NITA Post-Conference Wrap-Up

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NATIONAL INTERTRIBAL TAX ALLIANCE WRAPS UP ITS 16TH ANNUAL TAX CONFERENCE – SEPTEMBER 24-15, 2014 – Harrah’s Resort Southern California (Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians), Valley Center, California

VALLEY CENTER, CA October 1, 2014– The National Intertribal Tax Alliance (NITA) wrapped up its 16th Annual conference, September 24-25, 2014 hosted and sponsored by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and held at their fabulous and newly-renovated Hotel and Casino in Valley Center, California just northeast of San Diego. NITA is the foremost Native organization focusing on tribal taxation issues for tribal governments and tribal enterprises. This year’s well-attended conference included many “hot topic” tribal taxation issues facing tribes in Indian Country today.

Rincon Band Chairman Bo Mazzetti welcomed attendees, followed by an Opening Prayer by Council Member, Laurie Gonzalez. Past NITA Board Chairperson, Mary Mashunkashey gave the Opening remarks thanking all the speakers and conferees for their participation emphasizing the importance of NITA’s conferences as vital element to the mission and objectives in assisting and disseminating information on current tribal tax issues to tribes and tribal tax commissions which affects many aspects of tribal sovereignty.

Headlining this year’s Conference was Keynote Speaker Matthew Fletcher, Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law and Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center. Professor Fletcher is also primary editor of the popular Indian law blog, “Turtle Talk.” (https://turtletalk.wordpress.com). Professor Fletcher delivered an intriguing and thought-proving address focusing on “Rights Without Remedies” regarding court decisions affecting tribal sovereign immunity in various court cases where the right of a state under federal Indian law was unenforceable against an Indian tribe due to sovereign immunity. His keynote explains the court’s reaffirmation of the “clear statement rule.” He states “the clear statement rule recognizes that Congress has plenary authority to regulate tribal governance authority, but also that Congress retains a general trust responsibility to Indian nations and Indian people, requiring Congress to make clear, plain and express any intent to restrict tribal authority.” Professor Fletcher went on to explain different areas of tribal authority and the Legislative arena emphasizing that “Congress might pay more attention this time.” Professor Fletcher’s paper is contained in the Conference booklet available on the NITA website (see below for link.)

The NITA Conference speakers came from a diverse group of knowledgeable professionals which included attorneys, law professors, tribal enterprise executives, Indian organizations directors, state and federal government program managers as well as tribal tax commissions all with expertise in tribal taxation issues relative with topics on NITA’s conference agenda.

 

This day and a half Conference included general session panels and breakout sessions on many complex tribal tax issues. General panels topics included Litigation and Legislative Updates; Tribal v. State Jurisdiction; BIA Leasing Regulations; IRS Guidance and Federal Compliance Initiatives; and State Tax Issues Relating to Tribal Businesses. Breakout session topics included Tribal Tax Code Implementation; Pipeline/Utility Tax Issues; Tribal Programs and the General Welfare Exclusion Act; Gasoline Tax Issues; and Development of a National Tribal Tax Commission Alliance. The breakout sessions allowed for more in-depth discussion of the breakout topics.

 

The breakout panel on Tribal Programs and the General Welfare Exclusion Act was exceptionally timely with the passing of H.R. 3043 by the House and Senate days before NITA’s Conference. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) introduced this bill in August. A last minute addition to the speaker list was Betty T. Yee, First District Board Member, California State Board of Equalization who worked diligently with Congress and urging support and passage of this legislation. Ms. Yee participated on the Tax Legislative Update panel.

 

The Tobacco Compact Issues breakout session, Moderated by Dale White, General Counsel for the Tarbell Management Group and Ohserase Manufacturing in Akwesasne, NY, was also exciting and provocative due to opposite opinions on tobacco compact issues and resulted in an interesting breakout. Speakers for this breakout were Denise Turner Walsh, Attorney General for the Rincon Band and Michelle Carr, Legal Director for the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation—both In-House Counsel for tribes in California as well as John Peebles, Partner with the Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan law firm representing tribal clients with offices in California, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington, DC.   Tobacco Compact issues are important to many tribes nationally including California that negotiate these compacts.

 

Richard Trudell, well-known Indian law attorney, attended the NITA conference as our guest to informally mingle and talk with the conferees on the importance of a national forum stating NITA is needed more than ever.  Tribes are being challenged by numerous state and local governments, as well as the feds.  Tribes need to be bold, but move forward from an informed perspective.  Tribal taxation needs to be viewed as a revenue stream for tribes, not just playing defense from other governments.

The NITA Conference was informative and well attended by people and tribes from all over the United States and Indian Country. The NITA Board is busy with follow up from this year’s conference and will begin planning for NITA Conference 2015. The NITA Board is in the process of selecting a host tribe and venue and will be work on another exciting conference agenda and another “all star cast” of speakers.

 

All materials from this year’s Conference are available on the NITA website under the Conference 2014 tab. The Conference booklet is available as a “Virtual Book” as well as PDF file. Many speakers gave Power Point presentations and these are available as well. The website will be updated to include information on NITA Conference 2015. NITA’s website can be found at:   http://www.intertribaltaxalliance.org       Information requests can be sent from the website or by emailing Conference Coordinator Marilyn White at: mwhite@intertribaltaxalliance.org