OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – The Muscogee (Creek) Nation extended MCN license plate eligibility to all MCN citizens (16 years or older) living within the geographical boundaries of Oklahoma in a legislative bill passed through the National Council on April 30. Before, only citizens residing within the boundaries of the Muscogee Nation were eligible to purchase a tribal license plate.
The new legal expansion follows a previous development from 2021 in which the Nation passed legislation to separate the Motor Vehicle Department from the Tax Commission Department.
The change to the law undertook a lengthy process. The Tax Commission took calls from MCN citizens from around the State requesting to purchase a tribal license plate, only to be denied based on their residence. In some cases, MCN citizens living outside the MCN borders would be denied a tag. However, a fellow citizen in residence across the street would be granted one because they lived within the Nation’s borders, according to MCN Deputy Tax Commissioner Mary Mashunkashey.
It was frustrating legal technicalities like these that inspired Mashunkashey and Lindsey Golightly, Director of Motor Vehicle, to lobby for an amendment to the motor vehicle tax and license code. “We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t bring these opportunities to the leadership,” Mashunkashey said.
MCN is not the first tribe to issue tribal license plates statewide. Of the 39 Native American tribes in Oklahoma, only three have compacts with the State. Mashunkashey says that she is very proud of the Muscogee leadership in how they “took a leap of faith” in expanding their license plate tag services beyond the borders of the Nation.
With the new motor vehicle tax and license code changes, comes more foot traffic. MCN Motor Vehicle staff expect the number of citizens they serve to increase significantly.
In preparation for the increased workload, the MCN National Council considered legislation for appropriations to the MCN Tax Commission budget at the May 11 National Council emergency session. If passed, the bill would grant the Tax Commission an allocation of $445,956.00. The appropriation would allow new tag office locations in Coweta, Okemah and Jenks.
The new locations will allow the Tax Commission to properly serve all citizens residing within the State and lighten the burden on citizens traveling far distances to pick up their tags. The MCN Tax Commission will also be expanding its workforce with newly added positions.
The MCN Motor Vehicle Department brings in approximately $3 million in license plate revenue yearly. With the new amendment to the law, annual revenues are projected to double, according to Mashunkashey. Tags issued outside the Nation will not cost more than tags issued within the Nation.
With the expansion of tribal tag eligibility, some citizens have expressed concerns about harassment from local law enforcement. Mashunkashey says the situation is valid, and it’s a problem she’s seen since she began working for the Tribe. However, a pilot program launched in the early 2000s added some Oklahoma tribes, including MCN, to the national database system. This means that tribal tags can be run through the registry like any other car tag.
Mashunkashey says this should keep citizens safe. Unfortunately, it does not prevent harassment. However, the issue is not a common occurrence. As long as you are following all local traffic laws, law enforcement should have no reason to harass you, according to Mashunkashey.
The new motor vehicle and tax and license code law, if approved, could take effect on June 1. Legislation for appropriations for the MCN Tax Commission will go before the National Council during the regular session on May 21.
For more information about first-time license plate registration, visit: https://www.muscogeenation.com/services/tax-commission/#1534782253185-e58cca5a-8b8c.
To view prior Mvskoke Media coverage on the MCN Motor Vehicle and the Tax Commission departments visit: https://www.mvskokemedia.com/mcgirt-increases-tribal-resources/.