Governor’s battle over tribal compacts intensifies ahead of special session on Monday
After vetoing two tribal compact bills earlier this year, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt took time on Friday to implore the Senate not to override them.
Senate Bill 26X would extend the tobacco products excise tax compact until the end of 2024.
House Bill 1005x would allow any tribe with an existing motor vehicle licensing or registration agreement with the state to extend the agreement until the end of next year.
Stitt vetoed both saying they circumvent executive authority to negotiate contracts and is not in the state’s best interests.
The House voted to override Stitt’s veto of the shared motor vehicle tax revenue bill on June 12.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. issued a statement after the House override, saying it is a common sense move to prevent these popular and effective tribal-state compacts from expiring.
“We look forward to the Senate returning in the coming weeks to finish the job,” Hoskin said.
Now that that time has come, Stitt is encouraged the Senate to choose differently.
“The Oklahoma Senate is on the verge of handing half of our state away to the tribes,” Stitt tweeted on Friday, along with video of his press conference. “We must have a fair deal when it comes to tribal compacts. I implore the legislature to make the right decision on Monday.”
Stitt said there are two kinds of compacts.
“The one I have issued to the tribe, and offered to the tribes,” Stitt said. “And then there’s a compact that the tribes have written and issued and sent to the legislature and asked them to override the governor’s veto on.”
Stitt described the compacts and “almost identical” with the same financial terms, a 50/50 split for a one year extension. He said the difference is, his compact stipulates the agreement is only on trust land, and the tribes want all reservation land as defined by the McGirt ruling in 2020.
“They’re pushing for this compact that basically takes the definition of Indian Country and after the McGirt decision, it has difference consequences,” Stitt said. “It means all, it could potentially mean 42 percent of our state. That’s why they want that compact signed.”
Cherokee Nation tweeted their views on the vetoes ahead of Stitt’s press conference.
“Gov. Stitt wasn't here to help Oklahomans in need after severe storms, but rushed back to destroy tribal sovereignty,” the nation tweeted.
Following Stitt’s press conference, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton issued a statement saying the governor’s efforts to pressure the Legislature into changing direction are unlikely to succeed.
“As he knows, significant majorities voted to extend tobacco and vehicle compacts,” Batton said. “Lawmakers clearly understand letting these agreements lapse would cost the state millions of dollars in revenue. If the governor had been willing to work with tribes as equal parties we would not be at this impasse. Unfortunately, he remains unwilling to cooperate and do what is best for all Oklahomans.”
The Oklahoma Senate will convene for a special session on Monday, June 26, at 10 a.m.