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Capitol Insider: Exploring Options For Gaming Fees

KGOU - Dick Pryor

Money is coming into the state of Oklahoma from tribal gaming in December, but what to do with exclusivity fee payments from January is up in the air. eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley tells Dick Pryor the governor's office is researching the issue.


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley.

Shawn, on our last Capitol Insider, we discussed how the state of Oklahoma might handle monthly gaming exclusivity fee payments received from tribes. Now, fees are due on the 20th of the following month, which means December fees are due in less than 10 days. Are there any indications about what the state will do this month?

Shawn Ashley: Well, what we do know is that the governor's office is actively researching this issue. And we know that from a series of talking points that were sent to Governor Stitt’s cabinet members, as well as members of the legislature addressing some of the issues that have come up regarding the gaming compacts and the dispute that's going on there. Now, the January payments, we need to remember, represent December gaming activity. In December, gaming activity, according to Governor Kevin Stitt, was still legal.

Dick Pryor: Right.

Shawn Ashley: But according to the governor, the compacts expired on January 1. So, gaming activity that has continued after that time, according to the governor, however, is illegal. So really the question comes in February when those payments start coming into the state, whether or not the state will accept them. Matthew Morgan with the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association has said that the compacts renewed on January 1st, a key component in the dispute with the governor's office, and that the tribes will continue to make those payments and they've left the governor's office know that.

Dick Pryor: And those fees go toward funding education.

Shawn Ashley: A large portion of that money goes to common education. The remainder largely goes into the general revenue fund.

Dick Pryor: Carmen Forman of the Oklahoman reports that Governor Stitt has announced he intends to issue an executive order to reduce regulations in the state 25 percent by the end of his term. Is reducing regulations that easy?

Shawn Ashley: Probably not. Many of the rules and regulations that the governor is referring to are really the result of legislation passed by lawmakers and signed, for that matter, by the governor of the state of Oklahoma. Often, many bills that impose certain regulations on a particular activity direct the regulating agency, whether it be the Department of Health or the Department of Environmental Quality or even the State Department of Education, to promulgate necessary rules to put those regulations into effect. So, if you're going to want to get rid of one of those regulations, not only do you have to repeal the regulation from administrative rules, you also have to repeal the underlying statute that caused it to be created in the first place.

Dick Pryor: In reality, how much time might that take?

Shawn Ashley: It depends if a particular regulation is not directly tied to a statute. An agency could go through the rulemaking process and do that in a couple of months. But if it's tied to one of those statutes, the statute would have to be amended or repealed in a legislative session. And then the agency would go through the rulemaking process. So that could take in total a couple of years.

Dick Pryor: Have there been any studies evaluating regulations that would suggest cutting 25 percent is a reasonable or necessary goal?

Shawn Ashley: I don't think we've heard any interim studies that dealt specifically with the broad issue. Oftentimes the interim studies look at a particular set of rules and regulations and make suggestions there. I do recall a couple of years ago there was a more broad look at administrative rules and regulations. However, what you had were individuals representing various industries who pointed to specific regulations. Oftentimes those are outdated regulations that maybe prevent you from submitting information electronically and requiring that it be mailed hardcopy or even faxed in. And they proposed that those kinds of rules needed to be changed or eliminated.

Dick Pryor: We are less than a week from the bill filing deadline and filing has been slow.

Shawn Ashley: Yeah, right now we have about 200 or so bills that have been pre-filed for consideration during the 2020 legislative session. The deadline is January 16th and lawmakers requested around 3,000 new pieces of legislation. So those will flow in over the next week.

Dick Pryor: They're expecting, though, about 5,000 total to be considered.

Shawn Ashley: Right. We have those bills which were carried over from the 2019 legislative session, in excess of 2,000 of those, combined with all the new bills. So, there could be 5,000 pieces of legislation on lawmakers’ plate in 2020.

Dick Pryor: All right. Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And, that’s Capitol Insider. If you have questions email us at news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews.  You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net.

Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I’m Dick Pryor.

Dick Pryor has more than 25 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November, 2016.
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