.” You can read my updated full story here at spokesman.com.
Hancock said, “We thought we were going to discuss this on a government-to-government basis as the compact contemplates, sit down. There’s obviously a legal disagreement here, and I think it’s something clearly reasonable minds could disagree on. We think the state statute has a clear exemption for contests of skill. And anybody who’s ever played poker knows that it’s not just a game of chance – people who are good at poker consistently win at poker. It’s kind of like golf. And certainly there are elements of chance in a lot of things, but this we believe is a contest of skills – courts around the country have been finding that.”
Hancock added, “We were in agreement to go through the dispute resolution process.” The tribe had just sent a letter to state Lottery Director Jeff Anderson today saying it would agree to an expedited process dispute-resolution process and binding arbitration, and proposing a meeting on May 9. Said Hancock, “It’s frustrating to see the state jump the gun on this.” The tribe issued a full statement on the lawsuit early this evening; you can read it here.
Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan, in an April 28 letter to state Lottery Commission Director Jeff Anderson, said the state’s objections the tribe’s plans to offer poker games at its Coeur d’Alene Casino appear to stem from “a misunderstanding of both the games that the Tribe plans to offer and the Tribe’s federal rights under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”
Wrote Allan, “The Tribe’s Gaming Board has taken a very conservative approach and has authorized only a limited type of poker tournament.”
He noted, “There is no question that such tournaments are conducted at many locations throughout the State. … We believe that the State’s concerns will be resolved once it understands the limited nature of the poker tournaments to be offered by the Tribe and the legal authority for such tournaments.”
Plus, Allan added that the tribe would like to discuss with the Lottery Commission the implications of the passage of legislation this year authorizing betting on slot-machine-like “instant racing” machines at several locations in the state, including the Greyhound Park in Post Falls. Years ago, the tribe sought to operate a casino there, but backed off after then-Gov. Phil Batt objected. Allan wrote that this year’s legislation will “dramatically expand gaming in Idaho.”
In its memorandum supporting its motion for a temporary restraining order to halt the Coeur d’Alene Casino’s new poker games, the state of Idaho argues that poker has never been allowed under its gaming compact with the tribe, and the tribe is now citing new interpretations of clauses having to do with games of skill and tournaments.
“The compact has existed for over 21 years, and yet the Tribe waited 20 years before ever suggesting that poker was a permissible form of gaming,” the state’s lawyers wrote. “This newly-discovered gaming entitlement has as its roots not a change in the law but the Tribe’s pursuit of revenue. Idaho does not begrudge the Tribe’s attempting to maximize the Casino’s economic benefit; it does object to any gaming activity that violates the Compact. … Parties to contracts ought honor their promises and adhere to the law.” You can read the state’s 18-page memorandum here.
The Coeur d’Alene Casino’s poker room is now open daily from 11 a.m. to close. “Our Poker Room is the newest addition to our world class gaming experience, located in the Red Tail Bar and Grill,” the Casino says on its website. “Come enjoy live action Poker with a wide betting range to suit your choice of game and experience.” Tribal officials were not immediately available for comment; it's not clear if they've been served with the lawsuit yet.
The state of Idaho has sued the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in U.S. District Court to block the tribe’s launch of poker games today at the Coeur d’Alene Casino. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Wasden filed the lawsuit, saying Idaho bans poker and the tribe’s move would violate its gaming compact with the state.
“Article III Section 20 of the Idaho Constitution is clear, and it’s my duty to enforce and defend the Constitution and the laws of Idaho,” Otter said. “Despite discussions with tribal leaders and our best efforts at avoiding this situation, we have no choice but to act. I will continue working with the Attorney General to uphold our laws and resolve this issue.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
The Coeur d’Alene Casino in Worley, operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, is advertising a May 2 opening date for its new poker room, saying Idaho’s constitutional ban on poker games doesn’t apply to the tribal-owned casino. The tribe plans to offer Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha games; poker is widely offered at commercial card rooms across the North Idaho state line in Washington and at tribal casinos in that state. But the Idaho Lottery Commission is objecting, and has requested a review from the National Indian Gaming Commission. “Poker is specifically prohibited in Idaho,” said Jeff Anderson, lottery commission director. You can read our full story here by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.
Idaho Supreme Court justices delved into the details of tribal jurisdiction this morning, during arguments on an appeal from Native Wholesale Supply Co., which has sold more than 100 million cigarettes to an Indian-owned business, Warpath, on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation, without complying with Idaho state laws regarding a national tobacco settlement that require payments into a fund. The company is owned by an enrolled member of the Seneca tribe in New York, where it operates on a reservation; it imports the cigarettes from a native-owned manufacturer in Canada.
NWS contends the state has no jurisdiction to regulate its sales, as they're between tribal members on reservations, and there's no evidence the cigarettes ever entered any part of Idaho outside the Coeur d'Alene Reservation - since the reservation touches the state of Washington.
“Native Wholesale Supply has never sold to any Idaho consumer,” attorney Samuel Diddle told the justices. The wholesale sales to Warpath “may not be regulated by the state because of tribal sovereignty,” he said.
Deputy Idaho Attorney General Brett DeLange told the justices, “Our Legislature has spent a lot of time adopting a very comprehensive set of statutes and rules to regulate cigarette sales in Idaho. One of them is before those cigarettes can be sold, they need to be approved for sale. The Attorney General needs to know who that manufacturer is. … Native Wholesale Supply just wants to ignore all that. They don't want to comply with the state's efforts of comprehensively regulating cigarette sales in our state.”
Retired Justice Linda Copple-Trout, who is sitting in the case, said, “I know the cigarettes say that they are to be resold on the reservation, but that certainly is not a limitation against who may ultimately end up with the product.” She noted that the state's interest in its laws regarding the tobacco settlement was to recover funds from those selling “a dangerous product” to cover the state's costs for health care services related to its use.
DeLange said, “Native Wholesale Supply has introduced into Idaho over 100 million cigarettes that are not legal to be introduced and sold and imported into our state, and did all of it at wholesale.” He compared the case to an earlier one in which a Native American seller from New York sold cigarettes via the Internet to buyers in Caldwell, Boise and elsewhere in Idaho. But Diddle said this case is different, because the sales didn't occur off the reservation.
Justice Joel Horton noted that the lower court decision, which NWS is appealing, enjoined the firm not only from selling cigarettes that don't comply with Idaho laws relating to the tobacco settlement agreement, but also from selling cigarettes without an Idaho wholesaler's permit. However, he read from Idaho's law regarding the tax stamps required under Idaho's wholesaler's permits; it doesn't apply to reservation sales. “If they haven't made any sales of cigarettes subject to tax, they can't hold a permit,” Horton said.
NWS has tangled with multiple states over regulatory and tax issues. The firm also was a target of a criminal case in Seattle regarding the sale of contraband cigarettes by members of a Washington tribe without paying that state's sales tax. The Idaho case arose from a 2008 lawsuit the state filed against NWS, seeking to stop its sales in Idaho and seize profits from sales already made.
At the close of today's arguments, Chief Justice Roger Burdick said, “The matter is now under advisement and we will render a decision.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
When the Coeur d’Alene Tribe first signed a gaming compact with the state of Idaho in 1992, tribal leaders insisted on donating 5 percent of net casino gaming proceeds to education on or near their reservation – a gesture that has added up to $16.8 million in donations since 1994, including $1.5 million this year and $1.8 million last year. “The tribe originated the idea,” said David High, the now-retired deputy Idaho attorney general who for years oversaw negotiations with the state’s Indian tribes over gaming. “They didn’t have to do it.” In fact, High said, the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act forbids states from taxing or assessing any kind of fees on the proceeds of tribal gaming. “Congress intended the tribes to get the financial benefit of Indian gaming and did not want the states trying to take a piece of that,” he said. But in the case of the Coeur d’Alenes, “The tribe has agreed to it is the thing,” High said.
Later, the tribe wrote the 5 percent contribution into a tribal gaming initiative that Idaho voters strongly approved in 2002, prompting two other Idaho tribes, the Kootenai and Nez Perce, to add it to their compacts as well. The result has been millions donated to schools and educational programs; you can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review. The Coeur d'Alenes agreed to open their books on their educational donations for this article; the largest recipient over the years has been the Plummer/Worley School District.
Idaho's fourth gaming tribe, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in eastern Idaho, doesn't have a 5 percent donation clause in its compact. The Sho-Bans signed their compact with the state in 2000, and included a clause calling for a federal court case looking into which gambling machines were legal and which weren't. But their compact also included a clause saying if any other tribe got permission to operate specific machines, they could have them too.
The court case hadn't proceeded far when the initiative passed in 2002. The state tried to get the Sho-Bans to amend their compact to comply with the 2002 initiative, which not only included the 5 percent education donations, but also imposed limits on growth in the allowed number of gaming machines. The Sho-Bans went to federal court, and the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with them in 2006, saying they didn't have to amend their compact. That left the Sho-Bans without either the 5 percent contribution requirement or the initiative's growth limits.
The success of the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel, which has made the North Idaho tribe the second-largest employer in North Idaho, behind only Kootenai Medical Center, has prompted some grumbling in recent years over who got how much of the education money. That prompted the tribe to stop holding formal ceremonies announcing the donations for the past two years, which then led to speculation that the tribe no longer was making them, despite a statement from the director of the state Lottery Commission, which oversees tribal gaming, that the 5 percent pledge had been been met.
The hubbub prompted a series of public records requests to the Lottery Commission; most sought a breakdown of who got how much money from the Coeur d'Alenes' 5 percent donations, but the lottery doesn't have that information. Both the tribe's compact with the state and the 2002 initiative say the donations are handed out “at the sole discretion of the tribe.”
The only information the tribes hand over to the Lottery Commission is their audited financial statement, which shows the 5 percent figure, along with other proprietary information about their gaming operations, such as, in some cases, background checks on employees and information about security procedures. The Coeur d'Alene Tribe's compact with the state notes that the information the tribe hands over to the state is exempt from public disclosure under the trade secrets clause of the Idaho Public Records Law; it also states that if a court finds otherwise, the tribe no longer has to supply the documents to the state. Compacts between the state and the other tribes contain similar trade-secrets confidentiality provisions.
The U.S. Justice Department has awarded $1.9 million in grants to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho to “enhance law enforcement practices and sustain crime prevention and intervention efforts.” The grants are for eight specific aims: Public safety and community policing; methamphetamine enforcement; justice systems relating to alcohol and substance abuse; corrections and correctional alternatives; programs targeting violence against women; programs targeting elder abuse; juvenile justice; and tribal youth programs. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson, who announced the grants today, said, “I am pleased to see such significant federal grant support to these two Idaho tribes. The U.S. Attorney's office is committed to working closely with and supporting public safety in Indian country.” You can read the full announcement here.
Federal authorities say jurisdictional gaps are hampering law enforcement in Indian country, so they're working with three Idaho tribes, including the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, to federalize tribal police officers and let them issue federal citations to non-Indians on the reservation for certain minor offenses. Once the lengthy process is completed - likely in time for next summer's boating season - non-tribal members who are boating on the southern third of Lake Coeur d'Alene and violate boating laws could get tickets issued by tribal officers and backed by the federal court. The southern third of the lake belongs to the tribe; the U.S. Supreme Court decided that in 2001.
The other two tribes working with the U.S. Attorney's office and the federal courts to federalize their officers are the Nez Perce and the Shoshoshone-Bannocks; you can read my full story here.
Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on the tribal policing issue that's back before lawmakers, after a deal that averted legislation last spring fell apart. “That agreement was not signed, which necessitates coming back before the Legislature and asking for a resolution of this issue,” the tribe's lobbyist, Bill Roden, told the House State Affairs Committee. Benewah County Sheriff Bob Kirts disputed that. “If you agree in principle, it's not a final contract,” he said. “They said, 'No, you can't make any changes to what you agreed to in Boise.' That's not how it works.”
The tribe said the county proposed about 50 changes to the agreement after the Legislature adjourned last spring. Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, the new House Judiciary Committee chairman and a retired state trooper, traveled to Benewah County in December to try to get the two sides back to the table to reach an agreement. Things looked promising, he said. “When I left there, I thought we had a good understanding, but it didn't materialize - the county wouldn't even come back to the table.”
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is back before Idaho lawmakers this year, after Benewah County reneged on a deal last spring that prompted the tribe to drop legislation on policing that lawmakers were on the verge of passing. “Obviously we were extremely disappointed,” said Helo Hancock, legislative director for the tribe. “We felt like we'd been deceived in a lot of ways, that it was just an act to get out of getting a law passed.”
This time, the tribe has dropped proposals calling for a six-month window to reach a collaborative cross-deputization agreement with a county, and just written a bill modeled after other states' laws clarifying that tribal police with all required training and legal indemnification can enforce state laws. The House State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to introduce the bill.
Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, said, “I think I understand the value of the cross-deputization, because I was a county commissioner when we did that in the early '80s in Kootenai County, and it was to the advantage of law enforcement at that time. I continue to believe it is a benefit, properly done, and I'm hopeful that the bill that comes forward today will find acceptance.”
A new federal law - sponsored in part by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson - allows tribal police officers to enforce federal law on reservations, and if necessary, to cite violators of state law into federal court. “That is not the desire of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, to use that,” Bill Roden, lobbyist for the tribe, told the committee. “But frankly it is such a severe problem that unless this is addressed at the state level, we're merely inviting further federal action, and the current law that is on the books would permit that.”
Last March, lawmakers heard chilling testimony about criminals going free; tribal officers tied up for hours waiting for deputies to respond and take over an arrest when they're needed to address other crimes; and more, due to the lack of a cross-deputization agreement. The Coeur d'Alene Tribe long has had such an agreement with Kootenai County, and it had one with Benewah County until the sheriff there revoked it in 2007.
Under questioning from lawmakers on the committee, Roden said Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, traveled to North Idaho in December and attempted to negotiate an agreement between the tribe and the Benewah County Sheriff, who wanted a change to last year's deal to ensure non-tribal members cited on highways would be cited into state court, not tribal court. The tribe agreed, Roden said. “The sheriff represented that if Benewah County reneged on that concept he was going to resign. I haven't seen the resignation yet, but we did get a letter saying that now he doesn't agree with that either. But we tried,” Roden said. “That's all I can say.”
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe says Benewah County has reneged on the cross-deputization deal the two sides and the Idaho Sheriffs Association reached during this year’s legislative session, a deal that prompted the tribe to ask a House committee to hold its proposed legislation that would have forced the county’s hand it if wouldn’t collaborate. Instead of signing the agreement, Benewah County has sent the tribe a new version containing more than 50 changes, including changes in items the two sides negotiated. “I am extremely disappointed with this new document in front of me,” said Tribal Chairman Chief Allan. “It is not what we agreed to.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, said, “Benewah County made representations to the committee and to the tribe that a deal was in place. We were happy to hear it then and we believed all that was needed was for the necessary parties to sign the agreement. What I am hearing now is that Benewah County did not live up to its promises.” Click below to read the full news release from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe; you can read our full story here at spokesman.com.