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Treat: Governor 'ineffective,' Oklahoma Senate must override his vetoes of compacts with tribes

Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat and Gov. Kevin Stitt shake hands after the State of the State address on Feb. 6, 2023.
Abi Ruth Martin
Oklahoma Legislative Service Bureau
Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat and Gov. Kevin Stitt shake hands after the State of the State address on Feb. 6, 2023.

Next week, the legislature will meet during an extended special session and decide whether they will override Gov. Kevin Stitt's veto of the tribal compacts involving vehicle registration tags and tobacco compacts.

The first attempt at overriding the Governor's veto failed at the end of June. Now, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat will gather members again to attempt another veto override. This comes at a time when the Governor has released a new media campaign and website that falsely claims that Oklahoma traffic laws don't apply to tribal citizens.

This is in light of the recent decision in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the City of Tulsa's argument that they have jurisdiction over Native people to issue traffic citations on reservation land.

KOSU's Allison Herrera spoke with the Pro Tem about the upcoming special session vote and what he thinks the working relationship can be going forward.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length

Allison Herrera: Why is it so important to get the legislature back to Oklahoma City for a second attempt on overriding Governor Stitt's veto related to the tribal compacts?

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat: we're just trying to keep our commitment. But budget wise, it has an adverse impact on the next budget to the tune of around $50 million if these compacts are not renewed. So it's a budgetary issue, but it has much bigger ramifications if we can't find a way to negotiate in good faith with our tribal nations on these issues that the U.S. Supreme Court has said the only remedy is a mutually beneficial compact.

Herrera: The relationship between the state legislature and state surrounding tribal and tribal relations has been pretty rocky as the governor has pursued legal actions around the gaming compacts, hunting and fishing compacts and criminal jurisdiction. I spoke with House Speaker Charles McCall last year, who said that the legislature may revoke his ability to negotiate tribal gaming matters. Is there a legal framework for that? And would that extend to the compacts that you're currently working on?

Treat: The only reason the governor has any authority in negotiating these compacts is through legislative action that granted him that so already. And so the granter of that authority could also revoke that authority. If we don't believe, number one, it's productive anymore. Or number two, if we don't believe the governor is acting in good faith, or number three, if we believe the governor's actions are having an adverse impact on Oklahoma.

Herrera: Do you think that the governor's actions are having an adverse impact on Oklahoma?

Treat: I think the governor's strategy… I think a lot of us agree with the end goal of having uniformity and all 4 million Oklahomans being treated equally. But we also have to live within the legal confines and the reality of the decisions of the Supreme Court and the 10th Circuit more recently, and have to figure out a path forward that both benefits the 39 tribes in Oklahoma and the state of Oklahoma. We're all in the same boat. I think the governor's actions have been ineffective, and I think if they continue on as resisted, then we will have adverse consequences for the long term. It wasn't that long ago that the tribes and the state were at each other's throats in the early nineties when all of these boiled up to the U.S. Supreme Court, both the motor vehicle issue and the tobacco issue there, things were at a fever pitch as far as rhetoric and also just relations in the early nineties. I think we are headed back that direction if we don't try to negotiate in good faith on both sides of the equation. The Governor and I share a desire to try to get uniformity of treatment, that people are not treated different based on their race or any other differentiator. However, I think his methodology has been proven ineffective over and over.

Herrera: Do you think you have the votes to override these vetoes? And what's the way forward here?

Treat:I think we have the votes. Obviously, we fell one vote shy. It's a two-thirds requirement to override a gubernatorial veto. He is working, especially the Senate members, extremely hard. He has been encouraging people to either vote no or not show up. And I'm encouraging members to show up. Vote your conscience-so you can vote yes, like I'm going to be voting, or you can vote no, but show up and do your job. I don't have the vote counts in front of me, but I think one passed with 40 votes the first time and maybe 39 somewhere in the ballpark on both of them. But out of 48 members, we need 32 to override. And last time we got 31 with four people that I knew were yes votes, not in attendance. He's been working them extremely hard since that point. He's been using all kinds of state resources. I saw he even had the highway patrol in a video talking about the McGirt stuff. There's some questionable use of state dollars there in my mind.

Herrera: Going into the 2024 legislative session, I know that's a long ways away, how are you and the governor going to work together?

Treat: Regardless of strong disagreements on the methodology, you get to a shared end goal. I was elected by my constituents in my district, but also the Senate, for a third term. As the leader of it. I will be strong and firm with a governor when I need to be strong and firm, but when there's opportunities that I think that he can be helpful or I can be helpful to a shared goal. I've worked with him many times after we've had extreme conflict and I try not to let it get personal. We have had more disagreements as of late and the rhetoric coming out of him and his office has been stronger. But it really doesn't strike me. I know where my true north is, and I know that I'm answerable to the people, Senate District 47 and to the chamber, not just the Republican members of the Chamber, but the Republican and Democrat members of the Oklahoma State Senate. And they showed faith in my ability to lead, time and again.

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Allison Herrera covered Indigenous Affairs for KOSU from April 2020 to November 2023.
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