Legislator brushes aside Governor’s criticism and defends his ‘no’ vote

Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, issued the following statements regarding Gov. Stitt’s public criticism of his vote against a bill that would authorize the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to provide the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) vehicle registration information.

Senate Bill 1907 would allow the sharing of  information that is available through the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunication Systems (OLETS) network. Stitt, in a Friday press conference, criticized the six House members who voted no on the measure in the House Public Safety Committee causing the bill to fail.

The governor has accused the Cherokee Nation of owing the state $4.7 million for Cherokee tag information that cannot be accessed by the OTA’s tag readers.

“It is no secret Governor Stitt has numerous disputes with Oklahoma tribes, and I was certainly not stunned by his position on this bill,” Humphrey said, “But his personal aggression did come as a total surprise since neither he nor anyone from his office contacted me concerning my vote.”

Humphrey explained the bill sought to allow the state to use OLETS to collect tribal tag information for the purpose of collecting unpaid turnpike toll fees. He said the governor is making it sound as if the vote all about tribes, but the tribal element is only one factor of the bill.

“For me there is a much larger component, which is that OLETS shouldn’t be used for anything other than law enforcement,” Humphrey said. “This bill seeks to commandeer OLETS for the purpose of toll fee collection. I truly believe this would compromise the integrity of our law enforcement by releasing confidential information designated solely for their purposes.”

Humphrey said this could result in legal issues which could prevent Oklahoma from receiving information from federal agencies or other state agencies.

“I love Governor Stitt and the great people at the Turnpike Authority, but I will not apologize for protecting the integrity of law enforcement and for trying to work with our Tribal nations,” Humphrey said.

He said it also is his understanding that the OTA knew when they installed the digital tag readers it would result in a significant loss of income to the state turnpikes.

“I feel the Turnpike Authority has pursued several questionable practices to recover their loss,” he said. “Hijacking OLETS is only one method the authority has employed. Another is to prevent a person from purchasing a tag unless all their turnpike fees are paid. I feel strongly it is wrong to coerce someone to pay or force them to violate another state law – driving with an out-of-date tag.”

Humphrey said such enforcement denies any type of probable cause hearing to determine that a fee was unpaid.

Finally, Humphrey said there is an issue with collecting tolls from some Oklahoma tribes.

“Let me state clearly, I believe tribal and non-tribal citizens should pay equally for turnpike use,” Humphrey said. “I have visited with many tribal members, and I have not talked to one tribal citizen who disagreed. In fact, the Choctaw Nation, which has its capital in my district, has already reached an agreement and continues to provide their information. Therefore the issue reverts to the issue of tribal compacts for our other tribal nations.”

Humphrey volunteered his services to broker compact agreements.

“If an agreement cannot be reached, I could certainly devote my time to developing a more suitable plan for obtaining tribal tag information,” he said

He also pledged to help the governor recover the $4 million in lost revenue, saying he would start by looking at inefficiencies in other areas of government.

Senate Bill 1907, which received a 2-6 vote, failed in the House Public Safety Committee on April 9.