Proposed constitution amendments up for vote in November special election

Four proposals to amend the Pokagon Constitution and one to amend the Gaming Revenue Allocation Plan (RAP) will be on the ballot in a special election on November 16. Proposal 1 would amend the Constitution to allow leases or other encumbrances of tribal land for up to 75 years without prior approval in a referendum. The Constitution currently allows a lease of up to 25 years without prior approval in a referendum. 

This 25-year limitation in the Constitution prevents Band citizens who are buying a house on tribal land from obtaining a mortgage longer than 25 years. A 25-year mortgage results in a higher monthly payment than a standard 30-year mortgage. For example, a 25-year mortgage of $130,000 at 4.5% has a monthly payment of $722.58.  A 30-year mortgage of that same amount at that same interest rate has a monthly payment of $658.69.

The existing language in the Constitution also limits the Band’s ability to attract third party capital for the commercial development on tribal land, because any lease the Band may grant to a possible non-citizen commercial developer may not exceed a term of 25 years. Without third party capital to pay for commercial development, the Band must pay for any commercial development on tribal land. If Proposal 1 were adopted, it would permit a lease or a mortgage of a lease with a non-citizen for a term of up to 75 years, without prior approval in a referendum. 

Proposal 2 would change all references of Band member to Band citizen throughout the Constitution.

Proposal 3 would correct an error in the Constitution delete “(f)(i)” and inserting “(f)(ii)” in its place.

Proposal 4 would fix a typo by deleting a stray bracket in Article XIII, Subsection 5(a).

The RAP amendments would change the RAP in primarily two ways. First, the amendments would protect our most vulnerable citizens—those who are “legally incompetent” or who have a qualifying disability or special need—by having his or her per capita payment placed into an irrevocable trust. Currently citizens in this situation have been denied certain benefits because their per capita payments deem them ineligible for federal or state support. 

“Our special needs individuals, our members who have payees, and our Elders who have others taking care of their finances need our help in making sure the government does not take away their services due to trust funds and bank accounts that according to them have too much money,” said Andy Jackson, a Tribal Council member at large. “These folks need us to vote to protect their dollars. Our children have to be taken care of when we are no longer here to care for them, to have enough to pay for housing for their lifetime. This vote will not impact anyone’s per capita, it will only help those less fortunate.”

Second, the RAP amendments would allow vested adults in the Minors Trust to rollover their Minors Trust balances into the Per Capita Savings Plan.  This allows citizens to continue to invest their per capita payments, protect wealth, and defer taxes. 

“As a parent, I’ll tell my kids to take their trust and immediately invest it like you don’t even know it’s there,” said Pokagon Matt Clay, parent of four citizens. “It’s a great advantage for our kids.”

To vote, you must be a Pokagon citizen over the age of 18 and registered to vote. To find out more about each proposal or get an absentee ballot, visit the Elections webpage.