Sunday, April 26, 2020

Governor rebuts Legislative leaders on his legal authority to enter state into new gaming compacts


OKLAHOMA CITY (April 25, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt responded on Friday to the recent letter from Speaker of the House Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Temp Greg Treat on the new gaming compacts concluded by the State with the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria tribe. The Governor’s letter outlined the State’s position regarding its legal authority to enter into gaming compacts with federally recognized Indian tribes.

In the letter, Gov. Stitt writes, “As your letter correctly notes, “the Oklahoma Constitution vests the Governor with power to ‘conduct intercourse and business with the other states and the United States.’” Contrary to the position expressed in your letter, this constitutional authority vests solely in the Office of the Governor. And while the power is exercised via statute, it is unquestionably the case that “any requirement that individual agreements or compacts negotiated by the Governor on behalf of the State with other sovereigns, such as Indian tribes, be approved by the Legislature would violate the principles of separation of powers.” Oklahoma Attorney General Op. No. 2004 OK AG 27 (Aug. 26, 2004) Accordingly, the statements and conclusions drawn in the letter are legally infirm.”

In the letter, Governor Stitt draws attention to the approximately 40 non-gaming compacts in effect between the State and various sovereign Indian Tribes within Oklahoma that were negotiated and signed by an Oklahoma Governor without legislative approval.

Included in the communications to Speaker McCall and Pro Temp Treat is an 11-page legal analysis the State transmitted Friday to the Office of Indian Gaming, U.S. Department of the Interior, outlining the authority of the office of the Governor to negotiate and execute gaming compacts on behalf of the State with federally recognized Indian Tribes in Oklahoma.

The public documents are available as follows:

To read the Governor’s Friday response letter to Legislative leadership, click here.

To read the State’s legal analysis transmitted to the Office of Indian Gaming, U.S. Department of the Interior, click here.


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