KEATING: Special session won't include congressional redistricting

Tuesday, August 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Congressional redistricting may not be on the agenda when lawmakers return to the State Capitol for a special session next month, Gov. Frank Keating said Monday.

``I anticipate that will be taken up later in the year,'' Keating said. The process of drawing new congressional district boundaries will ``have to be universally and thoroughly debated,'' he said.

The special session, scheduled to resume Sept. 7, was originally called to consider overhauling Oklahoma's tax system and congressional redistricting. Overhauling the tax system already has been shelved.

Keating has added to the special session's agenda consideration of a law to ensure that federal tax rebates don't affect the amount of state income tax Oklahomans pay.

Keating is considering adding other topics, including finding money to pay benefits to permanently injured workers from the state's Multiple Injury Trust Fund; reforming the state's workers' compensation system; and authorizing a special election to fill the 1st District congressional seat when Rep. Steve Largent resigns to campaign for governor.

Congressional redistricting is complicated because the Legislature will have to draw a new congressional map with five U.S. House of Representative seats instead of the current six.

Oklahoma lost one of its six U.S. House seats because its population didn't grow enough in the past decade. The loss of a seat could result in some congressmen being thrown into the same district.

Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation are trying to develop a consensus on a plan that then would be discussed with the Legislature, Secretary of State Mike Hunter said.

A plan that was under consideration would have thrown Republican Reps. Ernest Istook and J.C. Watts into the same district.

``I regret that plan was leaked,'' Hunter said.

Largent plans to resign Nov. 29. State law would have to be altered to allow an early special election before he steps down. Otherwise, an election could not be held until March.

First lady Cathy Keating is one of the candidates for Largent's seat. Others include state Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa; state Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow; and Doug Dodd, a Democrat from Tulsa.