Law & Principles

Curtis Shelton | July 7, 2023

Fairness, certainty, and unity still needed

Curtis Shelton

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled three years ago in McGirt v. Oklahoma that the reservation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has never been disestablished, there has been confusion over what exactly that means and how far-ranging is the impact.

Outside of the governor's office, most parties involved claimed there wouldn’t really be much change and a practical approach would be taken to solve any problems that arose. Recent events have proven that was wishful thinking.

The latest example hit on June 28. “If any individual member of an American Indian tribe wants to ignore the speed limit in Tulsa—say, by driving 100 miles-per-hour through a school zone—that individual can do so without fear of facing a ticket or charges by city police under a new ruling issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit,” Ray Carter reported.

But what about the uncertainty and confusion that could arise by not treating everyone equally? “The 10th Circuit opinion said its ruling could not take such practical factors into account ‘even if Tulsa proves correct that reversing the district court’s decision will lead to disruption,’” Carter reported.

A traffic violation may seem like a small issue, but these sorts of disputes have been spilling over into bigger areas as well. Disputes over state and tribal compacts on motor vehicle tags and tobacco taxes have been ongoing for a year now, with the tribes claiming without a compact the state would not be able to collect any revenue from these taxes. In addition, a lawsuit over whether tribal members are subject to the state’s income tax has made its way to the state Supreme Court with several tribes signing on in support of the plaintiff.

At OCPA, we will continue to say what we’ve been saying for three years: “If Oklahoma is to survive, we must all be subject to the same laws, taxes, and treatment—period.”

Curtis Shelton Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton

Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

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