House panel picked to draw new districts for Oklahoma

Oklahoman, The (Oklahoma City, OK) - Friday, August 13, 2010
Author: MICHAEL MCNUTT, Capitol Bureau
Members were named Thursday to a House of Representatives Committee assigned to work on redrawing state House and federal legislative districts using data from the 2010 census. 

The Legislature, controlled by Republicans for the first time during the redistricting process, will take on the task next year of coming up with three sets of districts - one for the congressional seats, another for the state House and a third for the state Senate. It must be done every 10 years, by law, after the official U.S. Census Bureau figures are available. 

Each of Oklahoma's five congressional districts must be drawn so that every representative has nearly the same number of people. The same thing must occur for the 101 House districts and 48 Senate districts. 

Unlike 10 years ago, Oklahoma is not expected to lose a congressional district when the census figures are released. 

Senate chosen first 

Leaders of a Senate panel to work on drawing Senate and congressional districts were named earlier this year. Other committee members will be named after a new Senate leader is selected, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee said Thursday. 

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, named five Republicans and three Democrats to serve on the House Redistricting Steering Committee. It's expected census data that will be used to redraw the lines will not be available until mid-March. 

Work on redrawing the House and Senate district lines must be completed by the end of the 2011 legislative session, the last Friday in May. 

New lines for congressional and county offices should be completed before the 2012 elections. If legislators don't come up with a congressional plan by the end of next year's session, they could draw new lines in a special session later in the year or in the 2012 session, which begins in early February. 

In 2001, redistricting in the state House and Senate moved smoothly through the Legislature, but drawing the congressional lines was harder because the U.S. House districts had to be reduced from six to five. 

About the task 

The committee's first task will be to create guidelines for redistricting, which will serve as the framework as the lines are redrawn, he said. 

The committee will examine the law governing redistricting and the process required, develop a timeline for the various tasks to be completed, establish guidelines and help explain the plan to Oklahomans and other legislators. 

Reps. Dale DeWitt, RBraman, and John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, will serve as the co-chairmen of the redistricting committee. House Minority Leader Danny Morgan, DPrague, and Rep. Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo, will serve as co-vice chairmen. 

Steele said redistricting is one of the most important issues lawmakers will deal with next session. 

"The expertise the members of this committee bring to this process will be invaluable as we move forward," he said. "They represent a good cross-section of the state." 

Coffee this spring named Sens. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and Mike Schulz, R-Altus, as cochairmen of the Senate's redistricting committee. Sens. Andrew Rice, D- Oklahoma City, and Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, were named co-vice chairmen. 

Coffee is term-limited and cannot seek reelection. A designated president pro tempore, to be selected by Senate Republicans after the November elections, will name the other committee members. 

HOUSE PANEL 

Eight House members from across the state were named Thursday to serve on the House of Representatives Redistricting Steering Committee: 

* Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman 

* Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow 

* Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague 

* Rep. Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo 

* Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa 

* Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview 

* Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City 

* Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell


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