Law & Principles

Oklahoma Democrats praise Republicans’ veto override

Ray Carter | June 12, 2023

The Oklahoma House of Representatives has voted to override Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto of legislation that would automatically renew existing state-tribal compacts that provide special breaks on the cost of car tags to Oklahomans based, to a large degree, on the owner’s race.

House Bill 1005X would automatically renew any state-tribal compact regarding motor vehicle licensing or registration and license tags, preventing the governor from renegotiating the compacts to address concerns about fairness by applying fees equally to all similarly situated citizens.

Stitt vetoed HB 1005X, saying the agreements should be renegotiated.

“In clear violation of Oklahoma’s fundamental and statutory law, Enrolled House Bill 1005X purports to extend a single motor vehicle licensing compact without any regard for whether the decade old compact is a fair deal for the State moving forward,” Stitt wrote in his veto message. “Both because this Bill amounts to a circumvention of the executive’s authority to negotiate compacts and because it is not in the State’s best interests, I must veto it.”

Under the state-tribal agreements that would be extended by HB 1005X, Oklahomans who are enrolled members of a tribe typically pay less for car tags than do their similarly situated non-tribal neighbors or family members.

For example, the full-year fee for vehicle registration for most Oklahomans is $96 for vehicles that are up to four years old.

However, that same vehicle can be registered for $75 to someone who is a Cherokee citizen who gets a Cherokee Nation tag. Those who are Chickasaw and register with a Chickasaw tag get a rebate of 20 percent, according to the Chickasaw Nation’s website. Choctaw citizens who get a Choctaw motor vehicle tag also get a 20 percent reimbursement.

HB 1005X declares that the “agreements have benefited all parties by reducing intergovernmental disputes and increasing revenues available for roads, bridges, schools, and other valuable community infrastructure.”

The override passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 74-11 vote.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission records show that many lawmakers and political action committees, from both political parties, have received financial contributions from the tribal entities that benefit from the compacts.

All opponents of the veto override were Republicans, and a significant share of lawmakers were not in attendance. As a result, Republican House leaders relied heavily on Democrats to override Stitt’s veto.

Democrats quickly hailed their success in driving policy at the state Capitol, issuing a release with the headline, “House Democrats Override Governor Stitt’s Veto of Tribal Compacts.”

The Senate did not convene in special session to consider an override of HB 1005X or a similar Senate measure that provided an automatic renewal of state-tribal tobacco compacts. A House leader said the Senate is expected to take up those issues on June 19.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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