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New tobacco compact with state approved

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
11/17/2008 06:59 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council ratified a new tobacco compact between the Cherokee Nation and the state during its Nov. 10 meeting, ending four years of arbitration talks and negotiations between the two governments.

Councilors unanimously approved the compact, which was signed Nov. 3 by Oklahoma and tribal officials.

The new agreement, now in affect, provides a flat $6.65-per-carton tax on cigarettes and allows for rebates to CN-licensed border smoke shops located within 20 miles of state lines along Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas.

The tribe’s previous compact put non-border smoke shops’ tax rate at 86 cents per pack, with border shop taxes ranging between 31 cents and 6 cents per pack. Under the new compact, which expires June 2013, non-border smoke shops could see cigarette prices drop about 20 cents per pack, while border shop customers could see cigarette prices rise 36 cents to 61 cents. However, under the new compact, border rates expire when a neighboring state raises their tobacco taxes.

With the new compact, Oklahoma gave up its goal of lowering the tax advantage that tribal smoke shops have held over non-tribal retailers, while the tribe agreed to give up low tobacco taxes in border areas. Non-tribal retailers have a tax rate of $1.03 per pack, while shops licensed with the CN have a rate of 66.5 cents per pack.

Principal Chief Chad Smith said he hopes the CN’s tobacco issue with the state is settled.

“It brings to closure the four years of conflict over the existing compact agreement and will conclude the state’s arbitration process,” he said.

The collection of taxes from tobacco sales has also been contentious point between the tribes and the state in recent years. Oklahoma has protested tribally-licensed border shops moving low-tax cigarettes into non-border areas such as Tulsa where shops have higher tax rates.

In the spring, an arbitration panel ruled the CN violated the old compact by allowing retailers to move cigarettes from low-tax rate border shops to higher-tax rate non-border shops.

The new compact contains language prohibiting the retail-to-retail sale of cigarettes and the method used by tribally-licensed retailers to funnel border cigarettes into non-border shops. The compact also slightly increases the tax percentage the state receives.

Under the previous compact, the state collected 100 percent of the tobacco tax and rebated half of those taxes to the CN on a quarterly basis. Under the new system, the state keeps 50 percent of all the tax (including taxes passed before 2004), retaining 51.5 cents per pack. Under the previous compact the state netted 45.75 cents per pack.

Also, under the current system, the wholesalers pay the state’s taxes directly to the state and the tribe’s taxes directly to the CN.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham said Oklahoma wants to increase the amount it is receiving from tobacco sales for health care programs and wants to rid of the border shop versus non-border shop issue and the illegal movement of cigarettes.

Councilors also unanimously approved a resolution to provide a tax rebate to tribal border tobacco shop owners who may be hurt financially when the tobacco taxes rise under the new compact.

The resolution states the CN would rebate some of the taxes to the border stores within 30 days of the tribe receiving them.

Councilor David Thornton commended the administration for negotiating a favorable compact saying he was pleased with compact’s language allowing the CN to take any future complaints with the state regarding the compact to the U.S. District Court if arbitration is not successful.

He also commended the chief and his staff for negotiating a clause allowing the CN to adopt the more favorable conditions or terms of another Indian nation’s tobacco compact.

Thornton said one of the most important items in the new compact was a “forgive and forget” clause, which releases both parties from taxes owed and dismisses the ongoing arbitration.

CN Communications Officer Mike Miller said the CN did not owe the state money for taxes or fines.

Also under the new agreement, the tribe agreed that all retailers licensed with the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission comply with the compact’s provisions, that the state may collect tobacco payment directly from the tobacco wholesaler, that the wholesaler must collect the tobacco payment directly from the retailers and if any retailer purchases cigarettes or tobacco products from an unlicensed wholesaler or fails to comply with any of its obligations the CN shall take necessary enforcement measures to ensure compliance.
About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

Multimedia

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
10/23/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Oct. 16, Cherokee Nation citizen Randy Campbell was sworn in as the fifth and newest commissioner of the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission. Campbell replaces CN citizen Teresa Hart who served four years on the commission. According to a letter from Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Campbell spent 35 years with the Teamsters Local Union 523 where he served as president and business manager before retiring in 2007. He also served on the executive board of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. “It’s very humbling,” Campbell said of his appointment. “I was gratified by the chief asking me to take this position.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/22/2017 04:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A white former Oklahoma police officer was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in the off-duty fatal shooting of his daughter's black boyfriend after jurors in three previous trials couldn't decide whether to find him guilty of murder. Jurors deliberated about six hours Wednesday night before finding ex-Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler, 57, guilty of the lesser charge in the August 2014 killing of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler's then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa. The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 20. Lake's death occurred four days before a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9, 2014. Brown's killing touched off months of protests and became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, which decries police violence against minorities and calls for greater transparency from law enforcement officials, especially in cases of officer-involved shootings. The issue of race had also become an undercurrent in each of Kepler's previous three trials, with only one African-American being selected for each jury and accusations by civil rights activists that Kepler's attorneys were purposely trying to exclude potential black candidates. Another racial element had been recently added to the case when Kepler argued that he couldn't be tried by state prosecutors because he's a member of an American Indian tribe. A judge determined the fourth trial in less than a year could move forward in state court. Kepler says he's 1/128th Muscogee (Creek). Kepler's attorneys said the 24-year-police veteran was trying to protect Lisa Kepler because she had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Defense attorney Richard O'Carroll said Lisa had been in and out of a homeless shelter after her father forbade her from bringing men home into the house. Kepler told investigators Lake was armed and that he was acting in self-defense, but police didn't find a weapon on Lake or at the scene. "He's bringing it, I'm bringing it," Kepler said from the witness stand. "It was either him or me. I'm not going to stand there and get shot." Kepler retired from the force after he was charged. Prosecutors said Kepler first watched his daughter and Lake from his SUV before approaching them on the street. Lake's aunt disputed Kepler's self-defense account and has said her nephew was reaching out to shake Kepler's hand to introduce himself when Kepler fired. During closing arguments, Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray referred to Kepler's claim that he thought Lake was armed as "the phantom gun" defense. Neither O'Carroll nor District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler immediately returned phone calls seeking comment. Jurors in the previous three trials had deadlocked 11-1, 10-2 and 6-6, forcing the judge to declare mistrials. Although they couldn't agree on the murder charge, jurors in the first trial convicted Kepler of recklessly using his firearm.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/22/2017 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Outpatient mental health and substance abuse programs for 189,000 Oklahoma residents, including some addicted to opioids, will be eliminated or slashed on Nov. 1 because of state budget cuts, the state mental health agency director said Wednesday. Commissioner Terri White of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said the agency will have to drastically cut its budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 if state lawmakers don't fill a $215 million hole in the state budget. The hole was created when the state Supreme Court overturned a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax that was supposed to help fund the agency. "These cuts...are unbearable," White said at a news conference in front of the agency's Crisis Center. "They will decimate the state's behavioral health system." White said the cut to her agency of $75 million, or 23 percent of the total budget will result in the loss of another $106 million in federal matching funds and will be implemented almost entirely in the second half of the fiscal year. Oklahoma has the highest percentage in the nation of people over the age of 12 who have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical reasons in the last year, according to a July report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The budget cuts will eliminate funding for drug courts, which provide treatment options for criminal defendants who are addicted to opioids and other addictive substances. Oklahoma lawmakers convened a special legislative session on Sept. 25 to consider ways to raise new revenue and avoid dramatic cuts, but recessed without an agreement. Negotiations between Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders are continuing. GOP Floor Leader Jon Echols of Oklahoma City did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. White said the agency will trim $65 million of its budget by eliminating all outpatient services except for the delivery of medication needed by mental health and substance abuse patients. The balance will be cut through the elimination of psychiatric residential treatment for children, White said. The agency will continue to provide in-patient psychiatric and substance abuse care for the most acutely ill patients, she said. About 300 state workers will be laid off or terminated due to the cuts as well as thousands of employees in 700 private and nonprofit organizations involved in the mental health and substance abuse fields in the state. Mental health and law enforcement officials who have daily contact with people with mental health and substance abuse issues said the proposed cuts could devastate the lives of those who receive the services. "We will lose lives if we cut outpatient services," said Steve Buck, executive director of the state Office of Juvenile Affairs.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/21/2017 04:00 PM
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in Washington, D.C., will accept arguments over the next month on whether the developer of the Dakota Access pipeline must stage equipment near an American Indian reservation in southern North Dakota to respond to any oil spill under the Missouri River. The idea is part of a fallback plan proposed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in August in case U.S. District Judge James Boasberg eventually decided to allow the four-state pipeline to continue operating while federal officials do more study on the $3.8 billion project's impact on the tribe. Boasberg ruled on Oct. 11 that oil could keep flowing from western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois, as it has been since June 1. President Donald Trump earlier this year pushed through the pipeline's completion. On Wednesday, Boasberg conferred with attorneys on both sides of an ongoing tribal lawsuit against the pipeline and set a timeline for arguments on Standing Rock's proposal. It includes increased public reporting of pipeline issues such as repairs, and implementation of an emergency spill response plan — including equipment staging — at the crossing beneath the Missouri River's Lake Oahe reservoir. The tribe gets its water from the reservoir and fears harm from any spill. Standing Rock is the leader of four Sioux tribes hoping to convince Boasberg to shut down the line, which Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners maintains is safe. Boasberg won't make a decision until the Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the project, completes more study that he ordered in June on the pipeline's impact on Standing Rock. The additional review isn't likely to be completed until next spring, according to the Corps. Boasberg in his ruling allowing pipeline operations to continue noted that the Corps and ETP had not yet expressed their positions on the tribe's "alternative relief" plan and said he would hear arguments on the matter. He'll make a decision on the proposal sometime after mid-November under the timeline for arguments that he set Wednesday.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/21/2017 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says federal officials have extended the state's deadline for complying with the REAL ID Act to Oct. 10, 2018. Fallin said Thursday that the compliance deadline was extended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The agency's previous deadline for complying with the federal law passed last week. Fallin says the extension means that the federal government will continue to recognize Oklahoma driver's licenses and ID cards for entering federal buildings and installations for another year. Fallin signed legislation earlier this year to bring the state in compliance with the 2005 law that strengthens rules for government-sanctioned identification. The measure requires state driver's licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they are legally in the United States.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/20/2017 04:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Technologies is hosting job fairs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 28 at 10837 E. Marshall St. The tribally owned company anticipates hiring 100 bilingual call center specialists to respond to calls from Disaster Recovery Service Centers. Hired support specialists will answer questions and perform data entry for individuals and businesses affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. CNT is looking for experienced and entry-level bilingual agents. All applicants must be U.S. citizens, be at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or GED and have the ability to pass a background and drug screening. Job fair attendees should bring their résumés and be prepared for an interview at the CN Nation Career Services office on Marshall Street. CNT is part of the Cherokee Nation Businesses family of companies and is headquartered in Tulsa, with a regional office in Fort Collins, Colorado, and client locations nationwide. CNT provides unmanned systems expertise, information technology services and technology solutions, geospatial information systems services, as well as management and support of programs, projects, professionals and technical staff. For more information or to apply online, visit <a href="https://cnbjobs.cnb-ss.com/#/jobs/11540" target="_blank">https://cnbjobs.cnb-ss.com/#/jobs/11540</a>.