Monday, July 1, 2013

AZ Sen. Jackson first State Department laison to tribes

The Republic | azcentral.comSun
Jun 30, 2013 2:37 PM

Sen. Jack Jackson Jr. is trading in his legislative credentials for a newly created post in the U.S. Department of State.
The second-term state senator is moving to Washington, D.C., to become the first-ever liaison to Native American tribes on environmental issues. It’s a presidential appointment, and one that came looking for him.
Jackson, D-Window Rock, started the year by taking the oath of office for his second term as a state senator. About the same time, a colleague in Washington mentioned the State Department was looking for a Native American to fill a new senior-adviser position that would serve as the go-between for the Obama administration and tribes on environmental and cross-boundary issues.
Nearly six months and a high-level security clearance later, Jackson is ready to step into his new role. He will serve as the point person when the U.S. government issues a presidential permit for an environmental project deemed in the best interest of the country.
His job will be to work with tribal governments, as well as Native Hawaiians, as they sort out how such projects would affect their lands.
Think Keystone pipeline.
Last month, officials from 10 Native American tribes cut off talks with the State Department about the pipeline, saying a department report stating that the tribes had been consulted was wrong. Tribal elders said they expect “nation to nation” talks with the U.S. government and said the meeting in Rapid City, S.D., failed to meet that standard.
It will fall to Jackson to step in and consult with tribes on matters such as this.
“They need to have someone there so tribes don’t walk out on them,” said Jackson, a Navajo and former director of governmental affairs for the National Congress of American Indians.
“As a Native person, I want to ensure the negative impacts on them are as little as possible,” Jackson said of his consultation with Native American tribes.
He is no stranger to Washington: Jackson has 12 years of experience in the U.S. capital, working for the Navajo Nation and later as a legislative analyst for the National Indian Education Association.
When he returned to Arizona, he served one term in the House, 2003-05, then turned to consulting.
Last week, he was clearing out his third-floor Senate office, packing artwork and mementos from his time in the Legislature and fielding questions from a State Department official who was completing a background check on Jackson.
As he moves east, Jackson, 54, won’t be traveling alone: His husband of nearly five years, David Bailey, is going with him. Jackson stunned some of his Senate colleagues when he went public with his marriage in an announcement on the Senate floor last year.
The two were married in California, weeks before voters there approved a ban on same-sex marriage. That ban has since been lifted by court rulings and will stand after the U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to take up a case that challenged a lower-court ruling overturning the marriage ban.
Jackson leaves the Senate after a rocky session that concluded with lawmakers voting to approve Gov. Jan Brewer’s plan to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls. In between all the high-volume debates on that issue, Jackson was able to muster support for three measures that will aid his northeastern Arizona district: emergency funding for the troubled Red Mesa school district, money for the Navajo Technical College and a law that will allow tribes to compete for dollars in the state’s aviation fund.
“I was glad I had at least three feathers in my cap, leaving the Legislature,” he said.