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Oklahoma Justices Asked to Settle Compact Tiff with Governor

Stuart Ostler
Oklahoma Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s Republican legislative leaders asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to settle whether Gov. Kevin Stitt overstepped his authority when he reached deals with two Native American tribes to allow sports gambling.

That was Attorney General Mike Hunter’s conclusion in a formal opinion and letter to the U.S. Interior secretary last month.

Stitt reached the 15-year deals with the Red Rock, Oklahoma-based Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Lawton-based Comanche Nation in April to increase the state’s share of revenue from new casinos as other tribes remained locked in a legal dispute with the governor.

The compacts still must be ratified by the U.S. Department of the Interior. But Hunter, in issuing his formal opinion, told the Interior Department that it should reject the proposals.

Stitt has challenged that position in federal court, but Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said in a statement that asking federal judges to settle a question of state law "is a dangerous intrusion into states’ rights."

"We deeply appreciate the leadership demonstrated today by President Pro Tem Treat and Speaker McCall. The action they filed in the Oklahoma Supreme Court is tailored to protect their constitutional role as Oklahoma’s policymakers and will help get things back on the right track," Chickasaw Nation Senior Counsel Stephen Greetham said in a statement.

The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association has suspended the membership of two tribes. The Otoe-Missouria and Comanche tribes, however, defended their deals as the product of good-faith negotiations compliant with federal and state law.

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