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Only a simple majority needed to pass lottery bill on to voters

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Only a simple majority of the Oklahoma Legislature is needed to approve a bill that would allow a statewide vote on a lottery, officials have learned.

Previous statements by Gov. Brad Henry's office and legislative leaders have centered around whether a two-thirds, or super-majority, of legislators would be needed to pass House Bill 1278 and send it to voters.

Oklahoma Attorney General Opinion No. 73-183 states that a simple majority will suffice because the question would not modify the state Constitution.

``The only place a two-thirds vote is required is under Article 14 of the Oklahoma Constitution when the Legislature proposes an amendment to the Constitution,'' the opinion reads.

The way the measure is written, Henry could choose an election date, said Larry Warden, the House's chief clerk. The proposed bill also could be amended to include a date from the Legislature, Warden said Tuesday.

Rep. Clay Pope, who is chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, said he found out the bill would not need a super-majority to call a quick election as he researched it and other proposals for committee hearings.

``I am looking at the ... bill right now the same way I am looking at all the other revenue-raising bills we have before the committee,'' Pope, D-Loyal, said. ``Is it something that is good public policy? Something that has a chance of passing?

``Clearly, with it only needing a simple majority, yeah, it has a fighting chance, and I think that is probably one of the things that must be considered.''

Other measures Pope has before his committee include one that would raise excise taxes on cigarettes and another that would increase gasoline and diesel taxes.

Those likely would require three-quarter majority votes in the House and the Senate to be enacted without a statewide vote of the people.

Oklahomans created that requirement with their approval of State Question 640, a constitutional change making it more difficult to increase taxes.

Paul Sund, Henry's director of communications, said the governor continues contemplating whether a constitutional change might be needed to make the lottery he envisions a reality.

``The legal minds are still wrestling with whether a constitutional change will be necessary or not,'' Sund said. ``That is why he has been referring to the super-majority.''
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