Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Overwhelmingly Approves Two Amendments
The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council overwhelmingly voted in favor of amendments to strengthen and improve the Freedom of Information Act and Government Records Act in a Tribal Council committee meeting on Wednesday, May 28. Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act passed the council 14-3, and amendments to the Government Records Act passed 13-4.
“The Cherokee Nation has long been a leader in transparency and openness of information. We were the first tribe to pass open meeting, sunshine and freedom of information laws,” said Tina Glory-Jordan, Speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council. “These laws have been reviewed, revised and strengthened every few years, and today, we introduced more revisions to do just that: strengthen the laws and increase citizen access to information about their tribe.”
As the tribe and its businesses have grown, requests for information have increased, leading to a greater workload for Cherokee Nation employees accommodating those requests.
“One of the greatest improvements to FOIA and GRA laws is the creation of a dedicated officer to research and respond to such requests,” Glory-Jordan said. “Previously, individual department heads were charged with finding the requested information, often taking up valuable work time and distracting from daily duties. The amendments approved in today’s committee meeting mean Cherokee citizens can be assured their request receives the full and focused attention of the individual fulfilling that request.”
The legislation approved by committee vote today was crafted by a work group comprised of tribal councilors with input from regular users of the law, including the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix and others.
“I could not be more proud of the way this group worked together and made recommendations that were best for the Cherokee people. Despite members expressing opposing views from time to time, each of us has the well-being and will of our constituents at heart. Because of that, we were able to come to unanimous consensus amicably and with full confidence in our recommendations,” Glory-Jordan said. “Each member of the workgroup agreed that this legislation did not weaken, but strengthened the FOIA and GRA laws, and made the process more user-friendly.”
Other amendments include extending response time to a uniform 20 days for both FOIA and GRA. The change allows information to be thoroughly researched and vetted by the proposed information officer. Previously, the response deadline for FOIA was 15 days and six days for GRA. FOIA requests may be filed by any Cherokee citizen, while GRA requests are reserved for tribal elected officials.
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