REDISTRICTING plans to be revealed

Saturday, May 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Legislature is expected this week to unveil its plan for drawing new Senate and House districts. But congressional redistricting likely won't be completed this session, lawmakers say.

The Senate redistricting plan will reflect the population growth of the past 10 years, said Sen. Mike Morgan, chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee.

Morgan, D-Stillwater, said the Senate plan will not create any new districts or eliminate any existing districts.

Gov. Frank Keating unveiled his redistricting plan earlier this week.

Keating's proposal combines two Democratic House districts in rural western Oklahoma and creates a new district in a rapidly growing area in northeast Oklahoma.

A legislative redistricting subcommittee has voted to eliminate a House district in northwest Oklahoma. The plan also is being revised so incumbent lawmakers won't be thrown into the same district.

Under the state Constitution, the Legislature has authority to draw new boundaries for House and Senate districts but the governor can exercise his veto power if he does not like the plan.

If an agreement is not reached, the chore goes to a three-member commission consisting of the attorney general, state school superintendent and state treasurer. All are Democrats.

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in three weeks, but it appears congressional redistricting won't be completed this session.

``Right now I think the door's not closed, but it's not looking likely,'' said Senate President Pro Tem Stratton Taylor.

Congressional redistricting can be put off until the next legislative session, but it must be completed in time for the 2002 elections.

``We could get it done, but with each passing day the odds are less,'' said Sen. Kevin Easley, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on congressional redistricting.

Legislators have other important issues to decide before adjourning, like creating a budget. Also adding to the problem of congressional redistricting is the loss of a congressional seat.

Lawmakers must carve five congressional districts from the six districts Oklahoma now has.

Easley, D-Broken Arrow, thinks it will be easier to draw five districts than draw the state House and state Senate legislative districts.