By SEAN MURPHY
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Native American tribes in Oklahoma will get to keep their existing agreements on how they share money from tobacco sales with the state. The Oklahoma House voted on Monday to override Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto of a bill that extends agreements on selling tobacco for another year. In a bipartisan vote during a special session, the Republican-controlled House met the two-thirds vote needed to override. The Senate overrode the governor’s veto last week.
As a result, any tribe with an existing agreement on tobacco sales can opt to extend the terms of that agreement until Dec. 31, 2024. Leaders from several of the state’s most powerful tribes were in the gallery for Monday’s vote.
The override is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the Republican governor and several Oklahoma-based tribes. Stitt, himself a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, has said he wants to adjust the compact language to make sure tribes don’t expand where they sell tobacco as a result of a landmark 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s historical reservation still existed.
Since that decision, lower courts have determined the reservations of several other Native American tribes, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole, are still intact.
“I do not believe Oklahomans want eastern Oklahoma to be turned into a reservation,” Stitt said. “I will fight as long as I’m governor to make sure that we’re one state with one set of rules.”
The current tobacco compacts, which allow the state and tribes to evenly split the tax revenue on the sale of tobacco on tribal land, generate tens of millions of dollars each year in revenue for both the state and tribes.
Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said last week he wants to give the governor more time to renegotiate the terms of the deal and has been openly critical of Stitt’s disputes with the tribes. Treat, a Republican, also said he would consider changing state law to give the Legislature a greater role in compact negotiations if the governor doesn’t negotiate in good faith.
Stitt also announced Monday that his office has filed a lawsuit against Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall in the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking clarification on who has the authority to negotiate compacts with the tribes.