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Votes not yet counted on lottery bill

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Democratic leaders in the Oklahoma House do not know if they have enough votes to pass a lottery bill supported by Gov. Brad Henry, the House's second ranking Democrat said Thursday.

House Speaker Pro Tem Danny Hilliard of Sulphur said officials have not polled Democratic House members on how they will vote on legislation that calls for a vote of the people to create a statewide lottery to support education.

Democrats hold a 53-48 majority over Republicans in the 101-member House, which could vote on the lottery issue next week. The lottery plan was approved on Wednesday in a narrow 5-4, party-line vote in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

``We haven't done a roll call yet,'' Hilliard said. The lottery measure would pass if all House Democrats supported it, but Hilliard said Democrats are free to vote their conscience, Hilliard said.

House Speaker Larry Adair, a staunch opponent of a lottery in the past, has said he would support sending the issue to an early vote. Hilliard said he opposes a lottery but supports sending the issue to a statewide vote of the people.

``This is not going to be a leadership issue,'' he said. ``The speaker has made it perfectly clear; this is going to be one of those individual votes. There's going to be no lockstep.''

House Minority Leader Todd Hiett of Kellyville voted against the lottery plan in committee but said Republican House members are not expected to follow his example.

``It's up to the individual members to make that decision,'' Hiett said.

He said he is personally opposed to a lottery and does not want his constituents to theink he favors it because he voted to send it to a statewide vote.

Hiett said he believes it will be difficult to get enough votes to pass the plan. A total of 63 House members have expressed opposition to a statewide lottery in an informal poll by a coalition of religious groups.

``I think it's a real uphill battle to get 51 votes,'' Hiett said.

The House committee passed the measure after Henry, who supported an education lottery during his campaign, urged committee members to let voters decide the issue.

Henry said polls indicate 75 percent of Oklahomans would support a lottery if revenues were dedicated to education, and at least 80 percent want the measure to go to a statewide vote.

The measure calls for at least 60 percent of lottery revenues to be distributed as prizes and at least 30 percent for education. Henry has said the lottery would raise at least $300 million a year for education.

The bill is House Bill 1278.
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