OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill Monday that would have increased coordination between Tribal judicial systems and state agencies.

House Bill 3501 received support from more than 96 percent of the Oklahoma Legislature, according to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton says the “common-sense measure” would increase cooperation between Tribal governments and promote public safety.

However, Gov. Stitt says the bipartisan legislation is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“It would essentially require the State to carry out tribal court adjudications, no questions asked,” said Stitt in his veto notice. “Specifically, it would bind the Department of Public Safety, a State agency, to recognize and act upon reports of conviction submitted by courts of any federally recognized Indian tribe located anywhere in the State of Oklahoma in the same manner it acts upon reports of conviction from State and municipal courts.”

But the Choctaw Nation says this legislation isn’t a new concept.

“Once again, Gov. Stitt has chosen division and his personal political ambitions over doing what is best for Oklahoma,” Batton said. “Tribal courts and law enforcement agencies have a long history of cooperation with state and local governments, including 75 cross-deputization agreements between the Choctaw Nation and other governments. HB 3501 strengthens those relationships by requiring the state Department of Public Safety to recognize convictions for traffic offenses in tribal courts. Under this bill, drivers who violate the law and put others in jeopardy will be kept off the road.” 

Now, the Choctaw Nation says Legislators need to take action.

“The governor’s petty decision to block enhanced coordination between criminal justice systems does nothing but hurt public safety,” said Batton. “We urge the Legislature to do what’s right for the people of Oklahoma and override this veto.”  

With more than 200,000 tribal members, the Choctaw Nation is the third-largest Native American Nation in the United States.

On Tuesday, the Inter-Tribal Council issued the following statement:

“It’s unfortunate the governor vetoed the public safety bill, which is an opportunity to keep unsafe drivers off Oklahoma’s roads through sharing information. Our Five Tribes are committed to upholding public safety and we welcome opportunities to collaborate and work together to solve the important public safety challenges ahead of us all, but yet again, our governor continues to be uncooperative and unwilling. This bill, with language provided by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, and overwhelming support by the legislature, will keep drivers, citizens and communities safe for all four million Oklahomans in our state. Hopefully, the Oklahoma legislature will override Governor Stitt’s destructive veto.”

The members of the Inter-Tribal Council include Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton, and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Chief Lewis L. Johnson.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation released an additional statement:

Gov. Stitt’s veto yesterday of the public-safety bill is a prime example of how his actions work against the best interests of every single person in Oklahoma.

With his veto, Gov. Stitt directly refuses to allow the State Department of Public Safety to revoke State-issued driver’s licenses of persons with tribal-court convictions for DUI, vehicular manslaughter/negligent homicide and other specified crimes. That is absurd.

The House and Senate each passed this bill with near unanimity. We encourage them to answer Gov. Stitt’s veto with a vote to override and ensure this law goes into effect for the benefit of all in Oklahoma.