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Stitt vetoes bill that would allow state, tribal law enforcement coordination to keep unsafe drivers off the road

Legislative Service Bureau Photography

Tribal Nation leaders are urging Oklahoma lawmakers to override Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto on a public safety bill concerning tribal judicial systems and state agencies.

House Bill 3501, which includes language provided by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, passed with bipartisan support and with approval from 96% of state legislators. The bill would require DPS to recognize convictions for traffic offenses in tribal judicial systems.

Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said the bill is common sense.

“Under this bill, drivers who violate the law and put others in jeopardy will be kept off the road,” Batton said. “The governor’s petty decision to block enhanced coordination between criminal justice systems does nothing but hurt public safety.”

Batton said tribal courts and law enforcement have a history of cooperation with state and local governments. An example of this is the 75 active cross-deputization agreements the Choctaw Nation has with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The bill would have provided better coordination between state, tribal, local and federal law enforcement agencies.

“With his veto, Gov. Stitt directly refuses to allow the State Department of Public Safety to revoke State-issued driver’s licenses of persons with tribal-court convictions for DUI, vehicular manslaughter/negligent homicide and other specified crimes. That is absurd,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation officials said in a statement.

Leaders of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes released a statement calling the veto “destructive.” Tribal officials said the bill is an opportunity for the agencies and tribal nations to work together to make roads safer through sharing information.

Stitt called the bill “a wolf in sheep's clothing” in his veto message and said it further erodes state jurisdiction and sovereignty.

“If this bill had required of tribes what is expected of all legitimate governments - namely: transparency, accountability, and reciprocity, among others, perhaps I would have signed it,” Stitt wrote in his message.

It's unclear if legislators will try to override the veto. To do so, the override would need 75% support in both chambers.

Stacy Leeds, a Muscogee Nation judge, said the governor's statement suggests tribes are illegitimate governments, and that he will not recognize rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Members of the Inter-Tribal council include: Batton, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Chief Lewis L. Johnson.

Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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