Washington, D.C. (AP) - Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowksi said she plans to reintroduce a bill intended to help solve crimes against Native Americans that received unanimous Senate approval but was blocked by the outgoing chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte said he agrees with the intent of North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s bill, which would expand tribal access to federal crime databases, set standards for law enforcement’s response to cases of missing or slain Native Americans and instruct the Justice Department to increase its data collection on crimes against Native Americans. But he said it hurts some agencies that have no link to tribal communities and therefore couldn’t compete for Justice Department grants the bill would create if it became law, The Roanoke Times reported.
Goodlatte, who is retiring after 13 terms in office, said only a limited number of law enforcement organizations are eligible for those funds “so every other law enforcement organization in America is opposed to it, and the Fraternal Order of Police and groups like that because they’re getting a cut in order to do that.”
With the House adjourned until further notice, it appears that the measure known as Savanna’s Act will expire at the end of the year. Murkowski, of Alaska, has said she will take up the measure when lawmakers return to Washington.
“It’s disappointing that one Republican member of Congress blocked Savanna’s Act from passing this year,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “But fortunately, Rep. Goodlatte won’t be around to block it in the new Congress. I’ve talked with Sen. Murkowski about Savanna’s Act and I’m so proud that she will reintroduce my bill in the new year.”
The bill is named for Savanna Greywind, a slain North Dakota woman whose baby was cut from her womb.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the Greywind family, told The Associated Press on Friday that the bill asks for “a minimal level of accountability” and the notion that it is too onerous for law enforcement is “absurd.”
“If that’s the case then this bill should be introduced as is and let them come and testify before Congress about why they don’t want an incentive for providing the appropriate data that is needed and that this bill requires,” Allred said. “Let’s see who they are. If there are any they shouldn’t be hiding behind some elected official.”