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Last year, before she lost her re-election bid, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota proposed what should have been an entirely uncontroversially good piece of legislation -- Savanna's Act, meant to address the serious and ongoing problem of missing and murdered Native American women. The act, named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was brutally murdered while eight months pregnant, would have standardized protocols for law enforcement agencies to investigate these crimes against Native Americans, provide training, require law enforcement agencies to consult with tribes, publish the names of non-complying officers, and give tribal law enforcement access to federal criminal databases.

The act survived the terrible Senate and should have gone through the House without a hitch, but it did not, because Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), in his last act as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, decided to muck it up.

Rep. Goodlatte -- who also once fought tooth and nail against the federal recognition of six Native tribes -- rewrote the bill, taking out any parts of it that would actually hold law enforcement responsible for following the new guidelines, as well as all grant-based incentives to following them. Why? Because he's just a dick like that.


He has since retired, and though Heitkamp is out of office as well, Savanna's Act is now being reintroduced by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is often the least terrible of all possible Republicans, and Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, and is co-sponsored by North Dakota Senators Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven (and good for them too).

Via Billings Gazette:

"Sen. Heitkamp was a true leader on this issue and an advocate for indigenous peoples throughout her tenure in the Senate," Murkowski said in a statement. "I'm proud to reintroduce this bill and continue our efforts to bring much needed attention and coordination to the issue of murdered and missing Native women."

Credit where credit is due, this is a good thing that Murkowski is doing. The fact that the bill is being introduced by a Republican will also probably help in getting it passed, as Republicans in the Senate and House would be less opposed to it on grounds of simply opposing anything a Democrat wants to do.

The new version of the Act reverts to Heitkamp's version, including all the incentives and compliance requirements Goodlatte erased.



As Heitkamp pointed out in her original version of the Act, Native women are murdered at 10 times the national average, and homicide is the third leading cause of death among Native women between 10 and 24 years of age. Native Americans are 2.5 times more likely to experience violent crimes, and two times more likely to experience sexual assault. This is a legitimate and serious crisis, and it clearly needs to be addressed by law enforcement. In no way should this be controversial. Women and girls are dying, women and girls are going missing, and it is our responsibility to figure out a way to deal with that.

Given that Goodlatte is no longer around to be a weird jerk about it, one hopes that the act will pass without an issue.

[Splinter]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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