Sioux Road Swap Approved

Sens. Gary Kubly, Tom Saxhaug

The Minnesota Department of Transportation would be able to swap land parcels with American Indian tribes under a measure that passed the Senate Monday.

Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, authored the bill so MnDOT could swap a roadway leading to the Upper Sioux Community near Granite Falls for an adjacent piece of land.

The Sioux community then would pay to straighten the road.

The bill will apply to future situations where it makes sense for MnDOT to use the land-swap strategy as well, Kubly said, adding that it basically gives the state the flexibility to deal with tribes as it does other units of government.

The bill does not specify whether the state bought the parcels of land or acquired them in other ways, Kubly added. Instead, he said, he would rely on the organization to use its judgment to decide whether a land swap is appropriate.

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the move would be inconsistent. Tribes in the past have wanted to be treated like sovereign nations and, as such, have received millions of dollars in refunded taxes.

"They either want to be treated like sovereign nations or they want to be treated like local governments," she said.