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House panel approves Senate redistricting plan

But the Senate receives criticism for its decision to hire a consultant.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: May 13, 2011
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The Senate's plan to redraw its 48 districts won the approval Thursday of a House panel but not before drawing criticism from several House members for hiring a political consultant and including oddly drawn districts.

“When we tried to draw lines that looked like curlicue, the staff told us we couldn't so I'm just curious how the Senate was able to do it,” said Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, R- Fairview, a member of the House Conference Committee on Redistricting.

“Amen,” said a committee member as members took their first look at Senate Bill 821, which contains the Senate's redistricting plan. Eighteen members agreed to advance the measure; three didn't. It now goes to the Senate.

“If they brought this over here on a napkin, I'd be for it because this is the Senate's business and their way of doing it,” said Rep. David Dank, R- Oklahoma City, and a committee member.

The House, where Republicans hold a 70-31 edge, named a Democrat to serve as vice chairman of its redistricting effort. Public meetings were held across the state and five subcommittees, each representing a part of the state, met with House members. Legislators every 10 years redraw the House and Senate district boundaries to reflect population changes. Oklahoma's population grew by more than 300,000 people during the last decade and the state saw a shift from rural areas to metropolitan suburbs,

In the Senate, where Republicans have a 32-16 majority, Democratic senators complained districts were being drawn in secret with the help of a GOP political consultant who has been paid more than $127,500 since May 2009 as a redistricting adviser and Senate staffer.

A Senate committee approved the redistricting plan Wednesday and released new maps.

New Senate District Maps

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SENATE MAPS

To view the new Senate districts, go to www.oksenate.gov/index.aspx and click on “Senators” on the top of the page. On the drop-down menu, click on “District Maps” and then click on “New Senate District Maps (2011).” Several maps are available to view by clicking on their title. They include a statewide map and maps of proposed Senate districts in Canadian, Cleveland, Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.

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