VAWA 2018 Reauthorization: Legislative Overview of Pending Legislation

Indian tribes and the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women have worked for over a decade to inform, educate, and partner with Congressional members to understand the need for legislative reform to remove barriers to the safety of Native women. These efforts have also informed Congress of the inadequate resources for providing necessary and lifesaving services to victims of abuse.

Restoration provides the following summary of important bills in play on the hill in the context of tribal and national efforts to reauthorize the VAWA. These bills are important in the context of the VAWA reauthorization efforts because in the past legislators have incorporated such “standalone” or “marker” bills into the larger draft of the bill to reauthorize VAWA. Compiling smaller, separate but related bills into the draft of the VAWA reauthorization bill allows legislators to streamline the process of development, discussion with the field, drafting, and review in that much of this work is done with each separate smaller bill.

Incorporation of SURVIVE, Savanna’s Act, and others into VAWA 2018

The legislative reform process is a continuous and on-going one. These bills were introduced after many hours of discussion among Congressional members and their staff with tribal leaders, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the NCAI Task Force, grassroots tribal programs at the district and national level, and so many more. Every reauthorization of VAWA is intense and complicated, and the bills discussed below have broad the support of Indian tribes as demonstrated by statements of tribal leaders at annual consultation and various NCAI resolutions supporting the proposed changes.

The SURVIVE Act (S. 1870/H.R. 4608): The bill directs that 5% of the total annual outlays from the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) be provided to Indian tribes for crime victim services. S. 1870, introduced by Senator Hoeven (R-ND) and cosponsored by Senators McCain (R-AZ), Heitkamp (D-ND), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Franken (D-MN), Daines (R-MT), Tester (D-MT), Barrasso (R-WY), and Udall (D-NM), was reported favorably without amendment by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on December 6, 2017. H.R. 4608, introduced on December 11, 2017, by Rep. O’Halleran (D-AZ) with Reps. Young (R-AK), Cole (R-OK), and Sinema (D-AZ) as original cosponsors, was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Savanna’s Act (S. 1942/H.R. 4485): The bill aims to improve the response to missing and murdered Native women by improving tribal access to the federal criminal information databases, requiring data collection on missing and murdered Native people, and by directing the Attorney General to review, revise, and develop law enforcement and justice protocols to address missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. S. 1942 was introduced by Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) and cosponsored by Senators Tester (D-MT), Franken (D- MN), Merkley (D-OR), Warren (D-MA), Heinrich (D-NM), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Wyden (D-OR), Murkowski (R-AK), and Collins (R-ME). Legislative hearing in the Indian Affairs Committee was on October 25, 2017. H.R. 4485 was introduced by Reps. Torres (D-CA) and Cole (R- OK) and referred to the Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs.

Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act (S. 1986) was introduced by Senators Franken (D-MN) and Murkowski (R-AK) on October 19, 2017. The bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Udall (D-NM), would amend 25 USC 1304 to reaffirm tribal inherent authority over sexual assault, trafficking, and stalking crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country. The bill also amends 1304 to remove the exceptions to jurisdiction that required the defendant to live or work in the Indian country of the tribe or be in a relationship with a qualifying Indian. It was referred to the Indian Affairs Committee.

The Native Youth & Tribal Officer Protection Act (S. 2233): The bill would amend 25 USC 1304 to reaffirm tribal inherent authority over child abuse and crimes that are committed against certain justice officials exercising SDVCJ like assaulting an officer or bailiff. The bill was referred to the Indian Affairs Committee and introduced by Senators Udall (D-NM), Murkowski (R-AK), and Cortez Masto (D-NV) on December 14, 2017.