Supreme Court to Decide If Much of Oklahoma Is Still an Indian Reservation

The U.S. Supreme Court has again agreed to review a case that would determine whether tribal reservations were officially terminated in Oklahoma or whether a large amount of the state is still Indian country.

The U.S. Supreme Court has again agreed to review a case that would determine whether tribal reservations were officially terminated in Oklahoma or whether a large amount of the state is still Indian country. Shutterstock

 

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | South Carolina lawmaker wants women who are denied abortions to be paid as “gestational surrogates” … New Jersey legislature stalls vote on vaccine exemptions … Proposed investment in K-12 education in Virginia.

The U.S. Supreme Court has again agreed to review a case that would determine whether tribal reservations were officially terminated in Oklahoma or whether a large amount of the state is still Indian country. The case is built around the appeal of Jimcy McGirt, a man convicted of child sex crimes who contended that he should have been tried by the Muscogee Creek Nation, instead of in state court, because he is a member of the tribe and committed the crime on land this is still technically part of the tribe’s reservation. The case is similar to one brought to the Supreme Court earlier in the year by Patrick Murphy, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation who is on death row in Oklahoma. In that case, the court was deadlocked 4-4 after new Justice Neil Gorsuch recused himself because he had heard Murphy’s case in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals  when he served on the bench there. Hearing arguments again in McGirt’s case means that all nine justices can likely weigh in. In the previous case, the Muscogee Creek Nation and other tribes said that their original reservations had never been officially terminated by Congress, and therefore the tribes retained jurisdiction over tribal citizens in most counties in eastern Oklahoma. The state is arguing that setting such a precedent overturns more than a century of settled law and would create judicial chaos in the state. Edwin S. Kneedler, a lawyer who argued for Oklahoma in the Murphy case, said the consequences of the decision would be catastrophic. “Any crime involving an Indian as a victim or a perpetrator would be subject to federal jurisdiction, not state jurisdiction. This would be a dramatic change from the way everyone has understood it for the past 100 years,” Kneedler said. Kevin Dellinger, the attorney general of the Muscogee Creek Nation, said that recognizing the reservation’s continued existence won’t cause chaos. “This is a very important case for the nation … [but] the impact on non-Indians would be minimal,” Dellinger said. [The Oklahoman; New York Times]

‘GESTATIONAL SURROGATES’ | A state senator in South Carolina has introduced a new bill that would require the state to pay women who want to have abortions but aren’t able to get them because of a state ban. The Senate is currently debating a heartbeat abortion bill which would ban the procedure around six weeks. State Sen. Mia McLeod said if that provision becomes law the state should then compensate women who are “gestational surrogates” for the state if they are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies. “Clearly the state has indicated it has a vested interest in this issue, so if that is the case, and if we are about to do what would be required under the fetal heartbeat bill, then surely there would be some provisions made for the women and girls who are forced to carry these babies to term,” McLeod said. Some of those provisions include automatic eligibility for public assistance, income tax credits, health insurance until the child turns 18, and state-paid funeral expenses if a woman dies during labor. State Rep. John McCravy, the sponsor of the heartbeat bill, said he would not vote for McLeod’s bill. “There are many crisis pregnancy centers across our state that already offer help and assistance with prenatal, adoption and/or child care,” McCravy said. [Post and Courier; VICE]

VACCINE EXEMPTIONS | While the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill that would eliminate religious exemptions to vaccine requirements for any student enrolled in a public or private school or college in the state, the state Senate on Monday declined to vote after eight hours of protest outside the Senate chamber. If the Senate does pass the bill, New Jersey would become the fifth state to only allow medical exemptions to vaccines. Proponents said that recent measles outbreaks make this measure necessary, but opponents said that the proposal limits parent’s choices. Sue Collins, co-founder of the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccine Choice, which protested the bill, was pleased by the delay. “The parents of New Jersey had a victory today. The Legislature stood with us,” she said. Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat, said that the measure would be taken up again. “They can cheer all they want. We’re not walking away from it. It’s just remarkable how people are looking at this and not trusting the science on it at all. They’re trusting the internet,” he said. [New York Times; Politico]

EDUCATION INVESTMENT | Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that his 2020 budget will contain the largest investment in K-12 education in the state’s history. At $1.2 billion, the budget proposal includes raises for teachers, funding for more school support staff like counselors, and an increased amount for school breakfast and lunch, among other things. “Students deserve quality public schools, no matter where they live. This budget provides extra funding to help close the achievement gap in high-need schools, especially in urban and rural Virginia,” Northam said. State House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, a Republican, said that Republicans are supportive of education reform. "Our goal has been and remains to support teachers and put more money in the classroom. We look forward to working with the Governor to make substantial investments in good schools and will continue to push to make sure every dollar possible is driven into the classroom where it can impact our students the most,” he said. Democrats will take control of the state House and Senate when newly elected members are sworn-in to their positions in January. [ABC 13; WTVR]

AIRPORT RIDES | Uber and Lyft are threatening to cease providing rides to and from the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, if the city council goes through with a measure to tax airport rides at $4 per ride starting in 2020. Airport officials say that the fee changes are necessary to reduce vehicle congestion and to encourage people to use the free sky train at the airport. Lyft wrote a letter to city officials alerting them of their plans to withdraw services. "The average Lyft fare for a ride to and from the airport is about $10, with 44% of our rides starting or ending in low-income areas, many of which do not have easy access to public transportation options. This tax punishes riders who rely on Lyft for affordable and convenient transportation to and from the airport,” the letter reads. City council members who support the fee say it is a “usage fee” for the companies, rather than a tax on riders. [KJZZ; FOX Business]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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