December 11, 2019

Udall, Indian Affairs Committee Advance Udall’s Legislation Supporting Tribal Public Safety and Health Care for Native Veterans

The two Udall bills passed the committee unanimously

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined Committee Chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.) in leading a business meeting to consider two bills, the Udall-sponsored BADGES for Native Communities Act and the Udall-sponsored Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act of 2019. Both bills passed the committee unanimously.  

“Both of my bills considered and approved by the committee today put forward common sense solutions that address public safety and health care barriers for Tribes and Native veterans,”Udall said.  “We must ensure that Tribal public safety officials have access to the full array of the resources they need to best serve their communities. Native veterans also have more than earned access to quality, culturally-competent health care. I am pleased that the committee continues to work on a bipartisan basis to advance important legislative priorities for Indian country.”

At the business meeting, Udall also introduced an amendment to the BADGES Act to reflect consultation from Tribes. Among other provisions, the amendment increases funding for Tribal access to law enforcement databases, authorizes Tribal law enforcement to access  state and federal law enforcement databases for administrative background purposes, and requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a review of the Department of Justice’s unmet staffing needs in Tribal areas. 

More information on the bills is below:

The Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act would:

- Address federal hiring inefficiencies that hurts Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) law enforcement recruitment and retention

- Increase the effectiveness of federal missing persons resources

- Provide Tribes and States with resources to coordinate responses to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis

The Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act of 2019 would:

- Amend current laws to allow the Department of Veterans’ Administration to reimburse Indian Health Service-funded Urban Indian Organizations for health care services provided to VA-eligible Native patients  

Full text for the BADGES Act can be found HERE, and full text for the Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act of 2019 can be found HERE.

Full text of Udall’s opening statement is below: 

Thank you, Chairman Hoeven, for calling today’s business meeting to consider two of my bipartisan bills: S. 1853, the BADGES for Native Communities Act, and S. 2365, the Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act of 2019. 

Both bills put forward common sense solutions that address public safety and health care barriers in Indian Country. And they will help ensure federal resources reach Native communities more efficiently.  

Briefly, I will also note that I filed one amendment for the Committee’s consideration today – a substitute amendment for S.1853.

This amendment reflects important technical feedback and comments from Tribes, Native organizations, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior. I was also pleased to work with you, Chairman Hoeven, to improve the bill.  

My amendment and the bills we are voting on today are proof that our tradition of reaching across the aisle and across Senate Committees works. 

Thank you again, Chairman Hoeven, for scheduling this business meeting. 

And for working with me to achieve our shared goal of improving Tribal public safety and health care by advancing these bills. 

I look forward to working with you to get these bills to the Senate floor and enacted into law in short order.  Thank you.