Nisqually Tribe deal impacts general public

OlympiaOctober 14, 2012 

An article in The Olympian, “Lakewood, Nisqually Tribe OK service fee,” addresses action by the City of Lakewood permitting construction of a gas station and convenience store on a site to be granted tribal trust status by the federal government.

An earlier Olympian article included: “Once the land is held in trust it will be considered part of a sovereign nation, and will not be under the jurisdiction of local authorities.”

Neither article considers the impact of such status on the rights of the members of the general public. The city has reached an agreement with the tribe on payments in lieu of taxes; but loss of the ability to tax will impact others not party to any agreement. The public will not be made whole, tax-wise, and in other respects. Police powers over the site will be lost.

The tribe estimates annual sales from the convenience store will be more than $14.5 million dollars and from gas and cigarette sales more than $12 million. This money must come from somewhere, most probably from income of competitors. The agreement is authorized by a legislative act, but the question of constitutionality of the act and agreements pursuant thereto remains. On Aug. 10, 2012, the state Supreme Court allowed a trade association to bring suit against the state (but not the tribe) challenging the constitutionality of the act and agreements.

The tribe could have waived sovereign immunity completely in this situation, but to do so would have taken away its advantage in the market.

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