OKLAHOMA CITY (OBV) – The Oklahoma State Legislature succeeded in overriding Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto of a bill that extends the tobacco compact with tribal nations, but Stitt said he is filing a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to continue his fight against the compact as it exists in its current form.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted 72-16 during a special session on Monday to override Stitt’s veto of Senate Bill 26X, which allows for the extension of the Tribal Compacts Tobacco Product Sales Tax until Dec. 31, 2024.
The Oklahoma Senate voted 34-7 last week to override the veto of the tobacco compact extension as well as Stitt’s veto of House Bill 1005X, which extends vehicle registration compacts with the tribal nations. The veto on HB 1005X was successfully overrode with last week’s Senate vote.
Stitt held a news conference Monday afternoon, blasting the overrides.
“I’m pretty disappointed in the vote today. There’s two compacts that were questioned. I made [a new compact] offer to 16 tribes. It was the same offer we made last year, a 50/50 split,” Stitt said. “Mine was for a two-year extension instead of a one-year extension.”
Stitt alleged that the existing compact effectively turns Eastern Oklahoma into a reservation. He said the tribal governments argue that reservations exist for all purposes. Stitt said he will not budge an inch in his fight.
“I’m against turning Oklahoma into a reservation for all purposes,” Stitt said. “I’m going to fight for all of Oklahoma to be under the same set of rules.”
Stitt filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court against House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat.
“We think the authority is clearly with the governor,” Stitt said. “We need the courts to tell us does the governor have the authority to negotiate the compacts or does the legislature have the authority to negotiate the compacts.”
Treat issued the following statement in response to Stitt’s remarks during the news conference:
“First, I applaud our House counterparts for coming in today and delivering on an override of the final veto of the two compact bills that have been the subject of unnecessary ridicule and strong-armed tactics from the executive branch,” Pro Tem Treat said. “We couldn’t have done it without the leadership in the House working with the Senate to do what’s in the best interest of our state.
Plain and simple, the governor’s continued rhetoric and vitriol surrounding not only these compacts, but also our Native American Tribal partners as a whole, seeks to divide the state. It is clear at this point the governor has no end game, goal or aspirations of working with the legislature or tribes. He continues to ignore the courts, legislature and common sense.
I want clarity on issues in the post McGirt world. The governor’s misguided actions have led to chaos and confusion, bringing us further from any kind of meaningful resolution.
These compacts in particular weren’t new, they weren’t unique in any way, they simply kept the exact same language as before to give him an opportunity to try and do the right thing by working with the tribes to renegotiate the compacts, while ensuring the state didn’t lose millions in revenue. He has once again failed Oklahoma. Today, history is repeating itself with the announcement of this lawsuit. I’m confident his intentions will meet the same fate as we have unfortunately witnessed, and paid for, in the past.
By overriding these vetoes, the legislature gave the governor another avenue and opportunity to negotiate in good faith, as we have done repeatedly. He has never accepted or appreciated our efforts and has turned his back [on] all four million Oklahomans, the legislative process and Oklahoma’s tribal partners, costing the state millions in legal fees. This zero-sum game he is playing is a losing strategy and I hope Oklahomans and my fellow lawmakers are paying careful attention.”Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat
McCall also responded, issuing this statement:
“Today, Gov. Stitt filed the latest in a series of lawsuits that waste taxpayer dollars and attempt to undermine legitimate compact negotiations with our state’s federally recognized tribes. A plain reading of the decisions in Treat I and II shows that his legal questions have already been answered by the court and the governor simply fails or refuses to accept the answer and recognize the law. This is further evidenced by the litigation currently filed in the District of Columbia. Rather than accept the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision, and work with the Legislature and our state’s tribal partners on a way forward, Gov. Stitt has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on D.C. attorneys in an attempt to give up Oklahoma sovereignty to the Biden Administration in hopes that they will agree with him and undermine Oklahoma law.
In his comments to the media, the governor called into question the legitimacy of the special session that was held to override his vetoes regarding legislation extending compacts with our tribal partners. The Legislature’s ability to call a special session, and the particular special session call itself, are well within the Legislature’s constitutional authority.
Both the House and Senate followed the law and the Governor simply does not agree with the result. But the legislators, those closest to all 4 million Oklahomans, know that the citizens are counting on them to find solutions rather than to simply fear monger and cost the state tens of millions of tax dollars that go to important core services like education. Rather than simply allowing compacts to lapse and wasting time, and more importantly taxpayer dollars, on frivolous lawsuits, the governor should focus on ways to work with all parties, including our tribal partners, to find solutions that make sense for our entire state.
I look forward to continuing negotiations on tribal compacts with all interested parties, and await the court’s decision on the most recently filed lawsuit.”House Speaker Charles McCall
House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson said Stitt did not have a valid reason for not extending the compacts.
“The 38 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma are sovereign nations and are important partners in developing and growing our state’s economy. The tribes send millions of dollars of revenue to the state and the compacts have worked very well over the years. Simply put, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it, especially if it will involve long, expensive legal battles in court that may result in less revenue for the state of Oklahoma,” Munson said.
A two-thirds majority must be achieved in each chamber to override a governor’s veto.
The compact sharing sales tax on tobacco products allows the state to continue receiving revenues needed for the state budget, according to Munson.
“Continuing these compacts allows for continued revenue sources for the state to help address and maintain roads, bridges, schools, and other infrastructure,” Munson said. “Without the continuation of such compacts, there would be a negative effect on the state budget due to loss of revenue.”
The Senate fell one vote short in late June of the necessary two-thirds majority to override Stitt’s veto of the tobacco compact extension. Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat pledged to have enough votes in July to override the vetoes.
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton issued the following statement Monday after the veto of SB 26X was overrode:
“Throughout the regular session and after, Oklahoma’s Legislature has made one thing very clear: They understand the importance of cooperation between the state and sovereign tribal nations, and they acknowledge the benefits working together provide for all Oklahomans. We thank the Senate and the House for their willingness to collaborate, and for their endurance in correcting Gov. Stitt’s errors.
We are pleased the one-year extensions of compacts regarding tobacco and motor vehicle tags are now complete, and we look forward to finding long-term, win-win solutions.”Chief Gary Batton
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. also praised the legislature’s actions to preserve the tobacco compact.
“Today, a supermajority of House leaders recognized the benefits of strong and functional tribal-state partnerships and overturned the Governor’s veto of SB 26X. This was a vote for cooperation and collaboration over conflict. Tribal compact agreements inject millions of dollars into Oklahoma’s economy and local businesses. Now we can move past any uncertainty and continue to work together on advancing our great state.”Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
Stitt issued the following statement last week denouncing the Senate’s votes to override his vetoes:
“Despite real concerns for the future of our state, the Senate has chosen to disregard the Governor’s compact in favor of compact language the tribes wanted. I am trying to protect eastern Oklahoma from turning into a reservation, and I’ve been working to ensure these compacts are the best deal for all four million Oklahomans. Unfortunately, the Senate seems to disagree and used an illegitimate process to do so.”Gov. Kevin Stitt