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Archaeopolitics:

Donald Forsyth Craib

The second session of the 105th Congress has been dominated by reelection politics along with rumblings concerning the potential impeachment of President Clinton. Despite these distractions, the 105th Congress has acted on several pieces of legislation that are important to the archaeological community.

Fiscal Year 1998 Appropriations--The appropriation bill for programs crucial to the protection, conservation, and interpretation of this nation's archaeological heritage originates in the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies. In March, SAA testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee. The Society for Historical Archaeology and the American Anthropological Association signed on to SAA's testimony, which was presented to the subcommittee by SHA board member Julie King. The House has passed its version of the bill and the Senate continues to debate the matter. With only a few days remaining in the 105th Congress, a continuing resolution was signed into law to keep programs funded until October 9. Because of election-year politics, the appropriation bill is unlikely to be signed into law before the end of the session and so Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution to fund programs into early 1999.

Amendments to NAGPRA--H.R. 2893, introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), would increase opportunity for scientific study of human remains and cultural items; remove a provision for the return of cultural items to tribes lacking cultural affiliation, based only on recent land use; and clarify NAGPRA's language concerning the treatment of inadvertent discoveries of human remains and objects. In June, the full House Resources Committee held a one-day hearing on the legislation. SAA president Vin Steponaitis testified on behalf of SAA and SHA in support of the legislation. Other organizations that publicly supported the bill included NCSHPO, AAA's Archeology Division, and AAAS' Anthropology Division. H.R. 2893 is unlikely to pass this Congress.

Reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA)--Established in 1991, ISTEA is a federal program that deploys federal transportation dollars according to local needs. ISTEA authorized $155 billion over six years of which $24 billion was allocated to the Surface Transportation Program (STP). STP funds are granted to states to meet a wide variety of transportation needs including a 10 percent set-aside for 10 categories of enhancements. These enhancements include historic preservation and archaeological planning and research. After several months of bitter fighting between the House and the Senate, legislation was finally passed and signed into law (PL 105-178) The law reauthorizes ISTEA programs for five years.

Reauthorization of the National Science Foundation--In July, a three-year, $11.2 billion reauthorization for NSF was signed into law by the president (PL 105-207). The law authorizes $3.5 billion in the current fiscal year, $3.8 billion in FY1999, and $3.9 billion in FY2000. The law included a controversial provision that prevents any NSF spending on the "U.S. Man and Biosphere Program," a U.N.-sponsored environmental program that the Clinton administration had previously supported.

Reauthorization of the Historic Preservation Fund--The reauthorization of the HPF is critical to the continued success of the country's commitment to its national historic preservation program. Appropriations from the HPF support the programs of the state historic preservation offices, Tribal historic preservation offices, and the preservation activities of historically Black colleges. H.R. 1522, introduced by Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), has already passed the House. Among other things, it extends HPF authorization through FY2002 and also reauthorizes the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for five years. Recently the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked up legislation that would reauthorize both the HPF and ACHP. Some form of reauthorization is likely to pass before Congress adjourns.

Legislation to Adjust Boundary of Petroglyph National Monument--Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) introduced legislation that would remove land from the Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico to enable construction of a highway through the monument. Created in 1990, the monument protects thousands of petroglyphs, many of which would be destroyed if road construction is authorized. Aware that the president would veto a stand-alone bill, Domenici attached his bill to an must-pass emergency supplemental appropriations bill that was signed into law in spring 1998 by the president.

The end of a Congressional session is an extremely busy time in Washington as legislation moves in swift and often mysterious ways. The above bills are not the only ones that SAA has been following for the past two years. For a complete summary of the 105th Congress, refer to the government affairs page on SAAweb.

Donald Forsyth Craib is manager, government affairs, and counsel for the Society for American Archaeology.


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