The Maine Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill to let the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point regulate its own drinking water, setting up a potential veto by the governor.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has concerns about parts of the bill, which garnered strong support from lawmakers.
The proposal would expand sovereignty for the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, which wants to take over water regulation after dealing with poor water quality for decades.
The bill would give the tribe the right to drill wells on tribe-owned land and to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency instead of state agencies to ensure safe drinking water.
That represents a major change in Maine where Native Americans are subject to state law, unlike their tribal counterparts across the country.
The Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Maliseet traded some rights to the state authority under an $81.5 million settlement that was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. The Mi’kmaq are subject to similar terms under their own agreement, adopted in 1991.
The Passmaquoddy water bill passed the House with a veto-proof, two-thirds majority, but it was two votes shy of that threshold in the Senate.
Two Democrats were absent from an earlier roll call vote in the Senate. Those absent lawmakers could provide the necessary margin.
It’s one of two tribal sovereignty bills in the Legislature.
The other one is much more expansive, altering the land claims settlement act to ensure tribes have control over their own land. Right now, the reservations are operated more like municipalities, subject to state law.