OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today sent a letter to federal, state and Native American tribal leaders suggesting a path forward to allow for compacting on criminal matters, which would require federal legislation.
If legislation is passed, the compacts would allow the tribes the option to consent to shared state jurisdiction on criminal matters.
Attorney General Hunter said allowing this type of compacting authority can only come from federal legislation.
“Federal prosecutors are doing all they can to keep up with the cases that are being handed to them, but their resources are being stretched,” Attorney General Hunter said. “All the while, the state’s courts, prosecutors and corrections system are ready and willing to help. However, Congress must act to give the state and the tribes the authority to enter into these agreements. We already have the authority to compact on other important issues, such as child welfare, water rights and gaming, all of which were authorized by federal legislation. We now need that same type of legislation for an equally important issue: ensuring the safety and security of Oklahomans.
“That is why I am recommending to the members of Congress to consider such legislation as soon as possible to give us this option.”
The federal legislation would promote both the tribe’s and the state’s sovereignty, while removing federal barriers to allow the tribe and the state to decide for themselves what best promotes public safety on the reservation.
Flexibility could be built into the compacts to allow the tribes to eventually assume more criminal justice responsibility by amending or eventually withdrawing from the compacts, including any necessary transitionary period.
The second recommendation the attorney general suggests, is for state leaders to begin developing a process for compacting with the Five Tribes concerning civil issues that have arisen after McGirt.
“Compacts on taxation have the possibility of easing the administration of state and tribal tax laws, increasing revenue to the tribe, and bringing certainty to state and local governments as to the revenue impacts of McGirt,” the letter reads.
Concluding the letter, the attorney general suggested the governor engage with members of the state legislature, through the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations, to develop compacting ideas, negotiate with tribal governments and enact an any legislation necessary to enter into compacts.
“Private and governmental stakeholders from around the state should be engaged in these issues, and I stand ready to assist with compacts where my Office can be of help,” the attorney general writes.