Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has vetoed a bill that would have suspended the tribal council’s session that began Monday.
The council is required to meet four times a year, in January, April, July and October. Lawmakers last week unanimously passed emergency legislation allowing them not to meet to protect staff from COVID-19.
“Based on the fact that the current COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread among our people, we want to ensure that Legislative Branch employees and their families are not put in harm’s way for our regular session,” said Council Speaker Seth Damon in a press release. “At least 30 legislative employees are needed to produce a Navajo Nation Council regular session, and that’s not feasible under current emergency conditions.”
Nez, however, says the Navajo people must be able hear from their leaders during the health crisis, and the use of personal protective equipment and teleconferencing can allow the council to continue meeting.
“The Navajo Nation Council, as the legislative body, is required to meet only four times a year by statute,” wrote Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer in their veto message. “It is in these sessions that the people are afforded the opportunity to hear from all of their leaders regarding the actions of the government that affect their daily lives. It is a time for all persons to hear reports from the President and Vice President, from the Speaker of the Council, from the Chief Justice, as heads of the three-branch government.”
As of Saturday, there were nearly 1,200 known COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation and 44 deaths.