Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WATCH: Arizona Tribal Casinos Take Congressional Stage During Debate Last Night; Vote On Glendale Casino Today; Casino Would "Destroy The Nature Of My State"

Most of Arizona's delegation took to the House floor last night to debate a bill that would prohibit the Tohono O'odham Indian Nation from proceeding to build its controversial casino in Glendale.  The vote on the bill sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD2) is likely to be held sometime today.

Franks believes that the new casino would be "illegal" because it would violate the gaming compacts entered into by Native American Nations in Arizona and the state of Arizona.  He introduced the bill to amend the Congressional act passed in 1986 that permitted the Tohono O'odham nation to purchase the non-adjacent land in Glendale as a settlement after the nation had lost agricultural lands due to flooding from federal dam projects.

The Tohono O'odham nation used the act to purchase the lands, and later announced that they intended to build a casino on it.  They are opposed by the other Arizona tribes, including the tribes that currently have casinos in the Phoenix metropolitan area.  Litigation has failed to stop the proposed casino.

The debate was passionate, with Republicans Franks, Paul Gosar (R-CD1) and David Schweikert (R-CD5) arguing in favor of the bill, and Democrat Raul Grijalva (D-CD7) arguing against.  A few other Representatives also chimed in, with one Democrat arguing that this measure is too controversial to be voted on under a parliamentary procedure generally reserved for mostly-unanimous resolutions.

Rep. Schweikert added a warning to colleagues across the nation:  "If this happens, it's going to destroy the nature of my state," said Schweikert.  He noted that the gaming compacts would go "kaboom", that Arizona will then become a "statewide gaming state", and that that would serve as a precedent for the rest of the country. (At about 1:05.30 in the debate, which lasted about 40 minutes.)

Schweikert added that he was in a unique position to assess this situation because he was involved in the negotiations of the gaming compacts when he was Arizona House Minority Leader.

Grijalva noted that the claim that the Native American nations had agreed to not build further casinos around Phoenix was not in the compact agreements, and that this bill would breach the settlement with the Tohono O'odham Nation and set a precedent for other settlements to be amended.

Needless to say, if the House approves this bill today, it would then need to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President to take effect.

(Here is an article that ran in the Arizona Republic when Rep. Franks introduced the bill, and one from the Cronkite News Service on last night's debate.)

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