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Stitt seeks tribal compact extensions

Governor Kevin Stitt is pushing for extensions on expiring tribal tobacco compacts.

TRANSCRIPT

Announcer: Capitol Insider sponsored by the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Keeping Oklahoma physicians informed about advances in medical technologies, treatments and after care. More on the vision and mission of OSMA at okmed.org.

Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider - taking you inside politics, policy and government in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Shawn, it's been a rather quiet last several days at the Capitol. Something, though, that did catch our eye is a letter Governor Kevin Stitt sent to tribes whose tobacco compacts are set to expire this year. The governor's relationship with tribal nations has been acrimonious, but this letter sounds conciliatory. What does the governor want?

Shawn Ashley: Governor Stitt’s letter and offer would extend the compacts through 2024 to allow time for new compacts to be negotiated and signed. The governor's offer would continue the current 50/50 split of the tax revenues between the state and the participating tribes. The difference between the current compacts, as well as the offer made by the legislature in a bill the governor vetoed, is that Stitt’s offer has more specific language related to tribes’ taxing jurisdiction, saying essentially that it only applies to land held in trust specifically rather than land in Indian country generally. This, of course, is partially in response to the McGirt ruling that said the Muskogee Creek Nation and by implications, other tribes’ reservations were not disestablished. Stitt indicated in a late June press conference that the absence of such language could result in two different tax systems - one for tribes and their members and another for the rest of Oklahoma.

Dick Pryor: More than 50 bills took effect on July 1st. What stands out in that group?

Shawn Ashley: Well, two things, really. First, fifteen of the bills, nearly 28%, were either bills Stitt did not sign and became law absent his signature, such as the general appropriations bill and some other budget bills. Or they were bills he vetoed, and those vetoes were overridden. One of those bills that was overridden was Senate Bill 429, which allows students to wear tribal regalia at high school and college graduation ceremonies. Several of the bills related to the legislature's education agreement also took effect, such as House Bill 2679, which created and funded the $10 million three-year pilot program to improve literacy, and House bills 2903 and 2904 which created and funded a $150 million school security program. Other bills, like Senate Bill 1119, increased teacher salary and Senate Bill 1121 gives teachers six weeks of maternity leave.

Dick Pryor: A lot of legislative interim studies have been approved for the next several months. What's the purpose of interim studies?

Shawn Ashley: Interim studies give lawmakers an opportunity to dig deeper into issues about which they are considering proposing legislation. During a normal committee hearing, for example, a bill may be considered for up to an hour. But that's not enough time to dig into the intricacies of each particular issue. During a study, lawmakers may hear from people that would potentially be affected by a particular piece of legislation or from experts in the field.

Dick Pryor: In our recent interview with Shelley Zumwalt, executive director of the Tourism and Recreation Department, she mentioned a couple of interim studies of interest to her department. Now, legislators request the interim studies but do state agencies and departments also influence the topics to be covered?

Shawn Ashley: Yes, they do. In Director Zumwalt’s case, she and some lawmakers are concerned about revenue for the state park system. The two studies she referenced would look at the viability of a special use or sales tax to fund state parks and the park's current parking pass program. But it's not just state agencies that encourage lawmakers to file particular studies. Sometimes lobbyists ask legislators to request a particular study and help them put it together, getting them the experts and others who will speak at the study. Other times, the studies are the result of constituent’s requests. In 2022, for example, Representative Ty Burns’ study on student transfers and athletic eligibility and Senator Jessica Garvin's study on the child care industry were studies that were suggested to them by their constituents.

Dick Pryor: Shawn, what else should we watch for this month?

Shawn Ashley: Lawmakers are still in special session and there are at least two bills’ vetoes that they would like to override. The first dealing with the tobacco tax compacts extensions and another related to motor vehicle registration and fees extensions. They have not yet decided when they will come back to the Capitol to address those issues.

Dick Pryor: Thank you, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. For more information, go to quorumcall.online. You can find audio and transcripts at kgou.org and listen to Capitol Insider where you get your podcasts. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Announcer: The Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast is with you to talk through what you're watching, listening to and reading. What you need to check out this weekend, what you can skip next - it's all fair game. For pop culture in high spirits, listen to the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast from NPR.

Dick Pryor has more than 30 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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