Whiteclay bill likely to get debate

Published Wednesday  February 17, 2010

Senators are likely to debate legislation that would provide money to help with alcohol problems of people who buy their booze at Whiteclay.

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee moved one bill (LB1002) out of committee Wednesday, and its sponsor, Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth, said he likely will make it his priority bill — assuring discussion on the floor.

And Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek has said he will make his Whiteclay-related bill (LB1005) his priority if it gets out of the Health and Human Services Committee. That committee is expected to vote on the measure this week.

Each bill earmarks $250,000 for programs to battle the problems created by Whiteclay, where four businesses in the town of about 14 people sell massive amounts of beer to Oglala Sioux from the nearby dry Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The programs are first steps and won’t cure the problems, supporters of both bills have said.

Judi gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, was asked to describe Whiteclay during a public hearing Wednesday on Karpisek’s bill.

Whiteclay is run-down and dirty, she said, with prostitution going on in abandoned buildings.

It’s close enough people can walk from the reservation.

It’s like no other community in Nebraska.

And the impact is only to Native people, she said.

If the situation were reversed — if four Native people owned the businesses and only white people were customers — state government would make sure the stores were closed, she said.

“I think it is economic racism at its worst. It’s time to do something,” she said.

LB1002 would provide up to $250,000 a year to counties, villages or towns near Whiteclay to use for economic development, health care and law enforcement. The $250,000 is slightly less than the amount of sales tax collected on liquor sold in a 30-mile radius of Whiteclay, Louden said.

That grant program would continue until 2018.

LB1005 would use $250,000 for one-year substance abuse treatment grants to health clinics or public health organizations that have a substantial Native clientele.

The Commission on Indian Affairs would be responsible for the grant programs under each bill. The commission expects to hire a grant writer to find additional funds to match the grants under LB1005, according to information presented at the hearing.

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