Navajo president and Navajo Council disagree over line-item veto language
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Budget and Finance Committee and the Law and Order Committee voted to update Navajo law to match the 2009 line-item veto referendum language approved by Navajo voters — the language will be presented to the Naabik’íyáti’ Committee and the Navajo Nation Council for consideration.
Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon said the Navajo people supported the separation of powers of the former Navajo Tribal Chairmanship to create three branches in place today.
“It is clear the Navajo people chose to approve the 2009 referendum, which includes very specific language that restricted line-item vetoes to a very sacred purpose,” Damon said. “That power should not be abused and pushed beyond what voters approved.”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Lizer urged the Navajo Nation Council to protect the voices and votes of the Navajo people by voting down the legislation, which they said seeks to modify the line-item veto authority that was voted on by voters to ‘reduce wasteful spending by the Navajo Nation Council.’
“The line-item veto initiative developed due to the mismanagement of the Navajo people’s money by the council, including millions of dollars that were allocated for discretionary funds that eventually led to the removal and resignation of several former council members,” Nez said.
Nez said since the referendum was approved in 2009, the line-item veto authority has ‘saved and protected’ millions of dollars of the Navajo people’s money.
“Legislation No. 0153-20 would unlawfully limit and change what the Navajo people approved in 2009, only the people have the power to change that authority,” Nez said.
Council Delegate Daniel E. Tso said the legislation simply brings the language of the Navajo Nation Code in-line with what the Navajo people voted on in 2009.
“We’re not changing or retrieving power back from the president,” Tso said. “We’re also not changing where this line-item veto language sits in Title II. We are changing the language to coincide and reinforce the will of the people by correcting the missed language of the 2009 amendments.”
The legislation to bring the language in-line with the ballot question approved by Navajo voters gained the support of the Navajo Nation Commission on Government Development, which was created in 1989 to develop government reform and policy recommendations as is made up of Navajo Nation chapter officials, Navajo students, Navajo Nation government branches, the Navajo Women’s Commission and traditional practitioners.
But the president’s office points out that in 2010, former attorney general Louis Denetsosie issued a legal opinion that said, Navajo voters, by approving the initiative, enacted the law that authorized the Navajo Nation president to exercise budget line-item veto authority. This law also prohibits the Navajo Nation Council from overriding the president’s line-item veto.