Lawmaker to push bill requiring legislative approval of tribal compacts

Monday, January 19th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A lawmaker who opposes gambling will push a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would give the Legislature the final say on tribal compacts.

Rep. Forrest Claunch, R-Midwest City, wants compacts approved by the governor and the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations to require approval by the Legislature.

``We have major public policy being decided by a group of 10 appointed people,'' Claunch said. ``This typically does not happen with any other committee.''

A simple majority of the Legislature would be required, said Claunch, who added that the measure shouldn't affect the governor's ability to negotiate compacts.

But Secretary of Finance Scott Meacham, who represents Gov. Brad Henry in tribal compact negotiations, said the idea could become burdensome.

``Routine things, such as changing language in a compact or renewing a compact, would require legislative approval,'' Meacham said. ``We would need to have special sessions all the time.''

The governor or his designee can negotiate compacts and only need approval from the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations.

The committee, composed of appointees chosen by the Senate president pro tempore and the House speaker, is responsible for overseeing and approving agreements between the state and Indian tribes.

Claunch said he's concerned gambling expansion without legislative approval is possible under the current system.

``The governor wants to approve Class III gambling that means slot machines, and one way to do that without approval from the Legislature or voters is through a tribal compact,'' Claunch said.

Henry has said any gaming compact would be sent to the Legislature for approval.