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Lawmakers postpone vote on lottery issue


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma House postponed consideration Thursday of a bill that would ask voters to decide whether the state should establish a lottery.

The House adjourned for the week. No explanation was given for why the bill, which is backed by Gov. Brad Henry, did not come up for debate as scheduled.

Henry has been intensively lobbying for the measure, which is a key part of his plans to find more money for financially strapped public schools. Church groups have been lobbying against it.

Henry has said the lottery could raise up to $300 million a year for public education.

Earlier this week, Henry and Democratic leaders said they did not have enough votes to pass it.

``I think we have better assurance that we have the votes than we did a couple of days ago,'' House Speaker Larry Adair said Wednesday. Fifty-one votes are needed for passage of a measure in the 101-member House.

In the past week Henry has stepped up his campaign to send the measure to a statewide vote, calling and meeting individually with House Democrats and Republicans to urge them to approve the plan.

Democrats and Republicans convened separate closed caucuses Thursday morning to discuss the lottery issue and conduct rolls-call votes to determine whether it has support.

A survey by The Associated Press indicated that most Democrats in the House support sending the measure to a statewide vote of the people while Republicans oppose it. Democrats outnumber Republicans 53-48 in the House.

But the survey found that a significant number of lawmakers were undecided.

A total of 31 House members answered ``yes'' to the survey, 34 answered ``no,'' 22 were undecided and 14 did not respond

The survey indicates that the lottery proposal can not pass without some Republican support.

``I think there will be some Republican members vote for it,'' Adair said.

A simple majority is needed to pass the measure in the House and send it to the Senate for consideration.

A two-thirds vote would be needed in the House and the Senate to schedule a special election this year on a constitutional amendment to create the proposed education lottery.

Defeat of the special election provision would delay the measure from going to a statewide vote until the next general election in 2004.
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